The Marais is one of Paris’ oldest and most dazzling quarters. First developed in the 12th century, the neighborhood, whose name means "swamp" in French and once was one, went from being a royal favorite under Henri IV and Louis XIII, to falling into ruin after the Revolution of 1789. Since its revival in the 1960s, it has shone as a center of Parisian artistic and cultural life. It has also significantly gentrified, evolving from a mostly working-class and immigrant neighborhood to one of the most affluent and prestigious areas in the city. This, of course, is not to the liking of all.
The Marais is one of the only areas that preserves the narrow streets and architectural styles of Medieval and Renaissance-era Paris. Most of Paris was overhauled in the mid-19th century under the direction of Napoleon III and architect Baron Georges Eugène Haussmann.
The wide, sweeping boulevards and grey, classical-inspired apartments that characterize places like the Champs-Elysées and Montparnasse are the work of Haussmann, who also modernized Paris by installing sewer and water systems. The Marais has a much different flavor. Its dramatic residences or (hôtels particuliers), artisan’s boutiques, galleries, lavish squares, and fascinating history are worth reserving at least a half-day of exploration for.
The tour should take two to three hours at a moderate pace.
You can also pick and choose the sights that most interest you and see them in any order. Use my suggestions for eats and drinks to take any needed breaks.
Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring a backpack and reliable city map.
- Rainy days are not ideal for this tour.