A visit to Paris isn’t complete without wandering through the city’s illustrious Jewish quarter and even settling in like a local for a few nights. Untouched by Haussmann’s ambitious 19th-century urban renewal plans, the history-rich Marais neighborhood defines Parisian charm. From its narrow cobblestone paths leading to well-manicured gardens, a booming café culture with plenty of LGBT bars along Rue des Archives, and iconic department store BHV Marais (with seasonal bar Le Perchoir perched on the rooftop) there’s no lack of treasures with which to engage all the senses.
Leave it to Philippe Starck to make your bed and design the space around it when you book a room at stylish 4-star Hotel 9Confidentiel set in the heart of the Marais. Soft hues mingle with wood parquet and brass fixtures amidst pops of signature Starck color within each of the 29 rooms and suites, recalling the roaring 20s. Even the glamorous hotel bar Le Confidence with its signature concoctions takes you back to another era.
Prepare to live like 16th-century nobility when you check in to the 5-star address Cour des Vosges overlooking regal square Place des Vosges. The spirit of Louis XIII is alive and well within each of the 12 spacious rooms and suites designed by Yann Le Coadic and Alessandro Scotto. A curation of artwork and books fill the sophisticated space while pastry chef Yann Brys satisfies every sweet craving at the ground floor “Brach-La Patisserie” tea room.
One of the Marais’ best-kept culinary secrets is found tucked away on a side street steps away from Place des Vosges. The casual setting of restaurant Capitaine by Chef Baptiste Day proves a perfect complement to his fresh, seasonal and inventive dishes. Day’s inspiration stems from his Breton roots combined with years of experience working alongside some of France’s top chefs. Add natural wines from small producers for a winning combo, both for a set menu lunch at 29€ and à la carte dinner.
A stone’s throw from Île Saint-Louis, the recently opened gastro wine bar Nellu dressed in black and woody tones, is helmed by innovative chef Olivier Garcia. He’s making his mark in the Marais with signature shared plates including stuffed squid, miso glazed eggplant, and cauliflower couscous. Order the Chef’s Menu for dinner to discover the extent of Garcia’s talent, and pair each course with a well-curated selection of wines from around the globe. Or stop by for a wine tasting and a light bite.
Two of the best cocktail bars in the neighborhood actually neighbor one another along the very same street where rock star Jim Morrison lived, and died. Upstairs from restaurant Vins Des Pyrénées, where Morrison was a regular, sits speakeasy Le 1905. Enter this time capsule for vintage cocktails and a cozy outdoor terrace.
Meanwhile, Le Sherry Butt is as industrial chic as they come. To complement the imaginative libations, the ice cubes are custom made and there’s a well-crafted snack menu.
To better understand the rich history of the Marais neighborhood, and all of the French capital for that matter, enter the elegant Musée Carnavalet. Dating back to 1880, this monumental museum dedicated to the city’s history is composed of two neighboring mansions, one of which is a rare example of Renaissance architecture in Paris. The manicured courtyards alone merit a visit. If you’re lucky, restaurant Fabula Paris will be open and you can linger a while longer.
Rue des Rosiers
Take a long stroll along Rue des Rosiers, a main artery of the historic Jewish quarter. Follow the scent of freshly baked challah bread to the few remaining kosher bakeries like Sacha Finkelsztajn neighboring trendy patisserie Yann Couvreur. For a sky-high slice of lemon meringue (among other homemade delights), grab a seat at tea salon Le Loir dans La Théière. Another famous spot worth the queue (for the best falafel in Paris) is L’As du Fallafel. This pedestrian street is also a shopping destination for international brands and fashionable French boutiques including Maison Montagut and Goutal. Translated to “street of the rosebushes”, stop to smell the roses at the clandestine Rosiers Joseph Migneret Garden.
After paying a visit to what was once the home of Victor Hugo (now a heritage museum with a private terrace) within the elegant brick façade of Place des Vosges, book a table at classic haunt Carette for tea time with a choice of pastries – macarons included. Just around the corner, discover another garden gem. The Jardin de l’Hotel de Sully welcomes you into a picture-perfect courtyard dating back to the 17th century. Not a bad spot for an impromptu photoshoot.
This poignant museum and memorial is a tribute to the Holocaust. Inside are exhibits that tell the story of the genocide from start to finish, as well as first-hand accounts from Parisian Jews who lived in the French capital during this time and either were deported or managed to avoid capture.
Village Saint Paul
Discover a village within a city when you enter one of the covert doorways leading to Village Saint Paul, sandwiched between Rue Saint-Paul and Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul. This labyrinth of courtyards once housed only antique stores. In recent years artisanal boutiques, art galleries, and intimate eateries like family-run La Petite Maison Dans La Cour have moved in alongside the treasure shops. From here it’s a quick hop to the river Seine.
WHERE TO SHOP:
- Maison Standards: This French brand’s collection features lofty versions of the basics — the menswear selection here is one of HAP founder Brandon Berkson’s favorites in Paris.
- Alix D. Reynes: Handcrafted ceramics and trappings, from French-chic table decorations to alluring jewelry, and finely-scented candles.
- Merci: A Paris-chic two-floor concept store in the upper Marais displaying a smattering of modish trappings. Apparel-wise, new and luxe vintage clothes stock the shelves here (expect the best of designerwear, including pieces from Jerome Dreyfuss, Isabel Marant, and Paul Smith).
- Tom Greyhound Paris: An avant-garde boutique carrying a wide variety of lofty brands.
- Chevignon: Even though this brand has a handful of stores around France, it would be amiss not to tout its chic menswear selection.
- BHV Marais: The most iconic, one-of-a-kind department store you’ve ever been to in your life (there’s just one location and it’s in Le Marais). A finely curated selection of known and up-and-coming designers is what you can expect here: clothes for both men and women, homeware, plus cool shoes, are just a taste of what’s inside.
- Noyoco: An eco-friendly Parisian unisex boutique featuring sustainable accouterments, many concocted with organic, natural, and recycled fabrics.