Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 8: Southern Marais

Stroll 8 Church of Saint Gervais et Saint Proteus

Quick Description: Preserved Renaissance area with important churches, a village of antiques shops, museums for the Holocaust, photography, magic, and decor, new riverside park, city hall.  

Where: Right Bank, parallel to Ile St Louis, between Rue de Rivoli and the Seine. 

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

Duration: 30-45 min walk, @3 hrs with venue visits.  Early Departure Option at midpoint.

Best Days: Wed – Fri and Sun.

Best Time to Start: 10:30am – 1:30pm 

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Connects: by foot to Stroll 7 (Central 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-Madaleine-Expiatoire), or Stroll 17 (Concorde to Place de l’Alma), or Stroll 27 (Art et Metiers to Republique), 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 southern Marais has many unique aspects, including two of Paris’s oldest houses, the oldest mansion in the district, and a Holocaust museum.  It also offers access to the lower river quay, which recently has been developed as a  pedestrian mall with park areas, restaurants, live music venues and other amenities.

Attractions (in order):

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

  • Church of Saint Paul – Saint Louis: #99 Rue Saint Antoine, adjacent to the traffic island on Rue de Rivoli with the entrance to Metro station Saint Paul.  17th century Catholic church in the Baroque style with important artworks.  Daily, 8am-8pm, free.
  • Village Saint Paul: #15-17-19 Rue Saint Paul. Antiques shops and art galleries clustered around centuries-old courtyards.  Wed-Mon 11am-7pm (best Sat-Sun), free access. 
  • Musee de la Magie / Musee Des Automates: #11 Rue Saint Paul. Museum of magic and antique mechanical toys, with exhibits and performances.  Wed, Sat, Sun, 2-7pm, adults €15, children 3-12 €11.
  • Jardins Saint Paul and Section of the 1203 City Wall: Viewable from Rue de l’Ave Maria.  Playground that was the site of royal gardens in the 1300s, and the largest remnant of the city’s first major defensive wall. 
  • Hotel de Sens with Bibliotheque Forney, and Jardin de l’Hotel de Sens: #1 Rue de Figuier.  15th century mansion with a library dedicated to design that hosts changing exhibitions, and a formal garden.  The library and garden are both open to the public and free.  Library hours: Tues, Fri, Sat 1-7:30pm, Wed-Thurs 10am-7:30pm. Garden hours: Mon-Fri 8am-7:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6:30pm.  
  • Maison Europeenne de la Photographie: Hotel Henaut de Cantobre, #5 Rue de Fourcy.  Gallery and archive of international photography and film from the 1950s to the present, housed in an 18th  century mansion.  Wed & Fri 11am-8pm, Thurs 11am-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm, €10.
  • Memorial de la Shoah:, #17 Rue Geoffroy l’Asnier.  Holocaust museum, mostly focused on the Jews of France.  Sun-Fri 10am-6pm, free. 
  • Rue des Barres: Running between Rue de l’Hotel de Ville and Rue Francios Miron.  Very picturesque street dating from the early 1200s that is constructed as a gradual staircase. 
  • Place Badoyer and Marche Badoyer:  Between Rue Francois Miron and Rue de Rivoli.  19th century plaza bordered by elegant buildings and featuring a popular outdoor food market Wed 12:30-8:30pm and Sat 7am-3pm.    
  • Church of Saint Gervais et Saint Protais: Place Saint Gervais. 17th century Catholic church exhibiting late Gothic and early Baroque styles, with important artworks, and also known for its organ and a WWI tragedy.  Mon-Fri 6am-9pm, Sat-Sun 7am-9pm, free.  In addition, the plaza in front of the church features an elm tree with a story.  
  • Librarie Au Compagnonnage and “a La Clos Argent”: #2 Rue de Brosse.  Bookstore of the Compagnons, a national guild of master building crafts workers, offering books and other materials in those subjects, and adorned with a bell outside that traditionally served as a meeting spot for the guild’s members.  Mon-Sat 11am-7pm.  (Note: A separate Librarie-Musee de Compagnonnage is operated by Musee D’Orsay, on the Left Bank.) 
  • Parc des Rives de Seine: Optional detour to the Seine waterfront in the vicinity of the Hotel de Ville.  In recent years, the lower river quay of the Right Bank has been developed as a warm weather pedestrian mall, with restaurants, live music venues, parks, sunbathing spots and river taxi stops.  Here, there is a new park, called Jardin Frederico Garcia Lorca, with a stage for performances and an outdoor eatery, Tartines En Seine, plus a Batobus stop. A short distance to the east are several bar-cafes, creating a lively scene at happy hour and on weekends.   Public toilets are located in that direction, under Pont Louis-Philippe.  
  • Hotel de Ville and Place de l’Hotel de Ville (Paris City Hall and Plaza): Rue de Rivoli, end of route.  The building and plaza date from the 1500s.  The building’s many exterior sculptures were added in the 1880s when the building was refurbished.   The interior is open to the public Mon-Sat 10am-6:30pm for changing exhibitions relating to Paris’s history and culture (some free, some with charge).  Guided tours also are offered.  Access is at the #29 Rue de Rivoli entrance, where there is also a souvenir shop.  Place de l’Hotel de Ville is often the scene of special events, and in winter is transformed into an ice-skating rink. In addition, at the river end of the building there is an equestrian statue of Etienne Marcel as well as a small park featuring flowers and rabbit hutches.

Dining Suggestions (in order):

  • L’Enoteca, #25 Rue Charles V, at Rue St Paul.  Italian cuisine, extensive wine list.  Rustic room.  Daily Noon-2pm, 7-10:45pm.  Two course prix fixe lunch Mon-Fri @€16-21, including glass of wine or bottle of water.  
  • Le Temps de Cerises, #31 Rue de la Cerisaie, a block away from the route..  French cuisine.  Traditional room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Fri 8am-2am, Sat-Sun 9am-2am.  Average cost @€35-50 3 courses.    
  • Le Petit Celestin, #12 Quai des Celestins, a half block away from the route.  French cuisine.  Traditional room, outdoor seating.  Wed-Fri 8am-Midnight, Sat-Sun 10am-Midnight, Tues 4pm-Midnight. Average cost @€25-40 3 courses.
  • Au Petit Versailles du Marais, #1 Rue Tiron.  Bakery / Boulangerie with sandwiches and beverages.  Lovely 19th century room, indoor and outdoor seating.  Mon-Sat 7am -8pm.  Moderate prices.
  • La Cafeotheque, #52 Rue de l’Hotel de Ville, a block away from the route.  Paris’s original coffee shop and coffee retail store, also offering baked goods.  There are eclectically decorated parlor rooms for dining.  Mon-Fri 8:30am-7:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7:30pm.  Moderate prices.
  • La Galerie 88, #88 Quai de l’Hotel de Ville, near Rue de Brosses.  Mediterranean / Vegan cuisine, teas, smoothies, beer.  Casual room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Sat Noon-Midnight.  Vegan lunch prix fixe @€23.  
  • Le Trumilou, #84 Quai de l’Hotel de Ville, near Rue de Brosses.  French cuisine. Traditional room, outdoor seating.   Daily Noon-3pm, 7-11pm (Sun to 10:30pm).  Lunch prix fixe @€18-22.

Ready to stroll?
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Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
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