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South Paris has a strong attraction for the artistic and creative types. Some of the most notable thinkers, writers, and artists in modern history spent a lot of time on the left bank of the River Seine.
The area was a popular haunt for members of the Lost Generation during the 20's, as well as a slew of creative types since then. If thoughts of Paris conjure images of cigarette smoke in cafes and beautiful views along the river, South Paris is the place for you.
Despite being the center of the French universe, Paris has a glaring lack of skyscrapers. The city is actually home to just one. Tour Montparnasse makes the most of its uniqueness and offers a rooftop viewing area and a terrace floor up top that offers a stunning, 360-degree view of Paris from 689 feet up.
Montparnasse is aptly named after the residence of the Greek muses, as so many brilliant minds have found inspiration here. People like Leon Trotsky, Pablo Picasso, Modigliani, Ernest Hemingway, and Man Ray all hung out in the cafes in Montparnasse. The neighborhood continues to attract emerging talent and brilliant thinkers with rents that are considerably less than the downtown area, or even nearby St. Germain-des-Pres.
Not all Parisian neighborhoods are created equal. The quaint cafe-lined streets of St. Germain-des-Pres conjures a lot of ooh-la-las and très magnifiques from visitors. This is exactly the kind of neighborhood that most people immediately think about when they think of Paris. Sitting under an umbrella on a sidewalk bistro table, you'll expect to see a woman in a beret walking a French poodle with a paper sack filled with freshly baked baguettes at any moment.
The now posh boutique-y area at St. Germain-des-Pres used to be where all the struggling artist cool cats hung out. Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir - to name a few.
The big attraction for St. Germain-des-Pres is the more upscale atmosphere. You can easily spend a day casually walking about, popping into the art galleries, gazing upon the beauties of the fresh-cut flower florists, and sipping coffees and indulging in French pastries at the cafes. And speaking of cafes, St. Germain-des-Pres is home to the oldest one in Paris: Le Procope. Also noteworthy is Cafe Les Deux Magots, where Hemingway and other assorted illuminaries of his time liked to hang out.
If you're into flying buttresses and 6th century columns, be sure to check out the neighborhood's namesake, the Abbey of St. Germain - a mostly 17th century abbey where many of French's elite were interred.