While vast areas of Paris were razed by Napoleon and Haussmann to build grand boulevards and public squares, Le Marais managed to retain the medieval charm of its winding cobblestone streets. Its beautifully preserved architecture spreads along the right bank of the River Seine in Paris’ 3rd and 4th arrondissements, lined with trendy cafes and bars, together with cutting-edge art galleries and boutique shops.
Le Marais is home to the Place des Vosges, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Paris, and flanked by the apartment where Victor Hugo composed Les Miserables. Although many of its grand buildings were in a state of disrepair in the post-World War II years and Le Marais had become a largely working class area, a government initiative to conserve and protect its landmarks of cultural significance saw the area actively restored. The Carnavalet Museum offers a glimpse into Le Marais at the height of its grandeur, while the nearby Picasso Museum is dedicated to the life and work of this great master. No trip to Le Marais is complete without visiting the Jewish quarter, once the largest Jewish community in Europe, whose streets are still lined with Jewish bakeries, delis and old hammams, together with the synagogue on Rue Pavée, designed by Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard, and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme.
Le Marais is served by numerous metro stations around its perimeter, with both Saint-Paul and Bastille stations on Line 1 located just a short walk from the Place des Vosges. The best way to explore the district is on foot, wandering the cobblestone streets and discovering Le Marais’ charming galleries and cafes along the way.
It was in the late 13th century that a fortified church was built by Order of the Temple in Le Marais, transforming the area into what became known as the Temple Quarter for its abundance of convents and churches. It then became the preferred address of the French nobility, with ornate mansions built that include the Hôtel de Sully, the Hôtel Carnavalet, and the Hôtel de Soubise.