Paris...à pied, les yeux ouverts, le nez en l'air
ou l'architecture dans tous ses détails

 BUS 38

Brief summary - Map and Pics


Brief summary



from A to Z


industrial buildings
 & sculptures






    Running in a nearly straight line from north to south, the 38 cuts across more history and culture than any other bus line in Paris. Along the way are monuments of the past, government institutions, theatres, universities, churches, covered passageways (right bank only), fountains, statues, and buildings decorated with ceramic, caryatides and chimeras — not to mention all there is to see off to the side. A journey hard to match for interest and variety(from  porte d'Orléans  to Gare du Nord then from Gare du Nord to Châtelet) even if it is, for the most part another Haussmann achievement (he was responsible for laying out boulevards Saint Michel, du  Palais, de Sébastopol, de Strasbourg and de Magenta  between 1852 and 1859).


    from porte d'Orléans to Gare du Nord and from Gare du Nord to Châtelet
    (see map and pics)

    Predecessors : there were two tram lines before the introduction of the 38 both originating in the suburbs. The 8  (Montrouge / Gare de l’Est) and, to a lesser extent, the 63 (Fontenay-aux-Roses/Hôtel de Ville) which  used the same line as the 8 between Alésia and Châtelet.

    Institutions: Palais du Luxembourg, home of the Senate, the Palais de Justice (law courts on the site of the original palace of the kings of France) and the Hôtel de Ville (Paris Town Hall).

    Science and learning: The Observatory, the Institute of Art and the School of Pharmacy, visible down rue Michelet, the Ecole des Mines engineering Institute, the Sorbonne and the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers and the Lycée (high school) Saint Louis, built between 1814 and 1820 on the site of the Collège d’Harcourt which originally dated back to 1280.

    Museums: The Mineralogy Museum (inside Ecole des Mines), Museum of the Middle Ages at the Roman baths (Thermes de Cluny), Musée des Arts et Métiers (in the former abbey of St Martin des Champs, now part of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers) and Beaubourg (Centre Georges Pompidou).

    Theatres: In addition to the roof of the Odéon theatre that can be seen as the bus goes past the Luxembourg gardens, there are the Théatre du Châtelet and Théatre de la Ville on opposite sides of place du Châtelet, Comédia and the Théatre Antoine on boulevard de Strasbourg, Théatre de la Renaissance and Théatre Porte Saint Martin on boulevard Saint Martin, Théatre Essaïon on rue Pierre au Lard and Théatre du Renard in the building formerly belonging to the Grocers Union on rue du Renard.

    Churches: St Pierre de Montrouge, Monastery of the Visitation, the Val de Grâce, the Panthéon (originally a church, now housing the tombs of France's most honoured dead), the Sorbonne Chapel(disaffected), the Sainte Chapelle, St Gilles St Leu, St Laurent whose façade was re-built  in 1863/7 after the opening up of boulevard de Magenta , St Martin des Champs, St Nicolas des Champs and the towers of Notre Dame, visible down rue du Renard.

    Other sites: The La Rochefoucauld retirement home (Mouton-Duvernet) founded in 1780, the Ledoux pavilions (Denfert-Rochereau) the Thermes de Cluny (Les Ecoles) — Roman baths dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries   — the Tribunal deCommerce (Cité) or commercial court built opposite the Palais de Justice in 1865, the Tour Saint Jacques (Châtelet) , which was the bell tower built between 1508 and 1522 for the church of St Jacques de la Boucherie destroyed in 1797, the St. Quentin market hall erected in 1866 at 81 bd. de Magenta (one of the only cast-iron markets to have survived), the Gare de l'Est and Gare du Nord, both of them cathedrals of the industrial age, and, finally, on the southbound route, the Porte Saint Martin archway.

    Famous people:  who might have taken the 38 include: Paul Belmondo the sculptor lived rue Victor Considérant, Chateaubriand the writer lived at 92 avenue Denfert Rochereau who is somewhat better-known than the Nicaraguan author Ruben Dario who spent the years 1909 to 1912 at 4 rue Herschel which runs between avenue de l’Observatoire and boulevard St.Michel. Alfons Mucha lived and had a studio at 6 rue du Val de Grâce. It was at n°95  boulevard St.Michel that the composer César Franck lived from 1848 until he died in 1890 as well as the French politician Louis Marin from 1916 until he died in 1960; Edouard Branly (the radio pioneer who gave his name to the « quai » of museum fame) lived lower down at 87 boulevard St.Michel until he died in 1940; still further on the writer and « communard » Jules Vallès died at n°77 in 1885 two years after returning from exile in London ; Leconte de Lisle , a somewhat forgotten poet lived at n°64 until his death in 1895, Francis Poulenc the composer lived rue Médicis and the actor Paul Mounet (teacher of Pierre Fresnay and Françoise Rosay) lived at n°63 from 1910 to 1922. Last but not least, Eugène Labiche the great comic playwright was born on 5 May 1815 at 67 rue de la Verrerie not far from the corner of the rue du Renard.

