Often referred to as "Temple" after the medieval fortress that once stood in the area and was built by the infamous military order known as the Knights Templar, Paris' third arrondissement sits near the heart of the city. It's prized by locals for its attractive combination of bustling commercial areas, distinctive museums, pleasant market squares, leafy parks and quiet residential streets.
But tourists often overlook or skirt around this quietly compelling and fairly central district, even though it's only a five to ten minute walk from central and well-known attractions such as the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Les Halles shopping complex. This is why I recommend a stroll, followed by a museum visit, lunch or dinner, in the area, especially if you're looking for offbeat and locally authentic things to see and do in Paris.
Getting There and Getting Around
The area is most easily reached by taking metro line 3 or 11 and exiting at Metro Arts et Métiers (site of the aforementioned, fascinating museum) or Temple. Alternatively, the 3rd is only a short walk from areas such as République and the central Marais, near the Centre Pompidou.
Main Streets to Explore: Boulevard du Temple, Square du Temple, Rue des Archives, Rue de Bretagne, Rue de Turenne
Map of the 3rd Arrondissement: View map online to acclimate yourself.
Main Sights and Attractions in the 3rd
The district houses a number of interesting tourist attractions worth at least a few hours of your time, especially if you've visited the French capital once before and are on the lookout for something new. Here are some we recommend above the others:
The Marais' Quieter Side
The Marais Neighborhood (shared by the 4th arrondissement) continues at the borders of the 3rd: but the outer northern side offers a more peaceful, quieter guise than the noisy, bustling Rue de Rosiers and Rue Vieille du Temple further south. Here, attractions such as the recently renovated Picasso Museum and the Centre Culturel Suedois (Swedish Cultural Center), with its gorgeous, green courtyard and temporary exhibits, usher you away from the crowds swarming the trendy boutiques elsewhere in the Marais.
Also make sure to check out the Musee Cognacq-Jay, one of the loveliest smaller art museums in Paris (it also happens to be completely free). And for those nurturing a fascination with old dolls (one I admittedly don't share as I find them rather creepy), a visit to the Musée de la Poupée (Paris Doll Museum) might also be in order.
For anyone interested in learning more about Paris' tumultuous and fascinating history, a trip to the free permanent collection at the Musée Carnavalet is a must. The collection takes you from the medieval period, through the Renaissance and into the Revolutionary period and beyond. Exploring the collection is a good way to get some grounding in the area's architecture and history, too-- you'll likely emerge with a different-- and likely darker-- perspective on the city and its lavish landmarks after a whirl through the Carnavalet.
Hotel de Soubise
Also make sure to check out the ornate architecture at the nearby Hotel de Soubise (Renaissance-era mansion), which houses the French national archives. Sadly, only registered researchers can consult the archives, but temporary exhibits on French history and literature are often held here and are open to the general public.
Musée des Arts et Métiers
One of my favorite collections in the capital is found at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a history of science and industry museum that seems straight out of a steampunk fantasy novel. From enormous model airplanes to imposing brass machinery and a giant pendulum, the collection will delight anyone who loves both the history of science and design.
Eating & Drinking in the Area
The third boasts a variety of eateries, bars, and brasseries, most of which are quite decent. I especially recommend sampling food and drinks at the many new restaurants and bars opening around the Square/Carreau du Temple (Metro Temple).
We also recommend Paris by Mouth's list of good places to eat and drink in this district (scroll down to see the list for "75003", the area postcode.)
Shopping in the Area
Many excellent little boutiques featuring up-and-coming and local designers abound on streets such as Rue de Turenne, and Rue de Bretagne is particularly coveted for custom menswear. Over on Boulevard Beaumarchais, meanwhile, the concept shop Merci is a dream for multi-brand designer shopping and design addicts. Their adjoining cafe is a great spot for lunch, and cinephiles will adore the walls plastered with classic movie posters.
A bit further south in the central Marais, the shopping opportunities are also numerous on streets such as Rue des Francs-Bourgeois.