A Walk Through the Marais: A Tour of Paris’s Most Iconic Neighborhood (2023 Travel Guide)

The Marais neighborhood in Paris is known for its rich history, with roots dating back to the Middle Ages. It was originally a marshy area on the outskirts of the city, and was developed into a residential district in the 13th century. During the 14th and 15th centuries, it was a popular area for the city’s wealthy merchants and noblemen, who built grand hôtels particuliers (private mansions) in the area.

In the 17th century, the Marais became home to the French royal court under Henri IV and Louis XIII. The district was home to the Palais Royal, the residence of the French monarchy until the French Revolution. During this time, the Marais was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the city, and it was lined with many elegant buildings and gardens.

After the French Revolution, the Marais went into a period of decline, and many of its grand buildings fell into disrepair. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the area became a working-class neighborhood, with a large population of immigrants, particularly from Eastern Europe.

In recent decades, the Marais has undergone a revitalization, and it is now one of the most popular and trendy neighborhoods in Paris. Many of the historic buildings have been restored, and the area is now home to a diverse array of shops, restaurants, and galleries. It is also home to a large Jewish community, and there are many Jewish-themed shops and synagogues in the area.

The Marais is also a popular destination for tourists, as it is home to many of Paris’s most iconic sights, including the Place des Vosges, the Musée Picasso, and the Centre Pompidou.

Uncovering the Hidden Gems of the Marais

The Marais neighborhood in Paris is full of things to see and do, and offers something for everyone. Here are a few highlights:

  1. Place des Vosges
  2. Musée Carnavalet
  3. Musée Picasso
  4. Centre Georges Pompidou
  5. Place des Blancs-Manteaux
  6. Jewish quarter
  7. Eating out

There are many other things to see and do in the Marais, as it is a very vibrant neighborhood, it is worth to stroll around and see what you can find.

1. The Place des Vosges

The Place des Vosges is a beautiful square in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, and is considered one of the most elegant squares in the city. It was built between 1605 and 1612, during the reign of King Henri IV, and is considered one of the first examples of urban planning in Paris.

The square is surrounded by elegant 17th-century houses, all built with the same red-brick and white-stone facades, which creates a harmonious and picturesque look. Many of the buildings have been turned into museums, including the Maison de Victor Hugo, where the famous French author lived from 1832 to 1848. The square itself has a central garden with trees and small fountains, making it a great spot to relax and people-watch.

The Place des Vosges was originally built to be a royal residence, with the buildings around the square reserved for the nobility. It was later used as a market square and was a popular spot for festivals and fairs. Today, it is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike and is often used as a backdrop for fashion photography and films.

One of the most striking features of Place des Vosges is the arcade, which is the first of its kind in Paris. It is a covered walkway that surrounds the square, lined with shops and restaurants, it is a lovely spot to take a walk and admire the beautiful architecture of the buildings and the arcade itself.

In short, the Place des Vosges is one of the most beautiful, historic and elegant squares in Paris, a must-see while visiting the Marais neighborhood, the perfect spot to stroll, relax, people watch and admire the city’s history and architecture.

There are several notable sights and attractions within the Place des Vosges that are worth visiting:

  1. The Maison de Victor Hugo: This is the former residence of the famous French author Victor Hugo, where he lived from 1832 to 1848. It is now a museum that features exhibits on his life and work, including original manuscripts, paintings, and personal items.
  2. The Pavillon de la Reine: This elegant building on the north side of the square is now a luxury hotel, but it was originally built as a residence for Anne of Austria, the queen of Louis XIII. It features a beautiful garden courtyard and is a great place to take a break and enjoy a drink or a meal.
  3. The Arcades: One of the most striking features of the Place des Vosges is the arcade, which is the first of its kind in Paris. It is a covered walkway that surrounds the square, lined with shops and restaurants. it’s a great place to take a stroll and admire the beautiful architecture of the buildings and the arcade itself.
  4. The Square: The central garden of the Place des Vosges is a lovely spot to relax and people-watch. There’s a small central fountain and many benchs to sit and enjoy the ambiance of the square.
  5. The Musée Carnavalet: The Museum of the History of Paris is located at the Place des Vosges, and it tells the story of Paris’s history, from pre-Roman times to the present day. It features an impressive collection of artifacts, including paintings, furniture, and sculptures, as well as a reconstruction of a typical Parisian apartment from the 18th century.

2. The Musée Carnavalet

The Musée Carnavalet is a museum dedicated to the history of the city. It is housed in two adjacent buildings, the Hôtel Carnavalet and the Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau, both of which are historic buildings in themselves.

