Le Marais is one of the most authentic district of Paris. As a result, le Marais is much appreciated by both Parisians and Locals. But it’s not easy to discover what makes the Marais so unique because there are many hidden treasures to find to really enjoy fully the district. In this article we give you all the tips you need to know to fully appreciate your Marais experience. First of all we will introduce an itinerary for a perfect day trip in le Marais. Then we will give you the best infos about what to shop, what to eat and what to do in le Marais.
According to the locals of le Marais, they discover new things in their district almost everyday! Thanks to it's History and People, le Marais is a very interesting place to explore, but if you have just one day or half day you will have to make choices about where to go. We suggest an itinerary that can help you have the first overview of the district life, history and culture. You can start a day trip in le Marais at the Metro station Saint Paul , which is in the heart of le Marais. From there, wander in the 17th century streets and admire the remaining of the Paris wall . Have a look an the beautiful Saint Paul’s church and continue your way to the 17th century "Hôtel de Sully"  (62 Rue Saint-Antoine), as the Mansion gardens are accessible for free. There, you can enter to the Place des Vosges  and walk around the amazing Place des Vosges. Did you know that 300 years ago, it was the "Champs Elysées" of Paris? The rich Parisians were coming there for shopping. The place is protected from rain by the arcades in winter and you can also have a good time in the garden during summer as well. If you do fancy a nice breakfast there, you can have a rest at the famous CARETTE café, or just chill out in the garden like the locals. Further north, do not miss themblematic concept Store MERCI . You can also have a sweet break nearby there, for example at the unique BOOT CAFE . You can explore the nearby Art galleries and if you’re up to visit a Museum, Musée Picasso  might be a good option. If you like shopping, don't miss the street "Rue des Francs Bourgeois" , which has some of the most trendy shops of Paris. You can then move to the heart of the Marais Jewish community at Rue des Rosiers , and enjoy the pedestrian area in the peaceful atmopshere. If you’re not afraid of the long queue, let's grab a delicious Jewish sandwich at “l’AS DU FALLAFEL”. In the afternoon, shopping could be considered the most exciting activity in order to get a full Marais experience! Have a look at the trendy shops and fashions stores that unearth the latest fashion trends. Not far from there, around Rue des archives , you can find many gays friendly shops, cafés and restaurants. You will see almost everywhere the rainbow flag, symbol of the LGBT community. You can mingle with locals and get all you need in the department store “LE BHV MARAIS” : each floor is dedicated to a different shopping experience. Behind the main building, Rue de la Verrerie, there are other sections of the department store: one dedicated to Men and one dedicated to... pets! After your shopping time, have a look at the "Hôtel de Ville"  (Paris City Hall), the perfect place for a nice photo. Moreover, if you book in advance, you can finish your day trip in le Marais by climbing the “Tour Saint Jacques”  to enjoy an amazing view all over the Marais and Paris. Another good option is the BHV rooftop Bar, LE PECHOIR, which has an incredible Panoramic view of Paris.
Coming to Marais without shopping is like visiting France and no going to Louvre! Shopping is deeply in the district DNA. Plenty of international and local brands have opened their stores in the district since the last ten years. However, if you want a cool experience, we suggest some spots in particular.
In le Marais, what you cannot miss is the famous select shop, called "Merci". This most representative select shop is filled with sensational inspiration. You can find designed interior goods, clothes and accessories, kitchen tools, and so on. The most popular products are Merci’s original tote bags and bracelets with a medal which is often selected as a souvenir by tourists.
Address: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10:00-19:30 / Closed on Sundays
The second spots are the “KILO SHOPS”. They are very representative of the fashion culture of Marais. There, you can find a lot of nice vintage items which can be the most fashionable. The price is also not expensive. In Kilo shops, you pay the price of your vintage clothes by their weight and not by their brands. The French fashion lovers usually come to Marais to find cool vintage clothes here.
Address: 69-71 Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:00-19:30 / Sat 11:00-19:45 / Sun 14:00-19:30
The third spot is Le BHV Marais. It is one of the first department store in Paris (1856). Le BHV is well known among Parisians, which usually prefer to shop there than in the other Parisian department stores which are mainly focused on foreign tourists. Indeed the mall have literally everything, from Fashion and beauty to Arts and bricolage, including food and bookshop. For more information about le BHV Marais, you can click here.
Besides these stores, you can also enjoy shopping in small select shops on the street. Especially on Rue des Francs Bourgeois and Rue Vieille du Temple, you can find high-sens select shops. Find your favorite one!
LE BHV MARAIS
Address: 52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 Paris
Opening hours: Mon - Sat 9:30 - 20:00 / Sun 11:00 - 19:30
There are so many options in the Marais that it’s hard to choose the place to eat! Here are some suggestions of places we particularly like.
For your breakfast, you can choose one of the famous bakeries of le Marais to grab a Croissant or a Pain au chocolat. For the experience, we advise you to have a look at “LEGAY CHOC” which is a symbol of the open-mindedness and humor of the Marais. Most of the breads and viennoiseries of this Bakery are made in a “special” shape. It is important to know that from the 1970’s le Marais became a shelter for the homosexual community, and many people from the LGBT community started to open businesses and shops to create a gay-friendly area (at that time homosexuality was not well accepted in French society).
Address: 45 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris
Opening hours: Mon, Wed-Sun 7:00-20:00 / Closed on Tuesday
For lunch we definitely advice you to try Jewish cuisine, especially Fallafel. Fallafel is a Jewish and middle eastern vegetarian sandwich with deep-fried chickpeas balls and vegetables. L’As du Fallafel is from far the most famous one, and it’s common to queue half an hour before enjoying it. If you want to sit and have a more formal meal, there are also plenty of options such as “Les Pinces” (specialized on Lobsters and Rib steak) or “au Bourguignon du Marais” for traditional French food of Burgundy.
