The riverside chunk of the 6e arrondissement is defined by rue St-André-des-Arts and rue Jacob, both lined with bookshops, commercial art galleries, antique shops, cafés and restaurants. If you poke your nose into the courtyards and side streets, however, you'll find foliage, fountains and peaceful enclaves removed from the bustle of the city. The houses are four to six storeys high, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century, some noble, some stiff, some bulging and skew, all painted in infinite gradations of grey, pearl and off-white. Broadly speaking, the further west you go the posher the houses.
Historical associations are legion: Picasso painted Guernica in rue des Grands-Augustins; Molière started his career in rue Mazarine; Robespierre et al. split ideological hairs at the Café Procope in rue de l'Ancienne-Comédie. In rue Visconti, Racine died, Delacroix painted, and Balzac's printing business went bust. In the parallel rue des Beaux-Arts, Oscar Wilde died, Corot and Ampère (father of amps) lived, and the crazy poet Gérard de Nerval went walking with a lobster on a lead.
If you're looking for lunch, you'll find numerous places on place and rue St-André-des-Arts, but more tempting is the brilliant food market in rue de Buci, up towards boulevard St-Germain. Just before you get to it, look out for the intriguing little passage on the left, Cour du Commerce St André, where Marat had a printing press and Dr Guillotin perfected his notorious machine by lopping off sheep's heads in the loft next door. Backing onto the street is Le Procope Paris's first coffeehouse, which opened its doors in 1686 and was frequented by Voltaire and Robespierre. A couple of smaller courtyards open off it, revealing another stretch of Philippe-Auguste's twelfth-century city wall.
An alternative corner for midday food or quiet is around rue de l'Abbaye and rue du Furstemberg. At 6 rue du Furstemburg, opposite a tiny square, is Delacroix's old studio, where he lived and worked from 1857 until his death in 1863. The studio backs onto a secret garden and is now the Musée Delacroix (daily except Tues 9.30am5pm; €5), with a small collection of the artist's personal belongings as well as temporary exhibitions of his work. His major work is exhibited permanently at the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, and you can see the murals he painted at the nearby St-Sulpice church. This is also the beginning of some very upmarket shopping territory rue Jacob, rue de Seine and rue Bonaparte in particular.