The Marais is one of the oldest and most beautiful Parisian neighborhoods. From its narrow little streets to its Medieval and Renaissance-era residences and squares, the Marais plunked in Paris' central 4th arrondissement, gives more than a glimpse of what the city was like before the architect Haussmann remodeled and modernized most of Paris in the mid-19th century. In the same right, the Marais represents contemporary Paris at its most exciting: some of the city's most up-and-coming galleries, fashion, and home decor boutiques can be found here. The perfect blending of several different communities, including gay and Jewish, and the presence of arty types crowding cafe terraces make the Marais one of Paris' most eclectic and interesting spots.
After browsing through this gallery for some inspiration, get on your walking shoes and take our self-guided historic tour of the Marais, which whirls you through some of the most storied places in the area.
Hôtel de Sens
The Hôtel de Sens, built between 1475 and 1507, is a late-medieval residence with neoclassical-style gardens. Queen Margot lived here in the 17th century. Today the residence houses an arts library.
During World War II, Paris occupied under Nazi Germany saw thousands of French Jews deported to concentration camps. Many of these were children, and many of them lived in the Marais, which has always been a center of Jewish cultural life in Paris. This memorial plaque, one of many that can be found around the Marais, is outside of a school from which students were deported.
Rue des Jardins-Saint-Paul
This narrow street shows the remains of the fortress built around Paris by King Philippe Auguste in the 12th century. Much of contemporary Paris, including most of the Marais, was excluded from Philippe Auguste's protection. The large Jewish community was expelled from the city.
The Village Saint-Paul is made up of a series of protected courtyards. Today you can find charming galleries and artisan home decorations here. There's also often a weekend antique market that pops up.
A quiet passageway and courtyard off of Rue Saint-Paul. There are countless quiet little streets to explore in the area, making it pretty easy to escape the hustle and bustle of central Paris when the need arises.
St-Paul-St-Louis Church is Paris' oldest Jesuit-style church. It was commissioned by Louis XIII and completed in 1641. Its baroque design was inspired by the Gesu church in Rome. The columns and dome show the Jesuit style, which can also be seen at the Sorbonne and the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.
Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, Interior 1
The interior of the Jesuit-style church shows Corinthian pillars, elaborate sculptures, and ornaments.
Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church, Interior 2
This picture shows the detail of the Eglise St Paul St Louis' dome from the inside.
Absinthe, the favorite drink of 19th-century poets Verlaine and Rimbaud, has since been made illegal. But it can still be sold without its harmful components. This Marais absinthe shop speaks to nostalgic, romantic notions of Paris.
Place du Marché-Sainte-Catherine
The Place du Marche-Sainte-Catherine, originally built in the 13th century, is one of the Marais' most attractive spots. Spontaneous-- or not so spontaneous-- artists' performances often erupt here.
Place du Marché-Sainte-Catherine (2)
Another shot of the charming square tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Rue de Rivoli.
Hôtel de Sully
The Hôtel de Sully was once the private residence of Sully, one of Henri IV's ministers. Its neoclassical design and sculptures representing the four seasons are an impressive sight, and its garden, or "orangerie" in French, lead directly into the covered galleries of the Place des Vosges.
Place des Vosges
The Place des Vosges is arguably Paris' most beautiful square. It was the royal stomping grounds of Henri IV in the 17th century, as well as other monarchs. Famed writer Victor Hugo lived in one of the Henri IV-style apartments around the square. Today, when the lawn is not "resting" (as the French expression goes), coming to sit on the grass and picnic is a Parisian tradition.
Place des Vosges (2)
A second shot of the Vosges square and its elegant, unusual architectural detail.
Boutique on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
Thanks to a policy that protects many of the Marais' historical buildings, it is not uncommon to see contemporary boutiques move into former bakeries or other shops, preserving the original facades. Here, a fashion boutique on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is housed in a historic bakery and pastry shop.
Rue Vieille du Temple
The Rue Vieille du Temple is the main artery of Marais nightlife. Its many bars, cafés, and restaurants, many of them catering to gay or mixed clientele, are always packed, especially on the weekends.
Yiddish Bakery on Rue des Rosiers
This traditional Yiddish bakery on Rue des Rosiers is an example of the treats that abound in the historic Jewish quarter.
A Quaint Marais Cafe
A shot from inside a vintage-style Paris café in the quaint Marais.
Neo-Kitsch Shot from the Politburo
This shot was taken from the Politburo, a favorite bar among the indie rock set in Paris (and now sadly defunct). The red lights and fake fur plush seats around the window provided an inspiring frame for a neo-kitsch shot of the retro boutique across the street.
25 Rue de Roi de Sicile
Metro: Saint Paul or Hotel de Ville
Square Georges Cain
The Square Georges Cain is one of the Marais' most peaceful places to sit, read, or people-watch. This is a somewhat unknown spot and is situated next to one of the neighborhood's stately residences.
A (Semi) Secret Marais Garden
A lush and semi-secret rose garden tucked away in the Marais. The area counts many such places, havens away from the noise of tourists and brunchers and shoppers.
Rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie
Rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie is one of the Marais district's busiest streets and is lined with restaurants and cafes, clothing shops, bookstores, and theaters. This is also the scene of a lively gay and lesbian scene in Paris.
Children of the Revolution
An odd and eye-catching display in one of the Marais district's designer shop windows.
Les Mots à la Bouche
Les Mots à la Bouche is a gay and lesbian-themed bookstore located at 6, Rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie in the Marais. Offering a wide selection of books and gifts, this is one of Paris' most popular gay and lesbian bookstores.
Mariage Frères Tea House
The Mariage Frères tea house in the Marais is one of the city's finest tea sellers. With dozens of varieties of fragrant, pungent, or spicy teas and a relaxing tea salon, Mariage Frères is an obligatory stop for tea lovers. There are several boutiques around Paris: this one is at 30, Rue Bourg-Tibourg (Metro Saint Paul or Hôtel de Ville).
Le Point Virgule Theater
Le Point Virgule is a theater and cabaret on Rue Saint Croix de la Bretonnerie in Paris' lively Marais district. One-man/woman shows and offbeat Paris cabarets are on the program each night here.
Easter Chocolate Display
An elaborate Easter chocolate window display at a chocolate shop on Rue Bourg-Tibourg in the Marais.
Centre Culturel Suedois
The Centre Culturel Suedois (Swedish Cultural Center) is located across from the Square Georges Cain on Rue Payenne in Paris' Marais district. It regularly schedules film screenings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The center is housed in an ornate Renaissance-style building.