The museum features a large collection of artifacts that tell the story of Paris from pre-Roman times to the present day, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and other decorative arts. The collection spans from the medieval period to modern times, covering the French Revolution, Napoleon’s Empire, the Haussmann renovation, and the city’s architecture, social, and urban history. The exhibitions are divided chronologically and thematically, showcasing the historical and cultural significance of the city through the ages.

One of the most interesting parts of the museum is the reconstruction of a typical Parisian apartment from the 18th century, it gives visitors a sense of what it was like to live in the city during that period, and it’s a highlight of the collection.

The Musée Carnavalet also holds a significant collection of sculptures, prints, drawings and paintings, including a large number of works by Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, and Edouard Manet, among many others.

The museum offers guided tours in English and French, as well as free audio guides for visitors to use. It is a great destination for those interested in the history of Paris, art and architecture enthusiasts and for those who want to learn more about the city’s past. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, it is closed on Mondays and some public holidays. Admission to the museum is free for visitors under 18 and for EU citizens under 26.

3. The Musée Picasso

The Musée Picasso is a museum in Paris dedicated to the work of the famous Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso. It is located in the Hôtel Salé, a 17th-century building that was acquired by the city of Paris in 1964 to house the collection.

The museum’s collection includes more than 5,000 works by Picasso, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and ceramics, and it’s considered one of the most comprehensive collections of the artist’s work. The collection spans from his earliest works, from the late 19th century, to his final pieces from the 1970s. It also features works by his contemporaries, such as Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Max Jacob, among others.

One of the most interesting feature of the museum is the large collection of his famous Blue and Rose Periods, including works such as “The Old Guitarist” and “Boy with a pipe”, which are considered among his most iconic works. The museum also includes a replica of his studio at the Villa La Californie in Cannes, where visitors can see some of the tools, materials and personal effects that the artist used while working.

The Musée Picasso also organizes temporary exhibitions on various themes, including works by other artists, showcasing different aspects of the artist’s work, or revealing the artist’s process or inspirations.

The museum offers guided tours in several languages, and also provides audio guides and information brochures for visitors. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, it is closed on Mondays and some public holidays. Entrance to the museum is free for visitors under 18 and for EU citizens under 26.

In summary, the Musée Picasso is an excellent destination for art lovers and for anyone interested in the works of the famous Spanish artist, the collection spans a wide range of styles and periods, offering a glimpse into the artist’s process and artistic development.

4. Pompidou Center

The Centre Georges Pompidou, also known as the Pompidou Center, is a modern art museum located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near the Marais neighborhood. It was designed by architects Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini and it was built between 1971 and 1977.

The most striking feature of the building is its external steel structure, which appears to be on the outside of the building, with brightly colored pipes, mechanical elements and escalators. It is a unique design that was intended to make the building’s functions visible and to create a new kind of museum, one that is open and accessible to everyone.

The Centre Pompidou holds a collection of international contemporary and modern art, including works by famous artists such as Salvador Dalí, Francis Bacon, Yves Klein, and Louise Bourgeois. It also holds a large collection of modern graphic arts and design pieces, architecture, and photography. The center also has a research and documentation library with over 600,000 books, periodicals, and documents on art and culture.

The museum also has a rooftop terrace, which provides a panoramic view of the city and it is a nice spot to take a break. The center also features a movie theater, a music research center, and a children’s center. The Center also hosts temporary exhibitions on various themes, showcasing works by different artists and movements, in addition to permanent collection.

The Centre Georges Pompidou is open every day except Tuesday, the entrance to the museum is free for visitors under 18 and for EU citizens under 26.

In summary, the Centre Georges Pompidou is an iconic and innovative building, it’s a must-see for art and architecture lovers, the museum’s collection is one of the most important in the world in terms of contemporary and modern art, and it’s a great spot to take a break, enjoy the view and learn about the culture and the art of the 20th century.

5. The Place des Blancs-Manteaux

The Place des Blancs-Manteaux is a small square located in the 4th arrondissement, it’s not as well-known as some of the other sights in the area, but it’s a charming and peaceful spot to visit.

The square is surrounded by typical Parisian houses and it’s a nice spot for a stroll, it’s quite picturesque with a small fountain in the center, surrounded by benches and trees. The square gets its name from the former convent of les Blancs-Manteaux, which was located on the site until the end of the 18th century.

One of the highlights of the square is the Église Saint-Merri, a beautiful Gothic-style church dating back to the 14th century. Inside, you can admire the beautiful stained glass windows, the intricate wooden sculptures, and the ribbed vaults. The church is known for its acoustics and concerts are occasionally held there.

