The Marais neighbourhood in Paris – a tour route in my favourite place in the City of Lights

Le Marais: Place des Vosges (an internal view taken from rue Turenne)

The Marais neighbourhood in Paris is divided by Rue Saint Antoine, separating the central (northern) part of the Marais, which contains most of the gems of the area (Place des Vosges, Carnavalet museum, and so on), from the southern part of the Marais, which is less famous, but just as charming. The purpose of this route is to let you have a taste of both parts of the Marais in a single day, but it can in no way show you everything located in this lovely neighbourhood, and for that reason it is recommended to come back there, if only to walk around its northern part, too. From my experience, this is a relatively intense route that can take an entire day, and it is highly recommended to walk it with comfortable sports shoes, and make a few stops along the way, to avoid being exhausted at the finish line.

The Marais neighbourhood – a map of the tour route

Before we continue: Are you visiting Paris with you children?

A stroll along Rue Saint Antoine

We’ll start at Place de la Bastille, and walk up Rue Saint Antoine until we reach the statue of Beaumarchais. Behind the statue you’ll find the luxurious patisserie Le Notre, which every sweets lover would love to check out. If you look across the road, you’ll see a beautiful Baroque church named Sainte-Marie-des-Anges, in which the famous French Minister of Treasury, Nicolas Fouquet, was buried. Today the church serves the protestant community of the Marais, and as such, it is only open during prayer times.

Continue on Rue Saint Antoine, and look at the lovely building at number 21. The name of the building is Hôtel de Mayenne, most of it was built in the beginning of the 17th century, and you can know that because of the red bricks that decorate it. This building has a very bloody history, and among the rest, one of Henri III’s friends died of his wounds there, after he was hurt in a duel nearby (the king ordered to line the street with straw, to that he wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise of the wagons). Today this building is home to a school, and if you happen to come by in September, during the Patrimony days, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The school pupils, dressed as if they came directly from the 16th century, will take you on a tour around the palace and tell you about its history.

Pupils in the school presently located in Hôtel de Mayenne in the Marais, dressed like in the 16th century.
Pupils in the school presently located in Hôtel de Mayenne in the Marais, dressed like in the 16th century.

Continue westward on Rue Saint Antoine, until you reach Impasse Guéménée. Victor Hugo, the greatest French author of the 19th century, who lived in Place des Vosges, used to escape his home through this alley to attract little attention, in order to run and visit his lover in Rue Petit Musc, just across Rue Saint Antoine.

Walk some more in the same direction, and on your right you’ll see the main entrance to Plade des Vosges, where ambassadors and royal parade used to enter, heading for a stop in the square on their way to the Louvre. However, I recommend you to continue on, and first enter Hôtel de Sully, on 62 Rue Saint Antoine (you can read the story of this palace here). Don’t miss out on the lovely courtyard and the souvenir shop, with its ceiling from the Louis XIII era.

Place des Vosges

From the courtyard of Hôtel de Sully, leave toward Place des Vosges, and take in the beauty of its buildings, which were built in the beginning of the 17th century. Stroll around the square, and look at the boutiques, the galleries and the cafes it houses. Especially notice No. 6, where you’ll find Victor Hugo’s house, with a museum about his life, which is also free of charge. Another place to look at is No. 9, where the famous gourmet restaurant l’Ambroisie resides. If you’re really lucky and have a nice weather, sit down in the charming garden, and look at Louis XIII’s statue.

After breathing in the rare air of Place des Vosges, leave the square to Rue des Francs Bourgeois, and immediately turn left to Rue de Turenne. In No. 14, behind the iron bars, you’ll be able to get a sneak-peek at the inner courtyards of the houses in Place des Vosges, most of which are private, and therefore are not available to the public.

רובע המארה - כיכר ווז' תצלום מכיוון רחוב טורן
רובע המארה – כיכר ווז’ תצלום מכיוון רחוב טורן

Continue on and turn to Rue Jarente. There you’ll see the lovely fountain located in Impasse de la Poissonnerie (the fish vendor’s alley), as a reminder of the little market that used to exist there. Speaking of markets, turn left on Rue Jarente and enter the charming little square, Place Marche Sainte Catherine, enjoy the calmness, and maybe have a cup of coffee (the square is especially beautiful at night).

