Everything You Need to Know about Marais
You’ll find the Parisian neighborhood of Le Marais in the 4th arrondissement of central Paris on the right bank of the River Seine. Throughout most of its history, Marais was the reserve of the aristocracy and playground of the elite. Now, it’s peppered with upmarket boutiques, trendy bars, up-and-coming galleries, and a smattering of unforgettable eateries.
A Speedy Introduction to Marais
After the French revolution and the subsequent fall of the monarchy, Marais’ aristocratic community dissolved and the region soon became the home of Paris’ growing Jewish community.
Welcoming Jewish influxes from Eastern Europe, the community continued to grow throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. So much so that the neighborhood would be known by the Yiddish name of Pletz – meaning ‘Little Place’. After four years of persecution under the 1940s occupation of Nazi Germany, Marais steadily drew back its colorful Jewish community, a demographic that continues to this day.
Post-war Marais fell into hard times, and its architectural masterpieces were in a bad state of repair. The French government undertook a program of reinvestment in the neighborhood, turning many of the failing hotels into top museums and art galleries.
Modern Marais is now renowned for its fine galleries and museums, boosting its notoriety as one of the most fashionable places in Paris; home to trendy restaurants, fashion houses, and hip institutions. During the past few decades, Marais has also become the center of the French capital’s LGBTQ+ community, another colorful feather in the cap of Marais.
All of these different elements have transformed Marais into one of the most diverse and ‘happening’ neighborhoods in Paris, making it one of the city’s most desirable places to not only to visit but to live.
1. Things to Do in Marais
There’s so much to see and do in Marais that you could easily spend a weekend here without venturing out into the rest of Paris. Here are some top recommendations.
Visit the Picasso Museum
Once the home of the 17th-century hotel ‘Hôtels Sale’, the mid-1980s saw the hotel turned into the Musée Picasso: a museum dedicated to the works of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The museum contains 5,000 works and tens of thousands of archived pieces by the prolific artist.
It is the only museum in the world, dedicated to the Spanish artist, that has a full display of the entire spectrum of Picasso’s work. This includes paintings, sculptures, engravings, and illustrations. It also presents a record of Picasso’s complete creative process through sketches, drafts, illustrated books, notebooks, and etchings in all different stages of composition.
Having spent most of his adult life in France, the Picasso Museum in Marais is a fine way of introducing yourself to the works of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists.
Head to The House of European Photography
Another of Marais’ most celebrated art institutions is the House of European Photography or Maison Européenne de la Photographie as it is known in French.
Housed within another refurbished 17th-century hotel known as the Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre, the House of European Photography is one of the most important museums of photography in all of Europe.
Focusing on contemporary photographic art, the House of European Photography contains a huge library of photographs, spanning many years of exhibitions here. Alongside its library, there are constantly changing exhibitions here every year, showcasing the best in European photographic art.
Relax in the oldest square in Paris
The Marais neighborhood is home to the oldest ‘place’ or square in the French capital, known as the Place des Vosges. Originally named Place Royale, the square was constructed by Henri IV in the early 17th century and was considered to be one of the first European programs of royal city planning.
It once had a reputation of being the spot for nobility to meet and chat – a hangover that still remains to this day and gives it an overwhelmingly prestigious air. This does nothing to take away from the green beauty of Place des Vosges, making it an ideal place to come and relax, taking in the awe-inspiring 17th-century architecture and escaping the hustle and bustle of inner-city Paris.
Place des Vosges is also a great place to start a shopping trip along with the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois or to pop in for Jewish pastry along the Rue des Rosiers.
Follow in the steps of Victor Hugo
Stumbling distance from Place des Vosges is the former home of French poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright Victor Hugo, arguably most famous for penning the novel Les Misérables.
The writer lived in this home for over sixteen years between 1832–1848 and it has now been preserved as a museum to his life and work. An often overlooked museum in the Marais neighborhood, the museum preserved the very rooms where Victor Hugo lived, wrote, and even his bed where he died. Ensure you get yourself an audio guide to take you through the history of Victor Hugo’s time here.
