Rue Mouffetard is without a doubt the best street in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. It starts at the Place de la Contrescarpe and it then runs down to a set of markets at the bottom.
You can find a range of charming shops and some perfect people-watching opportunities – and what’s more, the street is predominantly pedestrianized.
We visited it as part of our exploration of the 5th arrondissement in the Paris Countdown season. And we brought our photographer Augusta Sagnelli, so you can see it all too.
Now, here are seven fun facts about the wonderful Rue Mouffetard.
1. It’s one of the oldest streets in Paris
It’s been around since Roman times, making it over 2000 years old. It used to be the route that the Romans would take when heading back to Italy. Though today, you’re more likely to find tasty treats than roaming Romans.
2. The Bievre river ran at the end
You might remember us talking about this old river in the 13th arrondissement (read more about it here). But at the very bottom of rue Mouffetard, you can see a lot of commemorative plaques from mills that used to stand in the area (I found four!) and medallions marking the river’s confluence. Not only that, there are other clues of the river in the area too
3. It’s had a few name revamps
Rue Mouffetard was supposedly so-named because of the mouffle, Old French for stink, that came from the river Bièvre at the foot of the hill.
The locals still call it La Mouffe as a term of endearment. And the road has had plenty of different names in the past, including: Montfétard, Maufetard, Mofetard, Moufetard, Mouflard, Moufetard, Moftard, Mostard.
4. It was surrounded by famous writers
Mouffetard was surely a daily thoroughfare for all kinds of famed writers in the past. Ernest Hemingway lived at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine and also at 39 Rue Descartes. James Joyce finished Ulysses just down the road from Hemingway, and George Orwell lived at 6 rue du Pot de Fer. All four of these apartments are just a few steps from rue Mouffetard, and you can find traces of the authors at most of these addresses.
5. Hemingway wrote about it
Ernest Hemingway called the street “a wonderful narrow crowded market street” on the first page of his hit novel A Moveable Feast. But don’t get too excited, Hemingway also penned it as a dirty, wet street full of drunkards. Times have changed, Hemingway!
6. You can still get water from the old fountain
There’s an ancient water well on the street’s intersection with Rue du Pot de Fer, and it has been there since 1624 — and it still provides delicious water.
7. And finally… It’s been immortalized by a boy with wine bottles
The famed photo below, taken by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, was taken on the street in 1954. If you’ve never heard of Cartier-Bresson, he was the guy who took street photography to the next level, and was a master of the candid photograph.
How to get to Rue Mouffetard
Metro: Line 10: Cardinal Lemoine Line 7:Censier-Daubenton/Place Monge
Bus: 27, 38, 47, 63, 75, 83, 89
The Earful Tower podcast episode
This podcast episode on the 5th district of Paris also includes a brief interview with jazz musician Matthieu Boré and writer Samuél Lopez-Barrantes, plus our final ranking on the district out of 100.
Video guide to the 5th arrondissement
And that’s it! A big thanks to Augusta Sagnelli for the photos and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here.
You can find all our tips for the 5th district’s best restaurants, cafes, and attractions here. Otherwise see you next week for our trip to the 4th arrondissement.
Want more? You can support our work by buying one of our children’s books, or our PDF guide, below. Merci!