Paris

Marais

The Marais is an elegant district of Paris, the centre of Jewish culture and the gay community: a mixture of traditions that make it lively and attractive.
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The Marais is a district somewhere between tradition and modernity, the trendiest and most bohemian area of Paris today. In the heart of the right bank of the Seine, the Marais is a place rich in history, art and culture, poised between its Jewish roots and its gay-friendly vocation: it has thus become the most propulsive reference point for the cultural and intellectual life of Paris.

This old quarter of Paris was a favourite haunt of the aristocracy, who had luxurious residences and hôtel particulier built here. But with the French Revolution, the area was almost completely abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was only in the 1960s that the city took care of this charming corner of Paris.

Its elegant historical buildings evoke an aristocratic past, while the gay bars, Jewish delicatessens and vintage shops will transport you to a new Parisian dimension. Here you will find some of the most charming corners of Paris with magnificent squares, picturesque alleyways and a particular mix of ethnic and cultural communities that make this district a symbol of welcome, coexistence and culture.

And it is no coincidence that this area is teeming not only with restaurants, brasseries, nightclubs and vintage shops but also with galleries, first-class museums, street art and studios of young talent. In short, art is at home here.

Things to do in the Marais

Just a stone’s throw from Place de la Bastille, the Marais, with its many facets, is loved for being a place of encounter and exchange between different cultures, fashion, history and art, capable of enchanting tourists who decide to lose themselves in its most picturesque corners.

Place des Vosges

1Pl. des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France (Website)

Place des Vosges is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful squares in Paris. Almost hidden by the network of streets, it will suddenly open up before your eyes like a magical treasure chest.

There is no better way to appreciate it than to sit on a bench and contemplate the architectural beauty of the buildings that elegantly frame the small park in the centre. Commissioned by Henri IV, the square was part of a project to give uniqueness and style to this part of Paris, combining the practicality of the arcades with the airiness of the city parks, and soon became a popular place for writers in search of inspiration.

Browsing under the arcades of the arcades, you will discover antique shops, art galleries and renowned historical patisseries.

Victor Hugo's house

26 Pl. des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France

The famous French writer and philosopher Victor Hugo lived in this elegant building on Place des Vosges from 1832 until 1848 and wrote some of his masterpieces here.

This is a literary museum where the rooms tell the story of Hugo’s youth, who spent several years in this house, converted into a museum in 1903. The visit will take you through the three main stages of the writer’s life, before, during and after his exile, observing and admiring furniture and memorabilia that belonged to him, along with portraits and drawings by the author himself.

Carnavalet Museum

323 Rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris, France

In the heart of the Marais, this important museum traces the millennial history of Paris through a very rich collection of over 625,000 works.

With an exhibition space of almost 4000 square metres, combined with more than 2000 square metres of gardens and courtyards, the museum illustrates the history of the French capital from prehistoric times to the present day, with galleries full of exhibits, works, documents and touch screens suitable for all ages.

Centre Pompidou

4Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France (Website)

The Centre Pompidou is a huge building dedicated to modern and contemporary European art, built within a futuristic and visually striking structure. The centre is named after the President of the French Republic, Pompidou, who in the late 1960s fought to create an avant-garde cultural centre, entrusting its design to the Italian Renzo Piano and the English Richard Rogers.

This original building, decidedly different and out of place in the historical urban context in which it is set, has conquered the hearts of Parisians and every year attracts tourists eager to discover and learn about the most famous works of Surrealism, Pop Art and Minimalism , which mingle with Picasso’s masterpieces and works of Expressionism, including a fabulous self-portrait by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Igor Stravinsky Square

52 Rue Brisemiche, 75004 Paris, France

Right next to the Centre Pompidou you can admire another unusual and incredible corner of the Marais district, the Igor Stravinsky Square.

In the centre is the extravagant Fontaine des automates, a beautiful fountain built in 1983 using original aluminium sculptures that move thanks to the power of water jets.

Much loved by tourists and children alike, it is a colourful and bizarre place, capable of winning over even the most sceptical, thanks to the extravagant juxtaposition of the shapes and colours of modern art and the majesty of the sumptuous Hausmann buildings surrounding the square.

Picasso Museum

65 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, France (Website)

Known mainly as a fashion and trendy district, the Marais also houses some of the city’s finest museums, such as the Picasso Museum.

Housed in the Hotel Salé, an elegant aristocratic building on Rue de Thorigny, the museum boasts an impressive private collection that belonged to Picasso, with more than 5000 works and the artist’s private archive of magnificent canvases by Matisse and Cézanne, to name but a few.

Museum of Art and History of Judaism

7Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, 71 Rue du Temple, 75003 Paris, France (Website)

The Marais is the traditional and ancient Jewish quarter of Paris, where you can see the customs and characteristics of this culture up close.

Inside a hôtel particulier, you will find the Museum of Art and History of Judaism, a modern museum space devoted entirely to the historical evolution of the Jewish communities of France, Europe and North Africa: a long journey from the Middle Ages to the present day, discovering the various forms of artistic expression, the rich cultural heritage and the ancient traditions of this people.

In addition to ethnographic exhibits, you can also admire some works by Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine and Kikoïne and delve into the issue and genesis of modern anti-Semitism, from the Dreyfus affair to the Nazi deportation.

