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Visiting le Marais in Paris is one of the highlights of a trip to Paris. Small winding streets, gorgeous old mansions, fabulous restaurants, cafés and coffee shops and the oldest and arguably most beautiful planned square in Paris. This le Marais guide will help you have an amazing time in the Marais district in Paris.
Le Marais In Paris: Need To Know
Before heading off to the Marais district in Paris, it is helpful to know a few things.
- Le Marais is the French word for marsh and it is indeed true that le Marais was at one time in history marshlands.
- The 17th and 18th centuries were the glory years of le Marais in Paris. The Marais district became home to France’s nobility who built mansions, known in French as “hôtels particuliers.” The area is home to stunning mansions.
- The Marais has traditionally been the Jewish quarter in Paris and many of its streets are immersed in Jewish history. It is renowned for its kosher delis, and bakeries.
- Today the Marais district is full of chic upscale shops, trendy restaurants and bars and is a mixture of many communities – Jewish, Asian and LBGTQ.
- Le Marais in Paris is in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.
1. Flâner In Le Marais Paris
This art of wandering and observing life (to flâner) in Paris is really the best way to enjoy Le Marais. Allow yourself plenty of time to sit at a café, pop into some galleries, visit a museum and explore the narrow, cobblestone streets looking for different hôtels particuliers and browsing the boutiques.
On Sundays, many of the streets are closed to traffic making it a popular, yet perfect, time to visit le Marais.
Le Marais in Paris is far more than a list of things to do. These suggestions will get you started but turn left when everyone else is going right. The Marais district is the ultimate place to make your own Parisian discoveries.
2. Have A Picnic At Place Des Vosges
Places des Vosges was Paris’s first planned square commissioned by Henri IV in 1605. Place Royale, as it was originally called, became home to Paris’s aristocracy. It was renamed Place des Vosges in 1793 as a tribute to the Vosges department in France which were the first to pay their taxes to the government.
Today Place des Vosges is one of the parks in Paris where you can sit on the grass (in many parks it is forbidden) making it an ideal place for a picnic. It is a gathering spot for families, sunbathers, artists and friends sitting on a bench enjoying the gurgling fountains. Be sure to wander the covered archways lined with galleries and shops.
3. Le Marais In Paris: Enter The House Of Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo lived at #6 which is the only house in Place des Vosges open to the public. Wander through this museum and see where Hugo wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame and part of Les Miserables.
The upstairs windows provide a lovely view over Places des Vosges.
2021: The Maison Victor Hugo is currently closed for renovations.
4. Admire The Hôtel De Sully
The Hôtel de Sully, right by Place des Vosges is a fine example of wealth and splendour. This private mansion was first built by a gambler in 1624. After losing all his money, the Duc de Sully who was Henry IV’s chief minister bought it. Today, it houses the National Office of Historical Monuments and Sites, with an information center and a fabulous bookshop inside
Wander through the stunning gardens and in the courtyard look for the relief sculptures of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water.
5. Find The Cannonball In Hotel De Sens
If you happen to stroll past the fabulous Hôtel de Sens with its turrets, look on the front facade (near the left turret) for the black cannonball. It’s been lodged in the stonewall since the 28th of July 1830!
6. Le Marais In Paris: Take In The Picasso Museum
5 rue de Thorigny
The Picasso Museum in the Marais district is set in a stunning Parisian mansion, the Hôtel Salé. The grand staircase and the sumptuous details of the mansion make it a must to visit, not to mention the strong collection of Pablo Picasso’s works. Find out all the details on the Museum’s site.
Skip The Line with a Full-Day Priority Access ticket.
7. Find The Mascarons Watching You
One of the things I love in the Marais Paris is examining the mascarons at the top of the impressive doorways. When these private mansions were built, a mascaron (carved mask) was placed over the entranceway to protect the family from evil spirits. Often a fanciful face, sometimes a faun and other times a full-figured mascaron, they are always watching who goes by!
If you love intricate and decorative door knockers, le Marais in Paris is an excellent district to find them.
8. Catch The Views From The Pompidou Centre
The Georges Pompidou Centre, with its funky, unique design, houses the National Museum of Modern Art, Europe’s largest collection of modern art. Stop by for a special exhibition or to see the permanent collection. Or, go straight to the top floor for magnificent views over the Paris rooftops, including Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower.
