Rue du Cherche-Midi is a landmark in the History of Paris, known to all Parisians.
The name “Cherche-midi” comes from the former sign at no.19 illustrating the well-known French expression “chercher midi à quatorze heures”, literally meaning to look for noon at twelve o'clock but actually used to say someone is making things more complicated! The enamel plaque that replaced the original is still there today, held up by a cherub and depicting an astronomer measuring the degrees of a sun dial with his compass.
The tone is set - here, the Parisian hours tick by at an almost meridional pace.
Having escaped the frenzy of Haussmann’s remodelling, the lovely Rue du Cherche-Midi and the surrounding streets have a charm and curve that are a far cry from the Baron’s straightness and contain a piece of Paris’ soul.
The creativity and history of Paris are tucked within its meanders, which is why you have to keep your eyes up so as not to miss the commemorative plaques affixed here and there.
It was at no.17 that the Duc de Saint-Simon wrote his delectable anecdotes of the court of Versailles, at no.44 that Abbé Grégoire died during the French Revolution and at no.55 that Louise Hervieu once lived, the woman behind France’s health booklet for families.
The architecture here is the embodiment of historic Paris but also France as a whole, represented in the old private mansions and the history of their owners.
Hôtel de Choiseul-Praslin, once the home of the former minister to Louis XV himself, is now the imposing headquarters of the Banque de France.
Hôtel de Montmorency and Hôtel de Dreux-Brézé are 18th-century architectural jewels, with their inner courtyards, ironwork and stairwells still in their original state.
The district is also home to oddities like a series of paved courtyards lined by former artists’ studios, some of which were used by Montparnasse’s famous artists like Diego Rivera and Moïse Kisling. Just a little way away is a true hidden treasure at 33 Rue de Sèvres, one you would never imagine from the exterior - the church of Saint-Ignace with its magnificent stained glass.
The heir to the district’s nobility, the real estate here is all luxury and all elegance, from the maid’s rooms to the most extravagant properties, highly coveted by both families and foreign investors looking for a pied-à-terre in Paris.
Bustling and family friendly, the district is filled with charming little boutiques and unique restaurants.
Simplicity and energy are a convention here, where good food is enjoyed without any fuss in local bistros and watering holes like Le Petit Verdot, Le Cherche-midi and Le Troquet.
Big names like Pierre Gagnaire’s Anicia and Sauvage bring a gourmet touch to the district.
Those with a sweet tooth and bakery aficionados, meanwhile, will be in seventh heaven at Poilâne, a favourite among residents, and Colorova, popular for an afternoon treat.
Take time out for yourself at Mamie Gâteaux, Ten Belles and Café Trama, get a taste of the sun and the Basque Coast at Maison Pariès, enjoy the feel of Naples at Mimi or take a trip to Asia as reinvented by Pierre Sang, topped off with a pinch of sugar at Maison du Mochi.
The abundant little shops, all archetypes of the district, are both delightful and original, like La Cerise sur le Chapeau or the Cherche-midi hardware store.
Not to be missed
Walk in wonder under the mascarons of the impressive and incredibly well preserved Hôtel de Choiseul- Praslin (now the Banque de France), a testament to the district’s noble roots.
Or venture into the courtyard of the Hôtel de Marcilly to admire the superb ironwork, before revelling in a daydream on the walls of the little Hôtel de Montmorency.
Parting from this district where time stands still is such sweet sorrow, but not before a stop in front of the pediment of no.56, where the carved inscription reads: “Midi vrai de Paris” (Paris' true midday). A ray of sunshine that will light up your day whatever the weather.