First came abbots who founded a community that possessed much money and knowledge. Then the Académie Française and the École des Beaux-Arts (art school) set up here. And finally Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and all their friends who held forth while Boris Vian played and Juliette Gréco sang in the cellars. Those are the intellectual roots of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But is there anything left?
Even though the galleries and bookshops are holding out, ready-to-wear is elbowing out ready-to-think. But if you forget the flashy window displays and explore the little streets around rue de Buci, where the market is held, or the quays (the oldest being Quai des Grands-Augustins that dates back to 1313), you'll find liveliness and artists who still breathe.