Hugging the left bank of the River Seine, opposite the Ile de la Cite, the 5th arrondissement, or arrondissement du Pantheon, is one of Paris’ most famous districts. It’s often referred to as the Latin Quarter, as Latin was spoken during the medieval period by students of the renowned Sorbonne University, and is today famed as the location of the Pantheon and the magnificent Jardin des Plantes.
The Pantheon lies at the heart of the district atop Montagne Sainte-Geneviève and is an early example of neoclassicism, designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot in the mid-18th century at the request of King Louis XV. It was planned around a Greek cross, with a magnificent portico of Corinthian columns and topped by a triple dome that shows influences from Bramante’s Tempietto. The inscription above its entrance reads “For great men the grateful nation”, with the likes of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Louis Braille, Marie Curie and the architect Soufflot interred here. To the east are the sprawling gardens of the Jardin des Plantes, founded as a royal medicinal garden in 1626 by the doctor of King Louis XIII and includes a small zoo known as La Ménagerie. Between these two landmarks stands an atmospheric ancient Roman theatre, Arenes de Lutece, dating back to 2nd century AD. There’s also a scattering of good museums in the 5th arrondissement, including the Musée du Moyen Age, housed in a 15th century abbey and boasting an outstanding collection of medieval artefacts. Visitors will also find the Musée Curie, which preserves the laboratories of Pierre and Marie Curie, as well as the Musée de l'Institut du Monde Arabe which affords impressive views across northern Paris.
The 5th arrondissement is well served by the Paris Metro, with stops located along Rue Monge, just a short walk from both the Pantheon and the Jardin des Plantes. There’s also plenty of bus routes which travel throughout the district,with its streets pleasant to explore on foot.
Rumour spread in the early 19th century that Voltaire’s remains had been stolen from the Pantheon and thrown into a garbage dump by a group of religious fanatics. As a result, his coffin was opened in 1897 to check on the status of his remains which were found to be as they were placed at his death in 1778.