Skip The Line with this ticket
Please note: The Pompidou Centre is closing for four years from 2023 to 2027 for renovations.
8. Relax In The Anne Frank Garden
14 impasse Berthaud
Close to the Georges Pompidou Centre is the Anne Frank Garden. It is tucked away down a narrow street, but once found is a tranquil oasis and a lovely spot to relax and watch real Parisians. Families bring their children here to play, owners walk their dogs and others tend to the roses and fruit trees in the orchard. It is also a place to spend time reflecting on the victims of the Holocaust. Note the chestnut tree planted in Anne Frank’s memory and the bronze statues dedicated to survivors of the Holocaust.
9. Le Marais In Paris: Discover These Half Timbered Houses
Rue de Braque is a quiet street lined with private mansions. Behind the facade at #5 is a half-timbered 17th-century house. Although these are private residences, it might be your lucky day to find the door open.
Take special note of the facades at #4,#6 and #8 on rue de Braque. You’ll see heads of sages and rams and lion muzzles decorating the panels of the carriage door. These date back to Louis XIV.
10. Observe Life In Square Georges Cain
8 rue Payenne
I first came across this lovely square during the first confinement in the Spring of 2020. The parks were all locked shut. I stood at the gates and knew that as soon as some sense of freedom was restored, I would choose to sit here.
These delights of Square Georges Cain are to be enjoyed: locals come and let their dogs socialize, others play chess on the tables provided, the bronze statue of the nude woman, L’Aurore, in the middle of the rose bed, and the Rossignol, an electronic bird, that starts singing when the wind blows. I have yet to hear the bird but plan to return on a windy day.
11. Le Marais In Paris: Saunter Rue Des Rosiers
Sometimes I just take things at face value. I’d always accepted the name of rue des Rosiers without thinking. One day I stopped in my tracks. Rue des Rosiers. The Street of the Rosebushes.
Mention Rue des Rosiers and it conjures up the everpresent line up at l’As de Fallafel, private courtyards full of Pierre de Ronsard roses, Jewish bakeries full of delicious cookies, and the plaque at #7 that acts as a memorial to the attack carried out on the Jewish restaurant killing six people on August 9. 1982.
Amidst the shops and international boutiques such as COS, find the indistinct entrance to a little garden, Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph Migneret. Make sure to note the memorial to the children under the age of five that were taken away never to return during one of the Nazi sweeps of Paris during WWII.
12. Stand Before L’Hôtel De Ville De Paris
1 Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
Paris’s City Hall is the official office of the Mayor of Paris, currently Anne Hildago. Right in this very location, there has been a city government building since 1357. Of course, there have been many changes over time and the building was set afire during the Paris Commune in 1871. It is a location steeped in Parisian history. There was even a guillotine situated in the square. These days, the large square (parvis) out front is always full of activity and in the winter usually has a skating rink (not in 2021).
It is possible to organize a tour of the Hôtel de Ville.
13. Examine The Facade Of Nicolas Flamel’s house
51 rue de Montmorency
If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone then you have heard of Nicolas Flamel. Or perhaps you already knew that J.K. Rowling did not invent this character completely. Nicolas Flamel, born in 1330, was indeed a real person, an alchemist and a manuscript seller, experimenting with that elusive and magical elixir to obtain eternal life and change lead into gold.
He and his wife Dame Pernelle opened this inn in Paris to welcome the homeless. It is the oldest inn (auberge) in Paris and a historic monument.
The facade is detailed and fun to examine. If you want the full experience, stay for a meal. Here is all the information about the Auberge Nicolas Flamel.
14. Passage De l’Ancre
223 rue Saint-Martin or 30 rue Turbigo
The Passage de l’Ancre (Passage of the Anchor) is a lovely hidden passageway in the 4th arrondissement. Enter to find vines and flowers, private residences and a few stores and restaurants. It is here that you will find the only umbrella repair shop in Paris, Pep’s and a fabulous Greek restaurant Stou Fred.
15. Seek Out The Oldest Half-Timbered Houses In Le Marais
#11 and #13 rue Françoi Miron
The Marais district, full of aristocratic private mansions, also has these two ancient very tall, skinny half-timbered houses dating from the 14th century reminding us just how long le Marais has been around! Are they the oldest in Paris? Some people say, “No.” Hard to say as they were renovated in the 1960s and the jury is out! Never mind. Crane your neck and marvel at their crookedness and the fact that they are still standing!