The fish vendors' fountain by Place Marche Sainte Catherine
The fish vendors’ fountain by Place Marche Sainte Catherine

The Carnavalet museum and its surroundings

After visiting the square, head back to Rue Jarente, continue on, and turn right in Rue de Sevigne. There, continue walking until you reach the Carnavalet museum, on which I wrote here. I highly recommend visiting this free museum, and through it, get to know the fascinating history of Paris (the visit usually lasts about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, not including temporary exhibitions).

Please note: due to massive renovation works, the Carnavalet museum was closed in 2016, and will remain closed until sometime in 2019, according to the predictions.

The Carnavalet museum – Louis XIV's statue in the museum's courtyard
The Carnavalet museum – Louis XIV’s statue in the museum’s courtyard

Once you’ve finished your visit to the Carnavalet museum, walk west on Rue des Francs Bourgeois, the main street of the Marais, and enjoy the boutiques that reside there, and the palaces, some of which are open to the public (for example, Hôtel Lamoignon, which in the past housed the main library of Paris). Also, as you walk the street, there are several interesting places that are worth a short deviation from the main road.

From the culinary aspect, I would recommend visiting L’éclair de Génie, in 14 Rue Pavée, which sells wonderful eclairs (they have a few other branches of the brand all around central Paris). To the art lovers, I would recommend visiting Cognac Jay museum, in 8 Rue Elzevir, and contains a wonderful collection or art from the 17th and 18th century. I would also recommend to take a peek at a small alley, called Impasse des Arbalétriers (the alley of the crossbow bearers), where, supposedly, Louis of Orleans was murdered.

Eclairs by L'éclair de Génie. Source: Gal Steiner
Eclairs by L’éclair de Génie. Source: Gal Steiner

The Jewish quarter in Paris – Rue des Rosiers and the glorious falafel

Once you’ve had an éclair or two, it is time to turn to Rue des Rosiers, which constitutes the main street of the most famous Jewish quarter in Paris. The Jews arrived to Paris in the 19th century, and settled in this street and area because at that time, the Marais was considered the “slums” of Paris, and was a cheap place to live.

Over the past decades, Rue des Rosiers had undergone a makeover. The famous Goldenberg deli was closed back in the 1980s after a terror attack, and instead popped up falafel stores, boutiques, and, of course, the famous Miznon restaurant. However, if you pass by the place where Goldenberg deli used to exist, and if you try hard enough, maybe you’ll be able to see Louis de Funès dancing there as Rabbi Yaakov.

Hôtel Rohan Soubise

I guess that if you started this tour in the morning, by now you’ll be hungry and want to have lunch in one of the many restaurants in the area. My advice is to skip the dessert, and instead, walk straight from the restaurant to Pain de Sucre, in 14 Rue Rambuteau.

This patisserie makes the most wonderful cakes. Once you’ve managed to choose which cake you would like to eat (which is no simple task, I assure you), go back a little to Rue des Francs Bourgeois, corner of Rue des Archives, and eat your cakes in the gardens of Hôtel Rohan Soubise, which were recently opened to the public.

The gardens of Hôtel Rohan Soubise
The gardens of Hôtel Rohan Soubise

Église Saint Gervais et Saint Protais

Having rested and admired the gardens behind Hôtel Rohan Soubise, it is time for the second half of the tour, the southern part of the Marais. Walk south in Rue des Archives, all the way down to Hôtel de Ville (the city hall). You can admire the wonderful city hall, which was rebuilt after it was burnt in 1871, and after that, walk to Place St. Gervais, located east of the city hall, and enter the large curch there, Église Saint Gervais et Saint Protais.

This is a lovely church, the construction of which started in the end of the 15th century. This church is less familiar than the Notre Dame and Saint Eustache, but beyond its beauty, it has a high important on the musical aspect, since for 200 years, this was the workplace of the Couperin dynasty, a family which was famous for their religious musical works and writings. Here is an example of one of the heavenly works of François Couperin:

After you’ve admired the church (and if you’re in luck, listened to the sounds of its organ from the 17th century), get out of the church through its back door, to Rue des Barres. There you can take wonderful photos of the gothic parts of the church, as well as to drink coffee in the beautiful old square.