    Fountains: Wallace drinking fountains (Denfert-Rochereau), the fountain of the Observatory against the backdrop of the Luxembourg and Senate gardens, place Louis Marin (Auguste Comte), place Edmond Rostand (Luxembourg), place de la Sorbonne (Les Ecoles), the monumental Saint Michel fountain and the so-called 2000 hydrant fountain  on the west side of Place Saint Michel (Saint Michel), the Victoire or Palmier fountain (place du Châtelet), another Wallace fountain outside  the square Emile Chautemps, which has two  basins(Réaumur-Sébastopol or Strasbourg-Saint Denis), the Vert Bois fountain (built in 1742 and restored in 1882) at the corner of rue du Vertbois  and rue Saint Martin, the fountain displaying more concrete than water at 18 rue du Renard (Centre G. Pompidou) and the fountains on the place de Hôtel de Ville. Adding in the Fontaine des Innocents at Les Halles and the fountain designed by Jean Tinguely and Nikki de Saint Phalle outside the IRCAM contemporary music centre at Beaubourg, which are close but not actually visible from the bus, that makes a total of no fewer than 14 fountains (for Wallace fountains, see the "A to Z"section).

    Opera: The third act of Puccini's "La Bohême" is set at La Barrière d'Enfer (now place Denfert-Rochereau) outside an inn that today might be the "Rendez-vous" or the "'Indiana". (for the barrières, the city gates used to levy the octroi tax on goods coming into Paris, see "A to Z" under City walls and Octroi).

    Comics: Edgar P. Jacobs, the author of the “Blake et Mortimer” series, featured Denfert-Rochereau with the underground command station under the Ledoux pavilion on the west side that was used by FFI resistance fighters during the Paris uprising of August 1944 and the nearby catacombs in “L'affaire du collier de la Reine”. In “SOS Météores”, Captain Blake escapes pursuers by climbing over the awnings above the tracks at the Port Royal station of the RER line B (then ligne des Sceaux). Regular passengers of the 38 will find the accuracy of the drawings in both albums stunning.

    Uprisings: Every part of Paris has lived through bloody episodes and the areas along the route of the 38 naturally share that history. Under the Ancien Régime, Place de Grève (now Place de l'Hôtel de Ville) was a main site for public executions: La Môle and Coconas, heroes of Alexandre Dumas' novel “Queen Margot”, were really beheaded there in 1574; Ravaillac, the assassin of Henri IV was tortured and pulled apart by horses in 1610, and Damien suffered a similar fate in 1757 after stabbing Louis XV; in 1682, La Voisin (Catherine Monvoisin) was burnt alive for her role in the supposed poisoning plots involving members of the court of Louis XIV; and the celebrated bandit Cartouche was broken alive on the wheel in 1721. Not to forget innumerable hangings. It was on Place de Grève that the guillotine was used for the first time in 1792. In 1832 the scaffold was transferred to the barrière Saint Jacques — according to the order, so that Place de Grève, where “citizens had generously shed their blood” to put Louis Philippe on the throne, should no longer be a place of execution. During the Terror, the Conciergerie of the Palais de Justice, also on the 38 route, was the prison delivering prisoners to the guillotine, filling dozens of cartloads a day. Marshal Ney, who deserted Napoleon for Louis XVIII (becoming a peer of the realm) then rejoined the Emperor during the Hundred Days, ended his life at the hands of a firing squad at Port Royal, another stop for the 38, in December 1815. In 1871, the Communards burned down the Hôtel de Ville and a memorial plaque in the Luxembourg gardens reminds visitors that many of these Communards were shotthere during the repression that followed. On 30 March 1892, the anarchist Ravachol was arrested at the restaurant called “Very”, 24 bd. de Magenta, where his co-conspirators retaliated by letting off a bomb on 25 April which claimed two lives.  In addition to the underground headquarters of Colonel Rol Tanguy's FFI forces at Denfert-Rochereau, boulevard Saint Michel has other reminders of the battle for the liberation of Paris in August 1994, including the still visible impacts of bullets on the wall of the Ecole des Mines and the memorial plaques marking the places where individual combatants fell. Rather less dramatically, bd. St.Michel was one of the focal points of the May 1969 uprising. Lastly, on 25 July 1995, the St. Michel RER station was the target of a bomb attack which resulted in 125 casualties of which 8 were fatal and this was later followed by another bombing at Port- Royal RER station on 3 December 1996  which left 4 dead and 170 seriously injured.