Hôtel de Ville
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Le Marais, meaning "swamp", was so called because it was once an area pf marshland. One of the oldest quarters in Paris, it is one of the very few areas that still retains the narrow streets and architecture from Medieval and Renaissance Paris. Sitting between parts of 3rd and 4th arrondissement of Paris, this old Jewish neighbourhood is today teeming with energy and is a lively gay district of the city.
From tiny irrigated fields, the Marais grew in importance given its proximity to the Louvre. The area was developed for residential purposes in the 16th century and this continued through to 18th century, producing magnificent family mansions known as hôtels particuliers. However, following the French Revolution, it fell into disfavour and was left out from the urbanisation project by Baron Haussmann during the reign of Napoleon III.
The Marais came into revival in the 1960's while preserving the distinct history behind its making. It makes the area different from the rest of Paris, filled with artisan's boutiques, galleries, hôtels and quaint squares. Many of the hôtels have recently been restored and turned into museums. The boutiques and galleries, in the mean time, stock colourful and flamboyant goods, and among the rarity in Paris, they are actually open on Sundays when the shops in most parts of the city had their shuttles down.
Sights and Activities
France Musee Picasso
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Many of the sights within the Marais are found housed in the many hôtels of the areas. Once they were elegant mansions that were homes to large families. There are also a couple of beautiful squares in the quarter, and the most well-known street of the quarter is rue des Rosiers, in the heart of the Jewish area.
- Musée Picasso can be found in Hotel Salé, a 17th century mansion, where over 3,000 pieces of work by the great master are in collection, a large number of them paintings that he did beyond his 70th birthday. (5 rue de Thorigny, 75003; M: St-Sébastien Froissart) -- Note: the museum is currently closed for renovation and collection cataloguing until 2012
- Musée Carnavalet is devoted to the history of Paris, and can be found within 2 buildings - the main building of Hôtel Carnavalet and an adjacent mansion, Hôtel Le Peletier. The permanent collection of the museum is free to visit. (23 rue de Sévigné, 75003; M: Chemin Vert, St Paul)
- Musée Cognacq-Jay: has a fine collection of 18th century French arts and furniture. The permanent collection is free to visit. (Hôtel Donon, 8 rue Elzévir, 75003; M: St-Paul, RER: Châtelet-Les-Halles)
- Place des Vosges is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world, for its impressive symmetry and elegant façade of the buildings around the square. It was Paris' first square, built in 1609 as Place Royale, home to the aristocracy. (M: Bastille, St-Paul)
- Maison de Victor Hugo at Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée was where the famous writer lived for 16 years, and the access to the permanent collection is free. (6 pl des Vosges, 75004; M: Bastille, St-Paul)
- Hôtel de Sully is a 17th century mansion that boasts a lovely orangerie and is now part of Tuileries' Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, showcasing works of contemporary arts and photography. (62 rue St-Antoine, 75004; M: St-Paul)
- Hôtel de Ville is a working city council hall thus access is limited but there are free temporary exhibitions, which recently includes Petit Nicolas and The Genius of Gustav Eiffel. (pl de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004; M: Hôtel-de-Ville)
- Hôtel de Sens is one of the few medieval buildings left in Paris, complete with beautifully kept formal gardens. Today, it houses Bibliothèque Forney, a fine arts library, and often holds temporary exhibitions. (1 rue du Figuier, 75004; M: Pont-Marie)
- St-Paul-St-Louis is a Jesuit church, featuring classical architecture elements such as corinthian pillars and heavy ornamentation. Delacroix's Christ in the Garden of Olives can be seen here. (99 rue St-Antoine, 75004; M: St-Paul)
- Cloître et Église des Billettes refers to the only remaining medieval cloister in Paris and its adjacent church, where the cloister has impressive galleries and flamboyant vaults. Concerts are regularly held here. (24 rue des Archives, 75004; M: Hôtel-de-Ville)
