Le Marais – one of those Parisian Quarters that exude a unique aura. Small cafés and art galleries are tucked in narrow alleys bordered by threadbare apartment blocks that seem to lean or wobble. Fashion-forward Parisians sporting clothes pulled straight out from the runway enjoy a deep conversation in sexy accents in between puffs of cigarettes and gulps of beer or wine. This area definitely exudes the Paris of books and film. It’s not hard to love this place thriving with a high concentration of remarkable museums like Musée Picasso, Musée Carnavalet and Cognacq-Jay and the many scrumptious Jewish treats along rue de Rosiers. It’s literally a paradise for art, history, and culinary enthusiasts. Tourists usually flock the shops and the cheap deals of the kebab quarter so the small pocket squares remain spacious enough for a book-lover or someone who needs a tranquil bench after enduring the nearby buzz of the busy commercial alleys. It’s difficult to find a favorite spot in this lovely quarter but here are some that always make my tour here really special:
Rue des Barres
A small picturesque passageway behind the Eglise Saint-Gervais hosts minute cafés with cozy outdoor spaces along vine-covered walls and crooked buildings. A few more steps and a couple of timber houses hiding under the shadows of the giant church add a tinge of rustic feel to this small street. It is a good place to start or end your Le Marais trip being in close proximity to the Hotel de Ville and the Seine River.
Place des Vosges
A square enveloped by a brick-laden 17th-century-palace-turned-high-society-apartment-block of the 17-1800’s is one of the most scenic in Paris. Victor Hugo, for one, had once lived at Apartment No. 6 which is now a small museum dedicated to him (It’s also worth a visit!). Stone arcades line the first floor of the apartments providing sheltered gallery-lined promenades and restaurant spaces with a sinister medieval ambiance especially at night.
Jardin de l’Hotel de Sully
Adjacent to the Place des Vosges in the Hotel de Sully mansion with a secret garden – or at least used to be secret. There’s an unassuming door at the southwest end of the Place des Vosges palace that immediately leads you to this perfectly pruned garden. You could further cross a small courtyard on your way to rue Sainte-Antoine. The charm also works the other way around – actually even better when you choose to exit at Place des Vosges.
Who doesn’t love a free museum especially something that resembles Versailles interiors? This enclave of historical pieces built in stunning rennaisance style is just a short walk from Place de Vosges along rue des Francs-Bourgeois. It is now dedicated to showcase the history of Paris with exhibits of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from the earliest known settlements along the Seine up until the 20th century. The sheer number of exhibits crammed into two ornate mansions is definitely astounding. Art collections that span generations give you a glimpse of the glorious history that led to what we now know as one of the most powerful countries in the western hemisphere.