Visit the oldest covered market in Paris
For over 400 years, the covered market of Marché des Enfants Rouges has stood in the Marais neighborhood, trading in a range of fresh French produce to both locals and tourists alike. As well as selling products, the market is also a great place to eat, with stalls selling a range of cuisines from across the globe.
Created in 1615 by Louis XIII, the market has long surpassed many of the other markets in Paris and has a well-deserved reputation for selling great food and produce. Each store is individually owned and run, giving the market an independent feel compared to the many large-scale operations elsewhere in the French capital.
2. Art Scene in Marais
If the Marais neighborhood is renowned for one thing above all else, it has to be its art scene.
The history of art and Marais began when the industry and down-trodden areas of Marais moved out during the post-war era of Paris. After this, numerous art galleries and art institutions moved in.
Today, the relatively small area of Marais is jam-packed with art intuitions of all kinds, from the biggest museums and names in the art game right down to pop-up exhibitions on an annual basis. Unlike the art districts in New York or London, Marais’ art scene has always made space and room for smaller and midsize galleries, only adding to the charm and appeal of Marais.
You can explore the winding alleyways and avenues of Marais’ streets and stumble across a small courtyard or alleyways, so hidden and unassuming that you’d have to buzz yourself in.
The Marais art scene plays host to some of the most celebrated museums and galleries in all of France, covering art from old masters right up to the modern day contemporaries. Marais is the home of the Picasso Museum, showcasing some of the largest selection of works by the Spanish artist anywhere in the world.
There is also the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Marais, the largest French museum of Jewish art anywhere in the country. Modern art galleries also lead the way in some of the most groundbreaking works in the city. One such gallery is the Modus Gallery in the heart of Marais.
The hive of artistic activity makes the neighborhood of Marais a mecca for art lovers from across not only Europe but the world. The small laidback feel of its historic streets, squares, and green spaces make it like no other artistic district and only adds to its appeal.
3. Nightlife and Music Scene in Marais
Aside from the fantastically flourishing art scene in Marais, the neighborhood is also renowned for its nightlife and music scene. Nightlife in Marais goes hand in hand with the famous thriving LGBT community and scene, making everyone feel welcome.
While there is your fair share of gay bars and clubs, there are also music venues, classic bars and pubs, and even an old dance hall thrown in for good measure. No matter what you’re seeking on your night out in the Marais neighborhood, you are sure to find it here.
Located in the southwest of the Marais neighborhood, the Lizard Lounge is considered to be one of the top 100 bars in the French capital, and it is easy to see why. During the daytime, the bar offers up an eclectic range of food without any fuss.
With huge windows that look out onto the street, Lizard Lounge draws you in from the start. A popular hangout for both Parisians and expats, Lizard Lounge is the place to go for a huge selection of continental beers and in-house cocktails.
A vaulted stone cave serves as a dance floor, which is often packed out, especially during weekends. The music here can range from anything between house, hip-hop, and funk, with Sundays, dedicated to relaxed, laidback small live music gigs – perfect for spotting the next best artist to come out of the French capital.
Tucked away on the northern edges of the Marais neighborhood, Le Tango is the place to go if you’re looking for a spot in Marais to shake a leg and get your dancing shoes on. Early on in the evening, this old dance hall is frequented by couples looking to learn a thing or two about the tango, yet when the sun starts going down, the venue is somewhat transformed.
From well-rehearsed tango lessons to an all-out dance party, Le Tango is just getting warmed up come midnight or even 1 am. When many of Marais’ music and bar venues are winding down, Le Tango is just getting started. The venue is a mix of kitsch, slight hipster, and an overwhelmingly friendly atmosphere.
So popular is Le Tango that you’ll have to prepare to queue before you go in, paying around €8 to enter; although we assure you it’s worth every cent.
If you’re looking for a nightlife experience with a little difference, Diva’s Kabaret is the place for you. Located beneath a vaulted cellar from the 12th century, Diva’s Kabaret puts on an evening of entertainment every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 pm to 2 am.
