Situated in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, Cour du Commerce Saint-André is a curious little passageway built in 1776. The old street includes small boutiques and the famous Le Procope, one of Paris’ oldest restaurants.
Cour du Commerce Saint-André
The 120 metre long passageway links rue Saint-André-des-Arts to Boulevard Saint-Germain and has a third entrance at 21 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie. The street is located in the neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the Left Bank.
It runs along the former fortification built by King Philip Augustus in the late 12th century. The bishop of Rouen had his Paris home base built there: the former Hôtel de Rohan. The mansion comprised a Jeu de Paume, a ball-and-court game, an indoor precursor of tennis played without racquets.
The adjacent Cour de Rohan has been closed to the public for a few years now. It leads to a mansion from 1636.
Cour du Commerce Saint-André is one of the few streets that have retained their original cobblestones. With its old-looking store signs it is reminiscent of this ‘Old Paris’ that existed before the great urban works of Baron Haussmann.
It was on Cour du Commerce Saint-André that doctors Guillotin and Louis tried out their revolutionary invention: the guillotine. To make sure the deadly apparatus worked well, a number of sheep were beheaded by the sharp blade.
Some of Paris’ oldest restaurants are there
The street is bordered by Le Procope, the first café opened in Paris (and in the world). Founded in 1686 it was the meeting place for the literary gents during Molière’s time. In the 18th century, it was a meeting place for Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and Benjamin Franklin, then Ambassador to France. The interior is decorated in the 18th century style with Pompeian walls, crystal chandeliers and oval portraits of famous French patrons. Look out for Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat on display in a glass case at the entrance (access via rue de l’Ancienne Comédie).
The other well-known café is the Relais Odéon (or Bistro 1900), worth noted for its beautiful Art Nouveau style facade.
Check out google map for the exact location of the Cour du Commerce Saint-André. Closest métro station: Odéon (lines 4 and 10)
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