Another highlight of the square is the Museum of Jewish Art and History, it’s located a few steps from the Place des Blancs-Manteaux, it is dedicated to the Jewish culture and history in France, it showcases a diverse collection of art, artifacts, and documents that illustrate the history of the Jewish people in France and Europe.

The Place des Blancs-Manteaux is also a great spot for a bite to eat or a drink, there are several small cafes and bistros nearby, it’s a perfect spot for a coffee or a lunch break. If you’re looking for something more substantial, there are plenty of kosher restaurants nearby, where you can sample traditional Jewish cuisine.

In summary, the Place des Blancs-Manteaux is a charming and peaceful square, it’s not as well-known as some of the other sights in the area, but it’s a nice spot to take a stroll and take in the sights and sounds of the Marais. The square is surrounded by typical Parisian houses and it has a small fountain in the center and a great view over the Église Saint-Merri, it’s also near the Museum of Jewish Art and History, making it a great spot for those interested in the city’s Jewish heritage.

6. The Jewish quarter

The Marais neighborhood in Paris is home to the city’s largest Jewish community, and there is a significant Jewish presence in the area, which is often referred to as the Jewish quarter. The Jewish community in the Marais has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages, and has been an important part of the neighborhood’s culture and history.

One of the main highlights of the Jewish quarter is the rue des Rosiers, a narrow street filled with Jewish shops, restaurants, and bakeries, where you can find traditional Jewish foods such as falafel, hummus, and pastries. There are also several synagogues located in the area, including the Synagogue de la Victoire, which is one of the oldest in Paris, and the Synagogue de la rue Pavée, which is one of the most beautiful.

The Jewish Museum of Art and History is also located in the Marais, it is dedicated to the Jewish culture and history in France, it showcases a diverse collection of art, artifacts, and documents that illustrate the history of the Jewish people in France and Europe.

Another important site in the Jewish quarter is the Memorial to the Unknown Jewish Martyr, which is located in the Place des Martyrs-Juifs-du-Vélodrome-d’Hiver, it’s a memorial to the Jews who were rounded up and held in the Vel d’Hiv stadium during World War II before being sent to concentration camps.

In addition to these cultural and historical sites, the Jewish quarter is also a lively and diverse neighborhood, with a wide range of shops, cafes and restaurants, making it a great spot to explore and experience the city’s Jewish heritage.

In summary, the Jewish quarter in the Marais neighborhood of Paris is a vibrant and historically rich area, it’s an excellent destination to explore Jewish culture and history, where you can find traditional Jewish foods, Synagogue, Museum, Memorials and more. It’s a great place to take a stroll, sample the local cuisine, and experience the unique atmosphere of the neighborhood.

7. Where to eat in the Marais neighborhood

The Marais neighborhood of Paris is known for its diverse and delicious culinary scene, offering a wide range of options for visitors and locals alike. Here are some of the best places to eat in the Marais district:

  1. Chez l’Ami Jean: This classic Parisian bistro is known for its hearty, traditional French cuisine and warm, cozy atmosphere. The menu features classic dishes such as duck confit and beef stew, and the wine list is extensive.
  2. L’As du Fallafel: This popular falafel restaurant has been serving up delicious, crispy falafel sandwiches for decades. It’s a must-visit spot for those looking for a quick and affordable meal.
  3. Le Comptoir du Relais: This charming bistro is known for its simple, traditional French cuisine and cozy atmosphere. It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, and the menu features dishes such as steak frites and escargots.
  4. Breizh Café: This popular creperie serves up delicious, authentic crepes from the Brittany region of France. The menu features both sweet and savory crepes, and the atmosphere is cozy and casual.
  5. Septime: This trendy restaurant is known for its modern French cuisine and focus on seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. The menu changes frequently to reflect the seasons, and the wine list is extensive.
  6. Le Marais: This cozy and elegant bistro serves up classic French cuisine in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The menu features dishes such as escargots and duck confit, and the wine list is extensive.
  7. Le Loir dans l’Couchon: This trendy brasserie serves up classic French dishes with a modern twist in a cozy and casual atmosphere. The menu features dishes such as steak tartare and croque-monsieur, and the wine list is extensive.
  8. L’Ambassade d’Auvergne: This rustic and cozy bistro serves up hearty, traditional cuisine from the Auvergne region of France. The menu features dishes such as aligot (a creamy mashed potato dish) and tripoux (tripe stew), and the wine list is extensive.

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