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A Tour Through the Marais District in Paris

Marais falafels
For a special treat, head to L'As du Falafel,
the most famous falafel stand in Paris.

It's rare that I'm on the receiving end of real estate envy. But every time I step out my front door onto the rue des Rosiers in the Marais district of Paris, I feel it in the curious stares of the starry-eyed tourists lined up for falafel.

The neighborhood, which spreads across the third and fourth arrondissements, is one of the liveliest and most charming areas of Paris, and I'm proud to call it home.

The streets of the Marais, cobblestoned in some areas, are lined with chic cafes, trendy boutiques, avant-garde art galleries and delicious restaurants. But the district wasn't always so glitzy.

The Marais (which means "the marsh" in French) was once home to grand aristocratic residences, but after the Revolution, the neighborhood started slipping slowly into decline.

At the end of the nineteenth century, waves of Jewish immigrants from central and eastern Europe started setting up small businesses in the narrow streets around the rue des Rosiers. Later, the area became popular among North Africans and people from the Middle East.

In the 1980s, the area started to become gentrified, attracting a large segment of Paris's gay population.

Now, the Marais is an amalgamation of all that makes Paris, well, Paris. The neighborhood is at once old and new, trendy and traditional. There are Michelin-starred restaurants next to kosher bakeries, expensive boutiques next to vintage thrift stores, elderly Hasidic Jews sharing the same apartment buildings as flamboyantly gay fashion designers.

Start your tour of the Marais at the Place des Vosges, an historic public square surrounded by an elegant 17th-century palace, the corridors of which have been converted into expensive cafés and art galleries.

Grab a macaroon at the Right Bank location of Gerard Mulot (6 rue du Pas de la Mule), a famous patisserie located off the square, and be sure to check out the Maison de Victor Hugo (6 Place des Vosges), where the famous author is said to have written most of Les Miserables.

From there, window-shop along the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, where trendy boutiques lay claim to the majority of storefronts.

The road will deposit you directly in front of the colorful skeletal façade of the massive Centre Georges Pompidou, a massive complex housing the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Bibliothèque Publique d'Information and a number of rotating exhibitions.

Round out your tour of the Marais by backtracking to the rue des Rosiers for a special treat from L'As du Falafel (34 rue des Rosiers), the most famous falafel stand in
Paris, if not the world. While you wait in line, take a minute to look around, soak up the atmosphere and envy the people who get to live there.

Getting around the Marais

Location: roughly spanning the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris

Paris Metro stops: Hotel de Ville or St. Paul (Line 1), Rambuteau (Line 11), Chemin Vert (Line 8)

More about the Marais around the Web:

Le Marais - Wikipedia

Paris Marais - The Art of Living Guide

About the Author... Jessica Arriola Marati

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