An insider’s guide to the Marais

Where to dine, shop and stay in Paris’s most fashionable district

Place des Vosges image: Getty 

Spread across Paris’s third and fourth arrondissements, on the right bank of the river Seine, the Marais was for many centuries the aristocratic heart of Paris, until the French Revolution shaped it into the more diverse neighbourhood that it is today (it is the beating heart of the city’s Jewish community and is renowned for its celebration of LGBTQI culture). A thriving arts hub, thanks to its array of museums and galleries, the district is also a haven for lovers of both vintage and designer fashion, and is home to an ever-growing set of bars, pubs and restaurants. 

Courtesy of Le Pavillon de la Reine

WHERE TO STAY

Take up residence for the weekend at Le Pavillon de la Reine, situated on what must be Paris’s most picturesque square, the Place des Vosges. Glorious in the summer, when its walls are clad in lush green ivy and the courtyard bar and café is open for alfresco dining, the hotel is equally cosy in winter, its low-lit, deliciously scented reception area welcoming guests into an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s Christmas-shopping mania. Bedrooms are individually styled, with plush fabrics, highly decorated wallpapers and, in some suites, dark wooden staircases that snake up from the lounge area to the bedroom; you’re guaranteed a restful night’s sleep followed by a decadent breakfast buffet, including freshly baked pastries, in the morning. If you’re returning from a long day spent exploring Paris on foot, there’s nowhere more calming to unwind than in the hotel’s basement spa, with its jacuzzi, hamman, gym and menu of rejuvenating treatments. Rooms from €330 a night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis.  

Courtesy of Le Pavillon de la Reine

WHAT TO SEE

You could happily while away an afternoon simply strolling around the Marais’s lovely streets, but if you’re after a more cultural day out (or the weather isn’t in your favour), there are plenty of museums and galleries to choose from. The Musée Picasso is currently showing its ‘Picasso 1932: Année érotique’ exhibition, organised in partnership with Tate Modern, which chronicles a year in the life of the Spanish painter. Also worth a visit is the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Europe’s oldest science museum, with its collection of objects and machines ranging from barometers to aeroplanes.

Musée Picasso image: Getty

WHERE TO DINE

The Marais comes to life at the weekend, when hordes of locals descend on the cafés for brunch (which, for the French, appears to translate as any kind of daytime dining experience, be it 11 in the morning or 4 in the afternoon). Make like a true Parisian and squeeze onto one of the outdoor tables on the crowded pavements; perfect people-watching spots include Le Voltigeur on the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois (the selection of quiches is superb) and the Café des Musées on Rue de Turenne, which serves traditional French cuisine. For dinner, Le Petit Commines is a wine specialist offering creative twists on the classics: think snails with pickled beetroot, ox hearts with a red-wine sauce and brioche “pain perdu” with caramel.

Courtesy of Le Petit Commines

WHERE TO SHOP

Many of the leading French designers have a base in the Marais, including Isabel Marant and Azzedine Alaïa, but there’s a whole host of vintage stores too, such as Violette & Léonie and Noir Kennedy. For interiors addicts, there are some beautiful homeware boutiques; try Fleux for furniture, lighting, kitchenware and more. If you’re looking for treats to take back to family and friends, make a pitstop at Chocolat de Neuville for prettily packaged chocolates or visit the master of macarons, Pierre Hermé.

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