- Place de la Bastille is once where the Bastille prison stood, destroyed by the revolutionary mob following a storming on 14 July 1789 (of which its anniversary is celebrated today as Fête Nationale (14 Juillet). The Colonne de Juillet can be found in its centre, in commemoration of those who died in July 1830 street battles which sealed the overthrow of the monarch. (75004; M: Bastille)
- Opéra National de Paris Bastille was inaugurated on the bicentennial celebration of the fall of Bastille and it is an impressive modern building of curve and glass, used today mainly for ballet performances. (120 rue de Lyon, 75012; M: Bastille)
- Musée des Arts et Métiers was founded in 1794, housed within the old Abbey of St-Martin-des-Champs, as a depository and museum of scientific and industrial instruments and inventions, among which is an original Foucault pendulum. (60 rue Réaumur, 75003; M: Arts-et-Métiers)
- Musée d'Arts et d'Histoire du Judaïsme houses a collection of artworks, paintings, religious objects, historical documents and photographs that commemorate French Jewry culture. (Hôtel de St-Aignan, 71 rue du Temple, 75003; M: Rambuteau)
Famous Streets of Marais
- Rue des Francs-Bourgeois traverses the heart of Marais, linking Rue des Archives to Place des Vosges, passing some magnificent hôtels along the way. (M: Rambuteau, Chemin-Vert)
- Rue des Rosiers was first settled by Jews in 13th century and is today considered the most delicious street of the Marais with the presence of eateries of Jo Goldenberg, L'As du Falafel and Sacha Finkelsztajn, among its many other bakeries and (kosher) restaurants. (M: St-Paul)
- Rue du Temple was once where the fortress of the Knight Templar - Temple - stood, complete with watch towers and drawbridge to its only gate (now at the corner of rue des Fontaines-du-Temple and rue du Temple). Adjacent to the corner is Square du Temple, formerly part of l'Enclos du Temple, where King Louis XVI was held until the day of his prosecution. The fortress was destroyed in early 19th century to avoid enshrinement by Royalists. (M: Temple)
Getting There and Around
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By Métro / RER
The area is predominantly served by métro although RER access is not too far away either, at Châtelet.
- Métro line 1: Hôtel de Ville, St-Paul, Bastille
- Métro line 3: Arts-et-Métiers, Temple, République
- Métro line 5: République, Oberkampf, Richard Lenoir, Bréguet Sabin, Bastille
- Métro line 7: Pont Marie, Sully Morland
- Métro line 8: République, Filles du Calvaire, St-Sébastien Froissart, Chemin Vert, Bastille
- Métro line 9: République, Oberkampf
- Métro line 11: Hôtel de Ville, Rambuteau, Arts-et-Métiers, République
Parkings, like many parts of Paris, are hard to come by but it's doubly difficult in this area given the many narrow streets which often just about accommodate one vehicle width with a little footpath to the side for pedestrians.
Even car park operator Vinci Park only have a small number of car parks in the area on offer, namely Lobau-Rivoli, Pont Marie and Bastille, all to the south of the quarter. The car park of Beaubourg-Horloge is sufficiently close for use by visitors to the western part of Marais, while the car park of Alhambra rue de Malte is useful for access from the northern part of Marais, close to Place de la République.
Limitation of traffic in the Marais means there's only a small number of buses that serve the area.
- Bus 20 serves Bastille, along Boulevard Beaumarchais, Boulevard du Temple and République
- Bus 29 serves Bastille, along Boulevard Beaumarchais, turns into Rue St-Gilles and continues until Rue Michel-le-Comte
- Bus 69 serves Rue de Rivoli (which continues to Marais from Tuileries and Louvre), Rue St-Antoine and Bastille
- Bus 75 serves Rue de Rivoli and Rue des Archives
- Bus 76 serves Rue de Rivoli, Rue St-Antoine and Bastille
- Bus 96 serves Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, Rue François Miron, joins in Rue de Rivoli, and Rue de Turenne
Batobus stop: Hôtel de Ville (at Port de l'Hôtel de Ville)
The area can be easily explored by foot, and a reasonably paced walking tour of the quarter takes about half a day.
