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Marais Travel Guide

Marais (3rd, 4th, and 12th Arrondissement) is one of the city’s most historic and wealthy residential districts. The architecture in Marais is primarily 17th and 18th century and you’ll find many aristocratic mansions and trendy boutiques, shops, and cafés, especially in the Bastille Area.[1]

Marais became an address synonymous with the upper class when the 14th century French king, Charles V, moved his court here from Ile de la Cité. Henri IV followed suit by building the gorgeous Place des Vosges and Place Royale in Marais in the early 17th century.[2]

The Bastille area of Marais is one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. It is lined with many galleries, shops, cafés, restaurants, theaters, and bars. You’ll also find elegant courtyards entranced by open passages called portes cochères.[3] You’ll find in this section the historic Place de la Bastille, which is the square and setting of the revolutionary mob that triggered the French Revolution on July 14, 1789. This square is also home to the Opéra Bastille, constructed in commemoration of the event.[4]

Other notable sites of Marais include the Place des Vosges, which is Paris’ oldest monumental square. It is enclosed by 36 Renaissance homes, laid out by Henri IV. The square was once the residence of noblemen and aristocrats and also the place where Louis XIII married Anne of Austria in 1615.[5]

The Centre George Pompidou is another main attraction in the district. It is the renowned cultural center of the city, home to the National Museum of Modern Art, which showcases the works of Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, and Miró among others. The center also has a small, airy museum called the Atelier Brancusi, which exhibits the works of the early 20th century sculptor Brancusi.[6]

Other museums in Marais include the Musée Picasso, the Musée Carnavalet, the Maison de Victor Hugo, the Musée Cognacq-Jay, and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme. The Musée Picasso and the Maison de Victor Hugo are particularly worthwhile visits. The former houses the famous Cubist artist’s works as well as the paintings of other names like Matisse, Renoir, Rousseau, and Cézanne. The latter is the former residence of the famous French novelist, Victor Hugo, who wrote the celebrated Les Misérables and the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. In his residence, you’ll find his writings and memorabilia on display.[7]

Marais also has some of the finest old architecture in Paris. The Archives Nationales (National Archives), for example, is housed in the 18th century Hôtel de Soubise, which is a beautiful, opulent Rococo style mansion. The National Archives itself contains thousands of historical documents, including those associated with the French Revolution. And the Hôtel de Sully in Marais is at least Hôtel de Soubise’s equal. This mansion is a great example of the early Baroque architecture in Paris; it was completed in 1624. Today, it houses the Patrimoine Photographique museum, a photography exhibition. The 16th century St Gervais-St-Protais is one of the last Gothic structures in France and a great example of the Flamboyant style. And the St Paul-St-Louis is a great example of a 17th century baroque church (with an 180 feet dome and cross), while the St Denis-du-St-Sacrement provides a model of 19th century Neoclassicism.[8]

Centre George Pompidou
Archives Nationales
Atelier Brancusi
Hôtel de Sully
Musée Carnavalet
Musée Picasso
Musée Cognacq-Jay
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme
Maison de Victor Hugo
Place des Vosges
Place de la Bastille
St Paul-St-Louis
St Denis-du-St-Sacrement
St Gervais-St-Protais

DK Publishing. Europe (Eyewitness Travel Guides), Revised Edition. New York: DK Travel, 2004. ISBN: 0789497301.

Fisher, Robert I. C., and Fodor’s. Fodor’s France. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2007. ISBN: 1400016878.

[1] Fisher, 71
[2] Id. at 72
[3] Id.
[4] DK, 153
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Fisher, 73, 76
[8] Id. at 72-73, 78

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