Before we continue: Dinner and a Seine cruise - the perfect combination?

Rue François Miron and the south of the Marais

From Rue des Barres walk north toward Rue François Miron and head east. In this street you can find a few of the most ancient houses in Paris, among them Hôtel de Beauvais, which used to belong to the woman who took Louis XIV’s virginity, something I wrote about in a different post.

From Hôtel de Beauvais turn south, and pass by Hôtel d’Aumont, a beautiful architectonic gem from the Baroque period, located on 7 Rue Jouy. The palace was built by two of the most famous architects of the 17th century, Le Vau and Mansart, and as today it is occupied by a courthouse, it is not so simple to enter the place. Despite that, its external beauty compensates for it, and will provide much work for your camera-operating fingers.

Next, continue south and turn to Rue Nonnains d’Hyères, in order to admire the lovely courtyard of Hôtel de Sens. Then, walk around the garden and go to 2 Rue du Figuier to view the 15th-century front of this historic building, one of the most ancient palaces in Paris. This palace was the scene of events for a tragic love affair involving Queen Margot and two lovers, something I wrote about in a different post.

אוטל דה סנס (Hotel de Sens)
Hôtel de Sens

From Hôtel de Sens continue on the streets Rue de l’Ave Maria and Rue Saint Paul, and you’ll reach Village Saint Paul. Here used to stand a palace to which King Charles V moved to during the 14th century, and today, instead, there are lovely courtyards with boutiques and cafes.

A table in an antique shop in Village Saint Paul
A table in an antique shop in Village Saint Paul

If your feet are still willing to carry you, continue to 12 Rue Charles V. Behind the gate, which is usually locked, is the house of Marquise de Brinvillier, the great poisoner of the 17th century. You can read about her here.

חדר המדרגות בביתה של המרקיזה דה ברינבילייה שבמארה
חדר המדרגות בביתה של המרקיזה דה ברינבילייה שבמארה

From Rue Charles V turn to Rue du Petit Musc, whose name is a mispronunciation of the saying “Putes y Muse” (which, in free translation, means “here the whores roam”, implying things that have happened in this street in the past). In No. 26 you can find Frederic Paulet’s boulangerie, which exists here since 1844, and in which Victor Hugo’s lover used to work. This is where our tour ends. Buy yourselves a croissant, you’ve earned it.

Hotels and rental apartments in the Marais

There is no doubt that the Marais is one of the best places to live when you’re visiting Paris due to its central location, the beauty of its street and the plethora of restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Here are a few hand picked places, which I highly recommend:

Rental Aparments in the Marais

Appartement rue des Francs Bourgeois – Marais

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 1

Luxury 2 Bedroom Le Marais

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 3

Luxury 3 Bedroom Le Marais

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 4

Paris Boutik : Suite La Librairie du Marais

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 1

The Pearl of Marais

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 2

Transparent Marais

Type: Apartment Hotel

Number of rooms: 1-3

Appartement proche du Centre Pompidou

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 1

HolidaysInParis-Bourg Tibourg I

Type: Apartment Hotel

Number of rooms: 1-3

HolidaysInParis-Bourg Tibourg II

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 3

Le 38, rue Saint-Louis en l’île

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 3

Smart

Type: A Private Apartment

Number of rooms: 1

Recommended hotels in the Marais

Austin’s Arts Et Metiers

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago | Hotels Combined

No. Stars: ***

Hôtel Jules & Jim

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago | Hotels Combined

No. Stars: ****

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago | Hotels Combined

No. Stars: ****

Le Pavillon de la Reine & Spa

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago

No. Stars: *****

Little Palace Hotel

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago | Hotels Combined

No. Stars: ****

Le Relais du Marais

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago

No. Stars: ***

Villa Beaumarchais

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Trivago | Hotels Combined

No. Stars: ****

Hôtel Caron

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Hotels Combined | Trivago

No. Stars: ***

Hôtel Duo

Hotel Links: Booking.com | Hotels Combined

No. Stars: ****

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