Once upon a time - in the 12th century, to be exact - a swampy area by the banks of the Seine was developed into a neighborhood which we now know as the Marais. By the mid-13th century, royals like Charles I of Anjou and King Charles V had settled themselves in the area, soon followed by other wealthy aristocrats. By the early 17th century, extravagant mansions dotted the area: Hotel de Sens, Hotel de Sully, Hotel Carnavalet and the Place de Vosges being some of the architecture born from that time.
The quarter fell into ruins after the Revolution and was inhabited by the working class − its architectural splendor fell into a bad state. Thankfully, the Marais managed to avoid Napoleon III and Haussmann's transformation of the city, preserving its Medieval maze-like cobblestone streets and architecture. The 1960s oversaw the restoration and conservation of this rich cultural district.
Taking up most of the 3rd arrondissement is the Haut-Marais, or Upper Marais. A rough estimation would be the area between Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and Rue de Bretagne, intersecting at Rue du Temple on the western side, and Boulevard du Temple, Boulevard de Filles du Calvaire and Boulevard Beaumarchais rounding up the eastern end.
There is an unquestionable energy to this place, fueled no doubt by the fashionable and trendy figures meandering through its winding streets. Attracting a diverse audience, a part of the city's long-established Jewish community can be found settled here, alongside the burgeoning gay and lesbian-friendly bars and clubs.
Bohemian, artsy, trendy-- call it what you want, because it's probably all true. The Haut-Marais is a modern playground against an old-fashioned backdrop where art galleries rub elbows with indie shops and mouth-watering cuisine.
The Haut-Marais is rife with museums. Learn about the history of Paris in the stately Musée Carnavalet (23 rue Sevigne), housed in two Renaissance-style hotels particuliers. Not far from Carnavalet is Musée Cognacq-Jay (8 rue Elzévir), another hotel particulier which houses the personal art collection of the founders of the Samaritaine department store. The Musée Picasso (5 rue de Thorigny) is closed until 2013 for renovations, but just behind the museum, take the sidestreet, which leads onto rue Vieille du Temple to visit the Jardin de l'Hotel Salé. Another delightful museum to take in is the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (62 rue des Archives), a strange and astonishing tribute to the relationship of man and its natural environment. The Maison Européenne de la Photographie usually holds beautiful photography exhibitions, so it's worth popping by for a look.
Nestled in the nooks and crannies of the Marais' old-world charm are contemporary art galleries: small, independent spaces sit beside larger, more established art dealers. Thaddaeus Ropac, Galerie Perrotin, and Galerie Yvon Lambert, and Galerie Daniel Templon churn out cutting-edge exhibitions, which draws in art lovers and curious passers-by like bees to honey. Enter the Institut Suédois à Paris (11 rue Payenne) for a dose of Swedish art and design, and check out their extensive library as well.
The Marais streets are rich in street art as well, with known artists like Space Invader, Fred le Chevalier and Gregos leaving their marks, so keep your eyes peeled. See the Localers' guide to Street Art in Paris.
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois was once home to artisan weavers, and today it still retains fashionable acclaim as one of the district's famous shopping streets. Most of its shops are open on Sundays. On Rue du Vieille du Temple, stock up on classy threads by popping into A.P.C. (no. 112), French Trotters (no. 128) or Surface to Air (no. 108). Grab a few items from the trendy concept store The Broken Arm (12 rue Perrée) and make sure to try out their little café as well. Lomography and photography lovers never fail to make the trek to The Impossible Project Space (77 Rue Charlot). For a guiltless shopping experience, make a detour to Merci (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais) - all profits are donated to associations helping women and children in Madagascar (check out their Used Book Café as well). For stylish and oh-so-very French children's clothes and trinkets, Bonton (5 boulevard des Filles du Calvaire) is an address to keep – they even have a children's hair salon. If you're looking for an original scent to wear, drop by L'Etat Libre d'Orange (69 Rue des Archives) -- where else can you find perfumes named "Magnific Secretions" or "Hotel Slut"?
There are so many wonderful boutiques to discover in the area, so walking along Rue Charlot, Rue de Poitou, and Rue de Saintonge is bound to present you with endless shopping opportunities. Get your wallets ready - and make sure to admire the beautiful architecture these shops are housed in!
In a quarter that evolves as much as it does, a dining experience in the Haut Marais is always exciting with the restaurants that keep popping up. Le Marché des Enfants Rouges is one you must not miss - Paris's oldest covered market guarantees to take you on a food trip across the globe with its 20-odd food stalls. Just across the marché is Café Charlot (38 rue de Bretagne), a restaurant built in an old traditional bakery whose hamburgers seem to have attracted its fair share of loyal customers. Have your fill of delicious salads and carrot cake whose recipe you'd kill for at the Rose Bakery (30 rue Debelleyme). Enjoy a traditional crepe at Breizh Café (109 rue Vieille du Temple), or satisfy your hankering for an authentic Mexican taco at Candelaria (52 rue Saintonge). If you're up for cocktails and 1-euro oysters, push open the door to Le Mary Celeste (1 rue Commines), or take cocktail hour elsewhere - try Little Red Door (60 Rue Charlot) for its New York speakeasy ambiance. Vegetarians need not feel left out: Café Pinson (6 rue Forez) has brought the coolness factor back to veggies --- the place is always packed!
Agathe was absolutely delightful! Her knowledge and charming personality made her an excellent tour guide. I would highly suggest this tour!!
Jesica was a great tour guide and made the experience one of the highlights of our entire trip to Paris. It certainly met our expectations.
Marjorie was just great! I didn't really want to do the Louvre but she made the history come alive in stories and I just LOVED our experience!
Alberto was a great guide, he was very informative. The Catacombs were just awesome. Would definitely recommend this to everyone!!
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