Yes, it is true that there are plenty of charming little neighborhoods in this beautiful city. And it’s also true that you cannot possibly see everything in just a single trip. But let’s take a moment to extoll the virtues of one of Paris’ most popular little neighborhoods, le Marais. If you want to see medieval Paris, and yet a city that is fashionable and moving with the times, this is the place.
Our recommendation is to take Metro line 1 (yellow) to St Paul, and to work your way north through the neighborhood. Serendipity will be your friend here. You cannot help but encounter some great boutiques and cafes along the way.
You’ll be fascinated with the impressive facades and ornate ironwork; the small, crooked lanes from the medieval times; the cafes, restaurants and bars; the old world bread shops; the wine shops; the hip designers; fashion boutiques; and the museums and art galleries, all cramped into one small quarter. Once you have seen the Marais, you are sure to return home with wonderful memories of your time in Paris.
The Marais of yesteryears
It is quite a wonder, really, because what is the Marais today was in the past just a swamp. Actually, “marais” is the French word for marshland or swamp. There was nothing here before the 12th century. But this was the time when different religious communities began to come up in the area. The first real activity happened when the Jewish people started to settle in the Marais around this time. Their community was further bolstered when in the 19th century they began arriving from Easter Europe.
It grew again when the la Place Royale was constructed, known today as the as Place de Vosges (don’t forget to visit the Maison de Victor Hugo at number 6 while you are here). The Marais neighborhood however suffered during the World War II as the Nazis attacked the place because of its Jewish connection. However, large scale rehabilitation work was taken up after the war came to an end. In 1962, regulations were changed to allow for much-needed renovations, giving the Marais a face-lift.
The Marais of today
Today, the Marais has emerged as one of the most unique and attractive neighborhoods of Paris. It is home to the most fashionable restaurants, art galleries, trendy boutiques and cafes. The nightlife here is very active with countless cabarets, nightclubs and shops. Marais is also known for its lively gay community, and to this day the Jewish community still thrives here alongside a multicultural atmosphere.