Le Marais (or The Marais in English) is one of my favorite places to meander through….only thing is that for the past decade, every trip to Paris has been in December for a conference I attend there every year. I just returned from a couple of weeks in this fabulous city, one of my favorites in Europe, and was able to spend time once again in the Marais but on warm nights at the beginning of summer, from late May through early June, a perfect time to be there. See some of my photos of the Marais from a December stroll which also include the Latin Quarter.
It has long been known as the aristocratic district, housing many of the outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance in Paris. Spread across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris on the Right Bank of the Seine, it’s a magical place to walk through anytime of year. The name means “swamp” which once upon a time, it was.
It is now one of the major shopping areas as well as boutiques, top end designers and cafes line its well preserved narrow streets. Amidst the shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars, you’ll find a collection of old Medieval and Renaissance architecture.
In 1240 the Order of the Temple built its fortified church just outside Paris’s walls, in the northern part of the Marais and you’ll still find churches and other religious institutions in the area including the des Blancs-Manteaux, de Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie and des Carmes-Billettes convents, as well as the church of Sainte-Catherine-du-Val-des-Écoliers.
I’ve read many a book on the Marais as well as seen movies set there, since it isn’t just known for its noble start. After the nobility started to move to the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the district became a popular and active commercial area, hosting one of Paris’ main Jewish communities. At the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th, the district around the rue des Rosiers, referred to as the “Pletzl“, welcomed many Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazi) who reinforced the district’s clothing specialization. But, during World War II the Jewish community was targeted by the Nazis who were occupying France. And, they were taken from there, and their homes given over to Germans and non-Jewish French. The rest is history and many a’ novel and movie were created from these historical stories.
The rue des Rosiers remains part of Paris’ Jewish heritage and bookshops specialize in Jewish books, and numerous restaurants and other outlets sell kosher food. I wrote about Jewish bakery Sacha Finkelsztayn in the Marais, which is one of my favorites.
If traveling to Paris, check out some of the Paris hotels we’ve covered in the past as well as in our hotels section on WBTW and for food/wine in Paris. See my reflective post on Paris before I jumped on a plane earlier to Paris in the winter of 2012. Below is a great video I shot in the Marais in early June of this year of a trio playing classical music. They were lovely…..I didn’t want to leave.
Photo credit: Goodlifefrance.com. Video: Renee Blodgett.