Take a seat and witness a good old cabernet show, soaking up the Parisian feel-good atmosphere that such a show always creates. Apart from enjoying a few well-crafted cocktails while you enjoy the entertainment, Diva’s Kabaret also offers up a selection of food menus to indulge in while you watch the show. Famous for being the performance ground of the international star LaDiva, you are in for an evening of dancing, singing, and an enthralling cabaret show.
4. Food Scene in Marais
As one of the premier neighborhoods in Paris, France, it is unsurprising that Marais is home to a thriving food scene. The French reputation for good fresh produce and excellent cooking skills is upheld in this Parisian neighborhood.
Whether you want a quick bite to eat or are looking for something a little more special, Marais will provide it. For such a small area of the city, Marais has a concentration of food spots that elevate it to be one of the richest food scenes in the capital.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
One of the longest-running places to eat in the city, Marais’ Marché des Enfants Rouges covered market is a great place to stop for a bite to eat. Not only does it sell a range of fresh produce and ingredients, but it also has a sit-down spot to enjoy a meal.
Aside from the traditional French delicacies, the market is also home to an Italian deli, organic stand, a Lebanese caterer, and a Japanese snack bar. Open from 8.30 am-7.30 pm, the Marché des Enfants Rouges market can be visited for breakfast, lunch, or for an evening meal.
Located right next to Marais’ Jewish Quarter, Les Philosophes is a classic French bistro from the great mind of Xavier Denamurm. Les Philosophes abides by the farm-to-table philosophy and strives to use only the freshest and best French ingredients.
You will find all the French classics on Les Philosophes’ menu, and it is open all day every day, with no need to book. With terrace tables available, you can enjoy a delicious meal, fine wine, and views of the winding streets of Marais below.
L'As du Fallafel
If you’re seeking a vegan-friendly lunch option while exploring the Marais neighborhood, you could do no better than heading to L’As du Fallafel. Arguably the best falafel in the city, L’As du Fallafel serves up falafel wraps, sandwiches with cabbage, salad, soft pita, and grilled aubergine.
Testament to L’As du Fallafel excellent food is the fast-moving queues that are always lining up to eat. For an extra special treat, why not sample the range of Israeli wines on sale.
When the Parisian sun is out, you may wish to turn your dining experience into one of sun and relaxation and Chez Marianne is the best place to do this. Serving up multiple eastern Mediterranean plates from a plethora of choices, including hummus, tabouleh, tahini, stuffed vine leaves, and pita bread – the best of Israeli cuisine. The best thing about Chez Marianne is the fact you can enjoy all of this from the sun-soaked terraces of Paris.
5. Living in Marais
With so much to see and do, and a neighborhood swathed in history and culture, it’s no surprise that so many choose to settle in Marais.
What is the average rent in Marais?
Much like the rest of central Paris, rent prices in Marais can be competitively high, increased by the high demand for properties within the French capital.
With the popular and fashionable area of Marais being sought out by many, it is easy to see a north-south divide within the neighborhood. Rent prices in the southern region of Marais are much higher, owing to the taller wooden doors, elegant courtyards, mansion apartments, and the generally older buildings. The north of the city is made up of more modern apartments, stepping away from the 17th and 18th-century architecture that is found in the south.
A two-bedroom apartment on the much-desired Vieille-du-Temple will set out back around €2,500 per month. A one-bedroom apartment in the same area, however, will cost you €1,850 a month. A smaller furnished studio apartment in the Marais neighborhood will cost a lot less, standing at around €960 per month.
These are average rent prices for the Marais neighborhood and can fluctuate dramatically depending on the housing market in Paris, the French economy, and the constant competition for properties in this popular neighborhood.
How to find an apartment in Marais?
Securing an apartment in the Marais neighborhood was once a quite difficult and time-consuming thing to do, especially in such a popular neighborhood like this one.
This was once even more complicated if you were trying to move to France from abroad; a long-drawn-out process with landlords, with much back-forth communication until a decision is reached. It would also require you to visit lots of different properties in person before starting the moving process.
With the advent of websites like Homelike, finding apartments in Marais has never been easier. The easy-to-use search option allows you to narrow down apartments in the neighborhood to any criteria you wish. This can include helpful things such as specific moving date, how many rooms you need, and whether the apartment is furnished or unfurnished.