16. Eat At Marché Des Enfants Rouges
39 rue de Bretagne
I lived right beside Marché des Enfants Rouges for four months and can assure you that it is a bustling covered market. Buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and regional French cheeses or enjoy a take out meal from one of the stalls. Italian, Moroccan, French and Chez Alain Miam Miam will make it hard to decide where to start!
Marché des Enfants Rouges is one of the few markets that has tables, some communal, making it a great place to have lunch (déjeuner) or dinner.
Maybe you’ll receive some advice on love and life as I did at the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Are you game to try the Gluten-Free cornet vegetarian at Chez Alain? Gluten-Free in Paris describes where to find it.
17. Le Marais In Paris: Open Doorways
There is a way to get behind those massive, intricate, gorgeous doorways of Paris. If there are offices behind, during the weekdays just push the button and you will have access to the courtyard. Sometimes, you have to ask a resident who is leaving and other times the doorway may just be open.
Be curious. Be observant and you may discover a lovely courtyard that the not so observant traveller strolls right by.
18. Inhale The Wisteria In The Spring
rue de Fourcy
Wander down rue de Fourcy in April and the delicate scent of wisteria will make you question whether you are in fact in the city of Paris or have been momentarily transported to a country lane. The magnificent, wisteria blooms (les glycines in French) herald spring and bring thoughts of new and old loves. You might find yourself humming a love song or two.
If you are not too distracted by the wisteria, pop into the Maison Européenne de la Photographie at 5 rue de Fourcy.
19. Gaze Into The Dome At Saint-Paul- Saint-Louis Church
99 rue St. Antoine
The first time, I was dragged through the bright red doors of Eglise Saint-Louis-Saint-Paul after a very long day of walking through Paris. My friend wanted to listen to the Stabat Mater concert that was already underway. The candles, magical voices, strains of music and the glorious dome under which it was unfolding will never be forgotten.
You can’t see the 195-foot (59 metres) dome from the beautiful three-tiered front of the church, although you can from behind. It is best appreciated from inside.
Eglise Saint-Louis-Saint-Paul was commissioned by Louis XIII and completed by 1641. Though many artefacts were stolen from the church during the Revolution, some important works were spared. The most impressive is Delacroix’s Christ in the Garden of Olives (1827), which can be seen near the entrance.
20. Le Marais In Paris: Find The King Philippe Auguste Wall – 1190
Behind the Eglise Saint-Louis-Saint-Paul and beside the high school, Lycée Charlemagne is the largest remaining section of the Philippe Auguste wall that surrounded Paris and defined its borders in the 12th century.
The stone wall had 77 semi-cylindrical towers 15 metres (49 feet) high. A quarter of one of the towers, the Montgomery Tower, can be seen today.
21. Browse The Boutiques and Galleries In Le Marais Paris
Le Marais is full of boutiques and galleries. It is also home to many international chain stores such as Uniqlo. Cos and H and M. Look for French brands such as Sandro, Maje, and Comptoir des Cotonniers. Allow yourself time to explore and enter the smaller shops on a whim.
Iva, who lives in the Marais, lists her favourites in this post.
The Marais is so much fun to explore. Every time I return there is a new discovery. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know what you love about it!
Until next time,
More Paris Info…
If you love that village feel in Paris these areas might interest you:
Montmartre, much like Ile Saint- Louis, feels like a small village. This post on Montmartre leads you to the most popular sites as well as some lesser-known places on the hill.
La Butte aux Cailles, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement, is another place in Paris that has retained its village-like charm. My article on La Butte aux Cailles will lead you to discover some the area and its visually enticing street art.
Canal Saint-Martin is another place full of small restaurants, boutiques and plenty of character. Stroll the bridges of the canal under the chestnut trees and feel like a true Parisian. All the details on this “bobo” district are in this article on Canal Saint-Martin.
If you are looking for food suggestions, read about where to find the best croissants in Paris. There are also plenty of café suggestions for the Marais area in this post: Tips from a Local. And if you are exploring the area around Canal Saint-Martin, here are the best places to stop for a bite or to find the fixings for a picnic.
Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller.
This page has all my articles on Paris that will help you plan out your trip, including day trips from Paris. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter to get my free download – An Amazing 2-day Itinerary in Paris.
If you are going further afield in France, make sure to check out my page on France.