With meandering narrow streets, remnants of medieval Paris sandwiched between stately Renaissance mansions (hotels particuliars), and plenty of hidden gardens, the Marais is the city's most strollable neighborhood.
Le Marais is where to come when you want to experience an older Paris, obliterated elsewhere after Napolean III modernized the city during the mid-1800s.
Home to a large Jewish community off and on since the 12th century and epicenter of Paris gay culture since the 1980s, today's Marais offers an intoxicating mix of appealing bistros, trendy boutiques, and numerous art galleries.
You'll also find the recently reopened Musée Picasso and ultra-modern Centre Georges Pompidou in Le Marais, along with several other important museums and a haunting Holocaust memorial.
Several magnificent churches, the oldest covered market in Paris, and a little-known antiques-filled village give you fascinating glimpses of many layers of the city's history.
Sample the best falafel in Paris along rue de Rosiers, explore the fashionable boutiques near rue des Francs Bourgeois, sip tea at Mariage Fréres on rue du Bourg-Tibourg, and discover the secret garden behind the alluring Place des Vosges.
Anchored on its western edge by Centre Pompideau, on the south by the Seine, on the north by Place de la République, and on the east by Place de la Bastille, the Marais stretches across wide swaths of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.
Top Attractions in Le Marais
Centre Georges Pompidou -
Picasso Museum (Musée Picasso; 5, rue de Thorigny, 3rd arrondissement; tel: 01 42 71 25 21) - Recently renovated museum with a large collection of works by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, housed in Hôtel Salé, a 17th century mansion
Place des Vosges (entrances about 100 feet from the intersection of rue des Francs Bourgeois and Rue de Turenne, and from rue de Birague; 4th arr.) - Oldest planned square in Paris, built in 1612; beautiful gardens surrounded by 36 red brick mansions
Musée Carnavalet (16, rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 3rd arr.; tel: 01 44 59 58 58) - Paintings, furniture, sculpture, and much more fill 2 magnificent mansions in this museum dedicated to the history of Paris; there's even a section on prehistoric and Gallo-Roman periods. Free admission
Rue des Rosiers - Pletzl ("little place," in Yiddish;- rue des Rosiers, and nearby streets; 4th arr.) - The Jewish heart of le Marais, and a wonderful mix of bakeries, delis, and the best falafel cafes in Paris
More to See & Do in Le Marais
Pavée Temple (Agoudas Hakehilos synagogue; 10, rue Pavée, 3rd arr.) - Built in Art Nouveau style in 1913 by Hector Guimard, creator of Paris's most famous Metro entrances
Jewish Art and History Museum (Musée d'art et d'histoire du judaïsme, 3rd arr.)
Musée Cognacq-Jay -
Hôtel Sully (2, rue Saint-Antoine; 4th arr.) - 1630 mansion - Don't miss its hidden garden - find it by walking through a doorway at the southwestern corner of Place des Vosges
Hôtel de Sens -
Pavillion de l'Arsenal
Place de la Bastille - at intersection of 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissements
Top Hotels in Le Marais
Recommended Marais Bistros, Cafes, Restaurants
Getting to Le Marais
More about Le Marais
First developed during the Middle Ages when a medieval military order, the Knights Templar, drained the area's swamps and built a fortified church and other religious buildings. The Marais soon became the favorite neighborhood for French nobility.
During the 1600s, wealthy aristocrats erected the magnificent Renaissance-style mansions and gardens, such as the Place des Vosges, although by the 1700s, they began to abandon le Marais for even fancier districts across the Seine.
After the French Revolution turned aristocrats into an endangered species, le Marais became virtually abandoned and fell into decline - which actually helped it escape attention when Baron Haussmann razed and rebuilt much of Paris during Napolean III's reign in the 1850s and '60s.
Much of Paris once looked like le Marais - labyrinths of narrow winding streets, hidden gardens, ancient medieval buildings and walls juxtaposed against 17th century architecture and formal spaces.
But in most of the city, Haussmannian 19th century buildings now prevail.
Come to le Marais to see an older Paris.
Although the rest of the city once resembled today's Marais,
Although Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann razed most other ancient Parisian neighborhoods when they decided to modernize the city during the mid-1800s, they mostly ignored the Marais. Today, it
- totally unlike the wide boulevards, spacious parks, and elegant Haussmannian buildings you'll see everywhere else.
Although Paris has had Jewish communities since Roman times, by the late twelth century,
The Marais has included Paris's best-known Jewish neighborhood, The Pletzl ("little place" in Yiddish), off and on since the twelth century.
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