Traditionally thick with students and tourists, the boulevard Saint-Michel had its heyday during the 1968 student riots, when barricades outnumbered cafés and confrontations with the forces of order carried on deep into the night.
In Roman times, it was one of the two roads leading south from the Ile de la Cité, lined with baths, a theater, and the forum.
Today its bookshops and cinemas are interjected with an increasing number of cheap clothes stores and fastfood joints. Although it is the symbolic heart of the Latin Quarter, the boulevard is really only of passing interest, as the architectural and historical high points lie in its side streets.
At its nothern starting point by the Seine, the Fontaine Saint-Michel, designed by Davioud in 1860, is a favorite nocturnal gathering point for street artists, entertainers, and other hangers-out. The nearby metro entrance is one of the few remaining Hector Guimard art nouveau originals. In the daytime you are more likely to see students escaping to the cafés from long lectures at the Sorbonne or the Ecole de Médecine.