Left Bank

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Andrew Harper's Paris: A Personal Guide to the Best of the City, a free app for the iPad and iPhone. 

One advantage of staying in a hotel on the Left Bank is that you feel thoroughly immersed in Parisian life, surrounded not by offices and public buildings, but mostly by private apartments and homes. Here, it is possible to imagine yourself an honorary Parisian. Strangely enough, none of the city’s famous grand hotels are to be found on the Left Bank. Instead, the traveler will discover intimate properties notable for their individuality and charm. But if you want more spacious lodgings, baths with separate showers, or spas and fitness centers, it is best to stick to the Right Bank legends. 

The Left Bank traditionally figured as the intellectual and bohemian counterpart to the more sophisticated Right Bank. Sartre and de Beauvoir once conversed in the cafés of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, where today, the global brands have replaced the galleries and bookstores. 

The Latin Quarter is still the locus of Parisian university life — the Sorbonne is here — and its narrow streets are crammed with cinemas and cheap Mediterranean food. (Haute cuisine is close at hand, too, as at star chef Joël Robuchon's l'Atelier, which offers contemporary small plates at a counter-service venue). 

The Left Bank's museums are myriad and magnificent — L'Institut du Monde Arabe showcases Arab-Islamic culture, and the Musée National du Moyen Age displays treasures from the Middle Ages and hosts medieval music concerts. The Musée d'Orsay, housed in a  converted train station, is rightly one of Paris' most popular attractions.