Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 7: Central Marais

Stroll 7 Place des Vosges

Quick Description:  Preserved Renaissance mansion area,  museums for Picasso, Paris history, and 18th century furnishings, plus famous Place des Vosges, the historic Jewish Quarter, and boutique shopping.    

Where: Right Bank, parallel to Ile St Louis, north of Rue de Rivoli.  

Start and End at traffic island formed by the merger of Rue de Rivoli and Rue Saint Antoine, outside Metro station Saint Paul (#1 line). 

Duration: 1 hr walk, three museums @1-2 hrs each, total @4-7 hours. Two Early Departure Options.

Best Days: Wed – Fri and Sun.

Best Time to Start: 10am or later.

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Connects: by foot to Stroll 8 (Southern Marais), or Stroll 9 (Western & Northern Marais), or Stroll 10 (Ile Saint Louis & Vicinity), and by quick Metro rides to Stroll 4 (The Louvre & Vicinity), or Stroll 5 (Palais Royal & Vicinity), or Stroll 6 (Les Halles-Pompidou-Hotel de Ville), or Stroll 15 (Concorde-Tuileries-Vendome), or Stroll 16 (Concorde-Madeleine-Expiatoire), or Stroll 17 (Concorde to Place de l’Alma), or Stroll 28 (Canal Saint Martin), or a standalone site, the Arc de Triomphe. 

Past and Present: The Marais (meaning “marsh”), takes up a delta-shaped portion of the eastern Right Bank where ages ago streams fed into the Seine.  From the 1200s on, the area was occupied by religious sects, who drained the marsh and established farms and markets.  The mid-1300s city wall of King Charles V enclosed the area and, over the next 300 years, it became a favorite of aristocrats, who built numerous mansions.  The Marais declined after the Revolution and by the 1960s it was considered ripe for demolition.  Fortunately, it was preserved.  It is now the hub of the city’s Jewish and Gay communities and a popular destination for visitors, who enjoy its picturesque Renaissance mansions and streets, interesting museums (many free), historic churches, unique boutiques and varied restaurants.  The Central portion is the most intact and contains the world famous Place des Vosges, Musee Carnavalet and Musee Picasso, plus the charming shopping street Rue des Francs Bourgeois.

Attractions (in order):

(Note: “Hotel” as used here refers to “hotel particulier,” meaning a former private mansion.) 

  • Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue (aka the “Guimard” Synagogue): #10 Rue Pavee.  Synagogue created in 1900 in Art Nouveau style by architect Hector Guimard, who also designed the iconic Paris Metro station entrances in the same style.  Sun-Thurs 10am-5pm, upon request, free.  
  • Rue des Rosiers: Running from Rue Pavee to Rue Vielle du Temple.  This very old, intimate street is the center of the Marais’s (and Paris’s) Jewish community, and that connection is reflected in many of its shops and popular restaurants.   
  • Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph MingeretEntry via passage at #10 Rue des Rosiers. Recently created small park and community garden hidden from the street on former mansion grounds.  Daily 8am-5:15pm, free.  
  • Hotel Amelot de Bisseuil: #47 Rue Vielle du Temple. 17th century mansion that was once the home of playwright Paul Beaumarchais, with an outstanding carved entry door and tympanum.  (Note: The building, which has been closed to the public, is to become a luxury hotel; check for access.)
  • Halle des Blancs Manteaux: #48 Rue Vielle du Temple.  Artisans’ market, exhibitions, craft workshops, musical performances, free.  Check for events.
  • Church of Notre Dame des Blancs Manteaux: Rue des Blancs Manteaux.  13th century church, reconstructed in 17th and 19th centuries, with significant artworks and a carved wooden story-telling pulpit.  Mon-Sat 10am-Noon, 2:30-7pm, Sun 10am-Noon, free.  See website for any changes in hours.
  • Clos des Blancs Manteux: Enter through passageway at #21 Rue des Blancs Manteaux. Lovely community garden in 13th century enclosure.  Open to the public daily 8:30am-7:30pm, free.
  • Hotel Herouet: Rue Vielle du Temple at Rue des Francs Bourgeois. 16th  century mansion with striking corner turret that survived a bombing in WWII.   
  • Musee Picasso: Hotel de Sale, #5 Rue de Thorigny.  Picasso’s artworks bequeathed to France, displayed in a 17th century mansion, with a biographical exhibit and a small cafe.  Tues-Fri 10:30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm, €14, reserved time entry €15, under 18 free.  
  • Musee Cognacq-Jay: Hotel Donon, #8 Rue Elzivir.  Impressive collection of 18th century furnishings, paintings and objets d’art, presented in a 16th century mansion.  Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, permanent collection free.  
  • Square Leopold-Achille:  Rue du Parc Royal between Rue Payenne and Rue de Sevigne.  Small park with a variety of trees, some historic sculpted objects and a children’s playground.  Mon-Fri 8am-7:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6:30pm, free.
  • Square Georges Cain:  #8 Rue Payenne between Rue du Parc Royal and Rue des Francs Bourgeois.  Small garden-like park with sculptures.  Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-5pm, free.
  • Institut Suedois: Hotel Marle, #11 Rue Payenne, opposite Square Georges Cain.  Swedish Cultural Institute, housed in a 16th century mansion, with a garden, featuring free changing exhibits with Swedish themes.  Wed-Sun Noon-6pm.  There is also a courtyard café (see “Dining Suggestions”).  Note: the venue is alternately called Institut Tessin.
  • Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris: Hotel Lamoignon, entry at #24 Rue Pavee.  Library of Paris’s history, with changing exhibits, housed in a 16th century mansion.  Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, free (photo ID required for daily library pass allowing entry).  
  • Musee Carnavalet: Hotel Carnavalet / Hotel Peletier de St Farjean, entries at Rue des Francs Bourgeois and Rue de Sevigne. Outstanding museum of Paris’s history housed in two 17th  century mansions.  Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, free.  Guided tours available for a fee.  (Note: Most of the information cards are in French only, but this is not a serious impediment to enjoying the museum.  Also, the collection is extensive and visitors with a strong interest in it can spend 2-4 hours here.)
  • Rue des Francs Bourgeois: Running east-west through the middle of the Central Marais.  This picturesque street features many fashion, clothing and home decor boutiques housed in centuries-old buildings.   
  • Place des Vosges: Entries on four sides between Rue de Turenne and Rue des Tournelles, north of Rue Saint Antoine.  Famous residential square created by King Henri IV in the early 1600s that made the Marais fashionable.  Also featuring a park with lawns in the center.  Open daily 24 hrs, free.
  • Synagogue des Tournelles: #21bis Rue des Tournelles.  19th century synagogue that is the second largest in Paris.  Free to visit, but check for access. 
  • Place de la Bastille and the July Column: Traffic rotary at eastern edge of the Marais.  Place de la Bastille is the former site of the Bastille fortress prison, the storming of which initiated the French Revolution of 1789. The triumphal column now in the center celebrates the July, 1830, revolution that ousted the restored Bourbon King Charles X and created a new constitutional monarchy.  
  • Temple du Marais: #17 Rue Saint Antoine. Striking 17th century, domed Catholic convent building that became a Lutheran house of worship in 1801.  No announced visiting hours.  Check for access.
  • Maison Victor Hugo: #6 Place des Vosges.  Apartment home of the great 19th century author, functioning as a museum, with furnishings and memorabilia.  Tues-Sat, 10:30-5, free. 
  • Hotel de Sully: #62 Rue Saint Antoine.  Entries at Rue Saint Antoine (front door) and at Place des Vosges (rear garden entry). 17th century mansion of the chief minister to King Henri IV from 1594 to 1610.  Visitors can walk through the rear courtyards, which feature sculptures, and  through the building’s ground floor main hall, where there is a bookstore dedicated to Paris culture, history and tourism.  Tues-Sun 9am-7pm, free access, bookstore open 1-7pm.  
  • Fontaine de Jarente: Impasse de la Poissonnerie, off Rue de Jarente. 18th century sculpted fountain built into a wall in a cul de sac.
  • Place du Marche Saint Catherine: Adjacent to Rue Saint-Antoine.  Picturesque pedestrian plaza with village-like atmosphere, park bench seating and several restaurants. 

