The Marais (literally the Marsh), the area directly north of Ile Saint Louis (3rd and 4th arrondissements) in the very heart of Paris, was in fact a swamp until the 13th century when it was converted to agricultural use. In the early 1600s Henry IV built the romantic Place des Vosges.
Place des Vosges with a peaceful and refreshing garden turned the area into the Paris' most fashionable residential district and attracted wealthy aristocrats who erected luxurious but discreet hôtels particuliers (private mansions).
When the aristocracy moved to Versailles and Faubourg Saint-Germain during the late 17th and 18th centuries the Marais and its mansions passed into the hands of ordinary Parisians.
Today the Marais is the most desirable area of Paris for those who insist on prestigious old buildings with character and multi-cultural exposure. It is one of the few neighborhoods of Paris that still has almost all of its pre-Revolutionary architecture.
In recent years the area with its lovely little streets, numerous cafés, eateries or restaurants and fashionable shops (along rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Vieille du Temple, or Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie e.g.) has become very trendy but it's still home to a long-established Jewish community around rue des Rosiers and is a major center of Paris' gay life.
The Marais also houses numerous museums: Modern Art Museum (Pompidou Center), Picasso Museum, Carnavalet Museum, Judaic Art and History Museum, French History Museum, Victor Hugo's House, Photographic Heritage (Hôtel de Sully), European House of Photography...
Our apartment lies on rue Rambuteau in the heart of the Marais, a few yards away from the Pompidou Center, just a short walk from many cultural and historic landmarks like:
the Seine river with its second-hand bookshops (bouquinistes) and riverboats (bateaux-mouches) which will take you under the river's many bridges,
Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral on Ile-de-la-Cité, one of the most magnificent achievements of Gothic architecture built between 1163 and 1345,
the stunning Hôtel de Ville mingling French tradition and Italian Renaissance,
Place du Châtelet (with its 2 theatres, Théâtre de la Ville and Théâtre du Châtelet),
Les Halles shopping area,
Place de la Bastille starting point of the French 1789 Revolution with its famous Opera house,
Place des Vosges with its exquisite garden, cafés, restaurants and live musicians,
Le Louvre museum and the Tuileries gardens which open on Place de la Concorde, the starting point of the Champs Elysées avenue.
the lovely and well kept garden, tribute to Princess Diana, ...and much more.
Grocery shopping on rue Rambuteau is extremely easy as shops (bakeries, wine shop, fresh fruits and vegetable stands, fresh fish, meat and cheese markets, supermarkets, delis, chocolatier... ) abound.
Restaurants and brasseries (French, vegetarian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Japenese, Chinese....) and cafés are also plentiful and reasonably priced in the whole area.
The nights really come alive in the Marais as many tourists love to go strolling along, window shop in the cool night's air or gather in the numerous bars, clubs and cafés.
The gay district is also set in the historical center of Le Marais with its many gay establishments (restaurants, bars, clubs, bookshops, fashion shops...).