Le Marais, the trendiest district of Paris, has it all: Centre Pompidou. Picasso museum. Fashion shops open on Sunday. Gay and Jewish communities. Bars and nightlife. Old and narrow streets and beautiful mansions. Places to visit in Paris.
It is hard to look back and guess Le Marais was a shabby district in 1970. Poor immigrant families, mostly jews fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe, lived in ruined houses.
Today, Le Marais is by far the trendiest district in town, a mix of wealthy communities, shopping venues, cultural sights and lifestyle that is unique in Paris. City life is at its best in Le Marais, a district with narrow streets and no boulevards on the right bank of the Seine river, close to Notre Dame.
Pedestrians and cyclists are kings and there are few cars in the old and tiny streets. Charming boutique hotels are everywhere. Le Marais also has many apartments to rent.
Discover Le Marais on our three hour walk in Paris Marais
Paris metro: Saint-Paul, Hotel de Ville stations, line 1
Le Marais was Paris Jewish district. Many jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled there during the first half of the last century. Jewish shops share Rue des Rosiers (Paris map) district with French fashion stores.
Gay community addresses.
Le Marais is extremely rich with interesting sights, including lovely streets, manshions, churches and monuments, museums. The top 8 sights are must do.
Picasso Museum: housed in a 17th century mansion, the Paris Picasso Museum displays 253 Picasso paintings.
Centre Pompidou: in 40 years, over 100 million people have visited Centre Pompidou and its impressive collections of Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse paintings
Place des Vosges, 17th century brick and stone square
Cognacq-Jay Museum, lovely art museum
Jewish Art and History Museum, well done in old mansion
Shoah Memorial, moving memorial of the deportation
Carnavalet Museum, Paris history museum
Hotel de Ville, Paris City Hall
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is perhaps Paris most trendy shopping street (Paris map). You will find most French fashion brands there. Fashion stores in Le Marais are open on Sunday, which is rare in Paris. The largest stores are:
BHV Marais: one of the best department stores in Paris.
Merci: trendy concept store and decor.
Uniqlo Le Marais: beautiful fashion store in Le Marais.
Le Marais is also rich with house decoration and antique stores such as Fleux, Les Mille Feuilles and the boutiques in Village Saint-Paul. Le Marais Paris shopping review.
King Philip Augustus (1180-1223) surrounded the right bank of Paris with a wall. A portion of it is still visible rue des Jardins Saint Paul. The North Eastern area outside the wall was then mostly swamps, Marais in French. The Abbeys owning the lands dried them out and cultivated them. In the 14th century, King Charles V took up residence in Le Marais, which became the royal district. After the tragic death of King Henri II in 1559, the Royal family moved to the Louvre.
King Henri IV (1589-1610) commissioned Place Royale, now Place des Vosges. As a follow-up, many nobles built their residence in the area. The Hotel Sale housing the Picasso Museum and Hotel Carnavalet housing the Carnavalet Museum are glorious testimonies of Le Marais in the 17th century. The district was also alive with an intense religious life. In the 18th century, the nobles migrated to the left bank. In the 19th century, workshops replaced the gardens and the courtyards. Le Marais was abandoned and hopefully spared from major destructions. The 1962 law on protected areas started the renovation of the district, the only one not remodelled during the 19th century.
Jews have been living in Le Marais since the Middle Ages. At the end of the 19th century, Jewish immigrants arrived mostly from Eastern Europe and Alsace Lorraine. The district was known as the Pletzel, Yiddish for little square, because of its narrow cobblestone streets. It was packed with small shops, mostly clothing, kosher delis and bakeries, yeshivas and synagogues. As French Jews improved their social and economic conditions, they left the Marais for other parts of Paris. In recent years, the Marais has become gentrified, a popular attraction for tourists, now featuring trendy boutiques, restaurants and clubs. Still, the Jewish presence in the Marais is unmistakable.
The main sights are in the area of Rue des Rosier, Rue Pave and Rue Ferdinand-Duval, previously named Street of the Jews. Parisians flock to the district to eat from the famous falafel stands or for a mix of French and Eastern European Jewish dishes at Florence Kahn’s Bakery and Delicatessen. There are a few synagogues, most notably the architectural gem, 21 bis, Rue des Tournelles. A yeshiva in the neighborhood is evidenced by Orthodox Jews in traditional black coats and hats walking along Rue Pave.