L'AS DU FALLAFEL
Address: 32-34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris
Opening hours: Sun-Thur 12:00-23:00 / Fri 12:00-16:00 / Sat 18:30-23:00
Address: 29 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 Paris
Opening hours: Mon-Thur 19:00-22:30 / Fri-Sun 12:30-14:20 & 19:00-22:30
AU BOURGUIGNON DU MARAIS
Address: 52 Rue François Miron, 75004 Paris
Opening hours: Daily 12:00-23:00
For afternoon tea time, you can go to Carette. The teahouse is perfectly located under the arcade of Place des Vosges, in a traditional building. But the place is a bit overpriced (both drinks and cakes). Last but not least, there are a lot of delicious Ice cream Shops around le Marais, such as Bachir, Pozzetto, La Glacerie… You can find more information on our dedicated article.
Address: 25 Place des Vosges, 75003 Paris
Opening hours: Daily 7:30-24:00
If you want to try a Parisian hottest cafe, Boot Café might be a great choice. It is a small hidden cafe which situates near Merci, but very known on Instagram. You can find the cafe with the bleu sign "CORDONNERIE" means shoe repair shop in French. They serve good quality hot or iced coffee, hot tea, and some pastry. There are a few seats inside and outside of the shop, so you can both enjoy to stay or to take out. Their kind staffs and outstanding interior design make you feel the fashionable and artistic vibes of Parisians.
Address : 19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003 Paris
Opening hours : Daily 10:00-17:00
Almost every corner is interesting in le Marais. And this is a consequence of the district History. To begin with, you need to know how the district identity and spirit were forged to enjoy fully your walk in the Marais.
“Marais” in French means swamp. Indeed, until the 12th century this area was a huge swamp. Paris was ending right before the Marais, an nowadays you can still see a remaining of the 12th century Wall (rue Charlemagne), which is well preserved. It's one of the very few parts of the wall that haven't been destroyed. It helps figuring out how small Paris was at that time! Paris population was just around 60 000 people.
The Marais was urbanized mostly during the 16th and the 17th century. The king Henri IV transformed this district into the political and economic center of the city. He built the amazing Place des Vosges which was the center of the royal administration. Nowadays Place des Vosges garden is a popular spot in summer for chilling out. Most of the buildings in the Marais dates back to that period: it is one of the few district that was not completely renew by Hausmann in the mid 19th century, which explains why the architecture there is so unique when comparing to other Parisian districts.
By the way, if you visit place des Vosges, try to find the oldest (identified) graffiti in town! (1764, by "Nicolas") A small hint: it is on the pillar of the number 11 of Place des Vosges. Making graffitis at that time was much longer than nowadays!
During this Golden Age, Marais was the place to be for the Aristocrats and the Elite. All the Rich Parisian families had their “Hôtel Particulier” (Mansion) in the district. Some of them are still there nowadays, such as Hôtel de Sens (on the above photo) or Hôtel de Sully.
During the 18th and the 19th century, the Aristocrats moved to newer part of the town, and Marais became a poorer district. A lot of migrants from Eastern Europe, especially Jewish, started to move to Marais in the late 19th century until the mid-20th century. Even if many Jewish of the Marais were deported and killed by the Nazis during the second world war, Marais is still one of the heart of the Jewish community in Paris, especially around the “Rue des Rosiers” where there are a lot of Jewish shops and restaurants. You can also admire the beautiful Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue, 10 rue Pavée.
More recently, since the 1970’s, Marais has become one of the best Parisian spot for fashion and Arts, since many artists, designers and concept shops started to flourish in the district. So if you love culture and arts, you will find plenty of Art galleries in the district, especially around Place des Vosges. But there are also a lot of Museums to discover such as Musée Carnavalet (dedicated to the history of Paris) and Musée Picasso. Musée Picasso is located in an Hôtel Particulier of the 17th century (Hôtel Salé) and displays thousands of works of the artist and several temporary exhibitions every year. For more information, you can look at our Musée Picasso article.
MUSEE NATIONAL PICASSO PARIS
Address: 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris
Opening hours: Tue-Sun10:30-18:00 (Extended hours from 9:30 on weekends and holidays)
We also want to mention about an “hidden place” that is seen by everyone: Tour Saint Jacques. Indeed, even if it is impossible to miss this high tower, most of the people, including Parisians, know nothing about the building. It’s actually the remaining clock tower of a 16th century gothic Church that was destroyed during French revolution. From this 54 meters high tower, you can enjoy and incredible view of le Marais and the whole Paris. Unfortunately, it is not easy to climb up as it is only open for small groups between June and October (you can either book on their website or directly at the 39 rue de Rivoli, but the number of visitor is strictly limited).
Last but not least, you can find pretty much everywhere Street art in le Marais! Indeed the street artists love the district, and their performances are much appreciated by the locals. Among all the famous French street artist, we are going to introduce one to you: "Invader". We chose him because you literally can’t come to Paris without ending up finding one of his art pieces... This 50 years old artist (his real name is Franck Slama) created the past 20 years more than 3000 ceramic tile mosaics all over the world, mostly in Paris. His mosaics represent usually pixelized Aliens and Animals. He also created an APP called Flashinvaders, which is a game whe you can scan and “capture” his mosaic artworks in the street of Paris, and accumulate points, like in video games!
Words and Photographs by O'bon Paris Team
Drawings by Fangfang