Rue des Rosiers

8Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France

Rue des Rosiers is certainly one of the most picturesque streets in the Marais. Restoration work carried out in the 1960s brought back all the charm and beauty of this corner of Paris, which gradually repopulated, creating a lively and culturally rich community.

The Jewish ghetto, while remaining solid and compact, began to turn pink thanks to the strong gay-oriented presence.

In addition, over the past ten years, the Rue des Rosiers has become a well-known corner for fashion. Picturesque, vintage and retro boutiques mingle with minimalist showrooms and some of Europe’s trendiest labels. Rue des Rosiers and its shops have become the meeting point for Parisians who want to eat out, stroll and shop on Sundays.

On this street you can enjoy the best apple strudel at the Finkelstajn patisserie and the best felafel at As du Falafel.

Hôtel de Sully

948 Rue Saint-Antoine, 75004 Paris, France (Website)

The Marais is full of magnificent buildings from different eras, reflecting the aristocratic and elegant character of this part of Paris.

One of these is the Hotel de Sully, a Baroque-style building dating back to 1625, built for Petit Thomas, a hardened gambler who lost everything in one night: today it is home to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux.

You will be enchanted by the courtyards richly adorned with floral motifs, allegorical scenes of the seasons, natural elements and sphinxes. Of particular interest is the north courtyard, with a beautiful bas-relief depicting the 4 seasons: for spring flowers and birds, for summer sheaves of grain, for autumn grapes and for winter snow, the symbol of the end of the year and of life.

Village Saint-Paul

10Rue Saint-Paul, 75004 Paris, France (Website)

Many do not know that in the midst of the stately Baroque buildings of the Marais district, a small, timeless world is hidden. A bit like in old fantasy novels, you have to pass a small passage behind the Saint Paul Basilica to take a plunge into the past.

Nestled between rue Saint-Antoine and quai de Célestins, an absolutely unique corner of Paris opens up to you: the Village Saint-Paul, a pedestrian area, a kind of village within the city, full of courtyards, hidden passages, medieval arches and beautiful little shops.

Once an independent suburb, similar to Montmartre, it was gradually annexed to the city as it grew. Today it is a favourite spot for antique dealers and collectors, but also for artists and designers who have opened their galleries and studios here. It is a lovely place to stroll, among flower-filled courtyards, charming corners, tiny bistros and art galleries.

Remember that at weekends the village courtyards come alive with picturesque antique and second-hand markets, where you can browse through antiques and fine bargains.

Square du Temple

1164 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France (Website)

Looking at this pretty and quiet little square surrounded by an enchanting garden, it is hard to imagine that it was once the heart of Templar power. In fact, it was here that the Templar headquarters was located, including a palace, a church, shops and even prisons, where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned until their executions in 1792. The square was also the scene of the bloody repression of the Knights Templar when they were declared heretics in the 13th century.

Today, the square is adorned with a delightful English garden adorned with many exotic trees including locust trees, ginkgo biloba and an 18-metre high Byzantium hazel.

The large garden boasts a charming pond with an artificial waterfall built using rocks from the forest of Fontainebleau.

Hôtel de Sens

127 Rue des Nonnains d'Hyères, 75004 Paris, France (Website)

It is one of the few remaining examples of medieval architecture in Paris. With its unmistakable silhouette reminiscent of Loire castles, dotted with turrets and pointed roofs, this ancient medieval palace is now home to the Forney Art Library.

The palace changed hands and had several owners over the centuries until the 1930s, when a heavy restoration was imposed that greatly accentuated the building’s fairy-tale appearance, with its numerous cone-roofed turrets and fanciful chimneys.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Where to stay in the Marais

If you are in Paris for the first time, then the Marais is the perfect place to stay. It is one of the capital’s historic districts, sophisticated and enchanting thanks to the beauty of its buildings and the lively cultural life that has always characterised it.

Elegant and quiet, with its tree-lined squares, trendy boutiques and informal bistros, it is the perfect representation of Paris and its charm. Ideal for couples in search of romantic spots, the Marais is a charming and atmospheric district: it retains its old-world charm intact and you will be enchanted by its many sophisticated boutiques, vintage cafés, lively bistros and streets that seem to have stepped out of the pages of a novel.

As is often the case with central districts, the renowned beauty of the Marais is also reflected in the high prices of the many boutique hotels in stately buildings. Moreover, being the gay district par excellence in Paris, it can be noisy until late at night, due to the presence of discos and clubs that are very popular with young people.

The few shortcomings are more than compensated for by the unique atmosphere: in fact, the Marais is also the Jewish quarter of Paris, full of bookshops, authentic kosher food shops and falafel sellers. Not to mention the many attractions within easy walking distance, such as the Maison de Victor Hugo and the Centre Pompidou. The area is strategically central and well connected by metro and public transport.

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How to get there

The Marais is located in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and is easily accessible using the metro lines

Where is located Marais

How to save on transport and entrance fees

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Paris Museum Pass: 2, 4, or 6 Days
Paris Museum Pass: 2, 4, or 6 Days
Visit more than 60 of the top museums and monuments in and around Paris with a convenient and affordable Paris Museum Pass. Explore famous sites, like the Louvre and Versailles, and visit the Centre Pompidou.
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