Food and Drink
A museum in Le Marais
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The eateries in the area tend to be inexpensive, and Middle-Eastern as well as kosher restaurants are abundant. At the same time, the Marais also boasts high-end award-winning dining places as well. There are a couple of (notoriously difficult to find) vegetarian restaurants in the area too.
Restaurants and Bistrots
- Breizh Café: 109 rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 (M: St. Paul or St. Sébastian Froissart) - one of the best crêperies in Paris, serving filling buckwheat galettes as well as sweet crêpes. Reservation recommended (tel: 01 42 72 13 77).
- Café Charlot: 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 (M: Temple, République, Filles du Calvaire) - overlooking the Marché des Enfants Rouges, excellent burger and thin-cut fries, also serve Moroccan-style mint tea.
- Café des Musées: 49 rue de Turenne, 75003 (M: Chemin Vert) - French food, home-made pátés good entrecôte steak, served with real French fries.
- Chez Marianne: 2 rue des Hospitalières St Gervais, 75004 (M: St-Paul) - middle-eastern fares including falafel and tzatziki, a favourite among the local Jewish community.
- Chez Omar: 47, rue de Bretagne, 75003 (M: Temple, République, Filles du Calvaire) - sets in French décor, Moroccan restaurant with large couscous portion served with merguez, lamb, chicken or simply get the good steak frites. No reservations.
- L'Ambroisie: 9 pl. des Vosges, 75004 (M: St-Paul) - 3-star Michelin restaurant under chef Bernard Pacaud. Reservation a must (tel: 01 42 78 51 45).
- L'As du Falafel: 34 rue des Rosiers, 75004 (M: St. Paul) - the best falafel ever! The queue usually moves fast, and it's a cheap-eat, with the falafel costing about €5 and it is very filing. Casual drop-in and take-away.
- La Briciola Pizza: 64 rue Charlot, 75003 (M: Filles du Calvaire, Temple) - Italian restaurant with good authentic pizzas, priced between €9 and €15.
- Ma Bourgogne: 19 place des Vosges, 75004 (M: Bastille) - dining with a view, classic French cuisine from Burgundy and central France, and ice cream from Berthillon. No reservatiuons or credit cards.
- Suan Thaï: 41 rue Ste-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, 75004 (M: Rambuteau) - good value authentic Thai restaurant, reservation recommended (tel: 01 42 77 10 20).
Bakery and Coffee Shop
- Soluna Café: 52 rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 (M: Pont-Marie) - also known as Caféothèque, serving one of the best coffees in Paris.
- Sacha Finkelsztajn: 27 rue des Rosiers, 75004 (M: St-Paul) - lovely bakery-pâtisserie of Central-European and Russian goodies.
- Grand Appétit: 9 rue la Cerisaie, 75004 (M: Bastille) - serves vegan and macrobiotic food, with a mix of French and Far East cuisine, including soups, salads, quiches and vegetarian sushi.
- Le Passage Obligé: 27-31 rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 (M: St-Paul or Hôtel-de-Ville) - location formerly occupied by popular vegetarian restaurant La Victoire Suprême du Coeur (until October 2009).
- Le Marché des Enfants Rouges: 39 rue de Bretagne (M: Temple, République, Filles du Calvaire) - probably the oldest food market in Paris, with stalls selling food from all over the world.
Glaciers (Ice Cream Shops)
- Amorino: 31 rue Vieille du Temple (M: St-Paul, Hôtel-de-Ville) - lovely Italian ice cream shop and usually packed with tourists
- Pozzetto: 39 rue de Roi de Sicile (M: St-Paul, Hôtel-de-Ville) - they sell by cup size, not by flavour/scoop, so you can ask for as many flavours as it'll fit
- Berthillon: 31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Île (M: Pont Marie, Sully-Morland) - strictly not in Marais (it's in Île-St-Louis) but it is so good, and so close to the Marais in any case, it'll be unfair to not list it here
- Goumanyat: 3 rue Dupuis, 75003 (M: Temple, République) - they carry luxury goods, spices (Vietnamese cinnamon, various peppercorns) and unusual goods such as saffron caramels and haricot Tarbais.