The Marais is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris and in recent years has become one of the hippest and most fashionable as well. It is filled with art galleries, boutiques, bistros, cafés, and bars, all alongside famed historic sites and museums. The neighborhood is like a living museum itself, comprised of exquisite period architecture and characterized by lovely courtyards, period street lamps, and stunning facades.
Our apartment is located on the lively rue Rambuteau, which changes its name to the rue des Francs-Bourgeois three doors away. Our block of Rambuteau is known for its food shops, Francs-Bourgeois for fashion. Our building lies at the edge of the 3rd arrondisement (the 4th starts right across the street).
Our block is a typical Parisian residential one with shops on the ground floor of all the buildings – a cheese shop, bakery, grocery, bookstore, tea shop, restaurants, and cafe are all just outside the door. Walk a block and a half to the Rambuteau Metro stop or a few more blocks to the Arts & Metiers Metro stop.
Incredibly, you’ll be living just three doors from the famed Archives National in the Hotel de Soubise and two blocks from the Pompidou Center.
Just a few streets away are the Musée Carnavalet, the Jewish Museum, the Picasso Museum, the Place des Vosges, and other cherished attractions.
Nearby are the fashion district, the Jewish district, the gay district, and the leather-goods
district, all available for exploration. You can experience the historic splendors of Paris, as well as restaurants and shops that are up to the minute and all the rage, without ever leaving the neighborhood. And of course there are always the timeless delights along the Seine, merely steps away. And why step when you can bike? The new “Velib” system makes Paris accessible by bicycle for everyone with incredibly affordable and accessible bicycles stationed on racks throughout the city; there’s one just two blocks from our flat.
More about the Marais, from the experts:
The Marais is a magical area whose narrow streets are dotted with aristocratic hotels particuliers [which are not actually hotels, but grand residences], art galleries, fashion boutiques and stylish cafes. The city slows down here, giving you time to notice the beautiful carved doorways and the early street signs carved into the stone. The Marais, or ‘marsh,’ started life as an uninhabited piece of swampy ground used for market gardening, inhabited only by a few religious foundations.
In the 16th century, the elegant Hotel Carnavalet and Hotel Lamoignan sparked the area’s phenomenal rise as an aristocratic residential district; Henri IV began constructing the Place des Vosges in 1605. Soon nobles started building smart townhouses where famous literary ladies such and Madame de Sevigne and Mlle de Scudery and influential courtesan Ninon de l’Enclos held court.
The area fell from fashion a century later, happily, many of the narrow streets were essentially unchanged as mansions were transformed into industrial workshops, schools, tenements, even a fire station.
The current renaissance dates from 1962 when a preservation order from then-Culture Minster André Malraux safeguarded many buildings for use as museums. Now a lively, international quartier, property prices have soared.
The rue des Francs-Bourgeois runs right through the Marais. [Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is the same street as Rambuteau.] The street soon forgets its Les Halles legacy in the [fabulous!] food shops of rue Rambuteau. Further on, the street is packed with elegant mansions and original boutiques such
as Plein Sud for fashion, Millefeuilles for flowers and Bains Plus for delectable bathroom accessories. For a little culture, seek out two of Paris’ most elegant early 18th-century residences, full of rococo lightness: Hotel d’Albret and Hotel de Soubise, the national archives [literally steps from our door] where interiors by Boucher and Lemoine can be seen as part of the Musee de l’Histoire de France.
At its eastern end is the Place des Vosges [a ten minute walk] one of the most beautiful and intimate squares in Paris. At one corner is Maison de Victor Hugo, once occupied by the author. An
archway leads from the southwest corner to the elegant Hotel de Sully designed by Jean Andreouet du Cerceau in 1624.
The area is also home to numerous cafes, bars, and other surprises including rows of leather bag and accessory wholesalers [many are open to the public; you can get a Parisian bag for a fraction of what it costs in the department stores.] The Hotel Sale on rue de Thorigny, built and named in 1656 for a salt tax collector, has been finely restored and extended to house the Musee National Picasso.
The Marais is also home to Paris’ oldest Jewish community, centered on the rue Rosier… The lower ends of rue des Archives and rue Vielle du Temple are the centre of cafe life and happening bars.
–from Time Out Paris [with our added notes]