Dining Suggestions (in order):

  • L’As du Fallafel, #34 Rue des Rosiers.  Kosher Middle Eastern cuisine, famous falafel sandwiches, large portions.  Mostly take-out, very limited seating.  Sun-Thurs Noon-11pm, Fri Noon-4pm, Sat 6:30-11pm.   Moderate prices. 
  • Florence Kahn, #24 Rue des Ecouffes, at Rue des Rosiers.  Jewish bakery/deli with artistic facade.  Mostly take-out, limited seating.  Wed-Sun 10am-7pm, closed from late July to late August.  Moderate prices. 
  • Robert et Louise, #64 Rue Vielle du Temple.  Meat-centric French cuisine, with many dishes cooked in a wood grill oven.  Rustic room.  Mon-Thurs 4-11pm, Sat Noon-3pm, 6-11pm, Sun Noon-11pm, Tues-Wed, 7-11pm.  Lunch prix-fixe @€14, a la carte @€20-40.  
  • Breizh Café, #109 Rue Vielle du Temple.  Breton crêperie chain.  Casual modern room, outdoor seating.  No reservations.  Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 10am-11pm.  Average cost @€11-20.
  • Café Sudeois, #11 Rue Payenne, at the Institut Sudeois.  Swedish light fare including sandwiches and baked goods, coffee.  Modern minimalist room, outdoor seating on 16th century courtyard.  Mon-Sat Noon-6pm.  Average cost @€11-20.    Note: the venue is  alternately called Cafe Fika.  
  • Ma Bourgogne, #19 Place des Vosges.  French cuisine with Burgundian specialties.  Traditional rustic room with tight seating, more expansive outdoor seating under arcade with view of the park.  Daily 8am-11pm.  Lunch prix-fixe @€38.
  • Bistrot de L’Oulette, #38 Rue des Tournelles. French cuisine, with specialties of Gascony (e.g., cassoulet) and some dishes with North African notes. Charming traditional room.  Mon-Tues and Thurs-Sat Noon-2pm, 6:30-10pm.  Lunch prix fixe @€18-23-28, a la carte average cost @€45 3 courses. 
  • L’Area, #10 Rue des Tournelles.  Brazilian and Lebanese cuisine, tapas, cocktails.  Eclectic, casual room.  Popular evening spot.  Tues-Fri and Sun Noon-3pm, 6-12pm, Sat 6pm- 2am.  Average lunch cost @€11-20.  
  • Brasserie Bofinger, #5-7 Rue de la Bastille.  Classic Belle Epoque brasserie. French/Alsatian cuisine, seafood towers.  Large, elegant Art Nouveau room, outside walk-up oyster bar.  Mon-Fri Noon-3pm, 6:30-12pm, Sat 11am-3:30pm, 6:30pm-MIdnight, Sun Noon-11pm. Lunch prix fixe @€26-32.  

Ready to stroll?
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Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
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