Way back in the year 360 CE the town of Lutetia, nestled along the Seine, was given a new name, Paris, in nod to the Parisii tribe who were early the Pre-Roman Gaulish settlers of the area. The city we know and love today has grown out and beyond its Gallo-Roman heritage but if you look closely modern Paris still bears traces of its ancient roots.
For those with a penchant for the archeological we have chosen three hidden spots in the 4th and 5th arrondissements of Paris that will surely inspire you to see this timeless city in a new light.
The Thermes de Cluny
The bustling Latin Quarter is a hub for students and tourists alike. At its center, dating from the 13th Century stands the Sorbonne University. Around the corner you will find the National Museum of the Middle Ages which harbors, in addition to a marvelous collection of medieval treasures, the ruins of the central thermal baths of the city of Lutetia. As a café along the Rue Saint-Jacques may be today, in the Roman world bathhouses were a center of rendezvous and social activity. The frigidarium, or the main pool room, is the best preserved and includes classic Gallo-Roman architecture and design elements such as the vaulted ceiling, arches and mosaics.
The baths (sorry, no longer in service) may be accessed through the museum or viewed from the street on the Boulevard Saint-Michel.Musée de Cluny 6 Place Paul Painlevé 75005 Paris Hours of operation : Every day except Tuesday, from 9:15 to 5:45 Price: 8.50 € Métro: Cluny-La Sorbonne (line 10) or Saint-Michel (line 4)
The Arènes de Lutèce
Constructed in the first century of our era but partially dismantled during the barbaric invasions of 280 CE the Lutetia Arena could accommodate upwards of 15,000 spectators in its prime, and the surrounding terraces nearly doubled this number. The shows were of typical roman fare: gladiators and ferocious wild animals were a huge success. The amphitheater was later used as a cemetery, then eventually filled-in during the fortification of Paris under the reign of Louis Philippe in the 13th century. While the neighborhood kept the reference “Les Arènes”, the actual location was not rediscovered until the middle of the 19th century when construction of the Rue Monge both unearthed the arena and threatened its destruction. Luckily it was saved (Thanks to Victor Hugo among others) and can be found today at 47-59 rue Monge in Paris’ 5th arrondissement. Bring a picnic and enjoy the calm of this public park while imagining it’s once dramatic past.
Many of you didn’t get this one in our photo contest back in JuneLes Arènes de Lutèce 47-59 rue Monge 75005 Paris Métro: Place Monge (line 7) or Jussieu (line 7 or 10)
The Crypt of the Parvis de Notre-Dame
A visit to the crypt of the Parvis of Notre-Dame provides even more convincing evidence of the depth of Paris’ history. A site of archeological excavation open to the public since 1980, the crypt allows visitors to encounter relics from Lutetia to 19th century Paris. The Gallo-Roman period is represented in the crypt by expansive 3rd century dwellings. With a little imagination you can envision the ancient luxury community that once inhabited this still prized real estate on the Ile de la Cité, long before the Hunchback had a hunch.
It’s worth the trip to see multiple layers of Paris history exposed at the same time. Remember to be like Indiana Jones and bring a good hat, or if not at least some sturdy shoes.Crypte du Parvis de Notre-Dame de Paris 7 Place Jean-Paul II 75004 Paris Hours of Operation: Everyday except Monday from 10 to 6 Price: 6 € Métro: Cité or Saint-Michel (line 4)