Favorite Things, The Marais

Old Paris Charm

Walk out of the building, turn right, and stroll into the Marais. Unlike much of Paris that was razed by master architect Baron Haussmann, working at the direction of Napoleon III in the mid-1800s, the Marais is still an area of narrow, curving streets and very old buildings. It’s easy to get lost here in Old Paris.

Hotels Particuliers and the Museums inside some of Them

The area is dotted with beautiful hotels particuliers, or mansions, once owned by nobility (this was the chic part of town until the Revolution). Many of them now house museums, including the Musée Carnavalet, which is dedicated to the history of Paris (closed until the end of 2019); Musée Picasso; and Musée Cognacq-Jay, which shares the personal collection of the founders of La Samaritaine department store. (There are signs at most intersections pointing you in the right direction to these places.)

My favorite museum, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, is in the Marais. You’ll love it, too. Everything about the history of hunting and enjoyment of nature, housed in a beautiful, old mansion. (I love the ironwork throughout.) They often have special exhibitions, too, of work by contemporary artists. The Sophie Calle show was amazing.

Jewish History

Jews had been living in the Marais (and throughout France) since the Middle Ages but were expelled by Charles VI in 1392. After the Revolution, when the Jews were emancipated, they returned to the area and to Rue des Rosiers, in particular. Now the center of the Jewish quarter, it’s also home to the famous falafel restuarant, L’As du Fallafel (34, rue des Rosiers). If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about falafel, lunch here might help you understand. There are some famous Jewish landmarks, synagogues, bookshops, and boulangeries, as well as the Museum of Jewish Art and History.

Shopping

The Haut Marais, or the Upper Marais, is hopping now, with shops and restaurants popping up in the last several years. You’ve surely heard of Merci, the “concept store” that gives back all of its profit to charities (111 Blvd Beaumarchais). Just down the street, though, is a place I like better: Maison Plisson (93 Blvd Beaumarchais), a curated food shop with all the best of the best. Also fun is the Marché des Enfants Rouges, a food market at 39 rue de Bretagne, with prepared foods you can have for lunch or a snack. More and more shops are moving in here…

Most of the French designers have shops in the Marais and Haut Marais, ranging from the tiny Jamin Puech for unique purses to Gucci and Chanel. Oh, and there’s the famous Bazaar de l’Hotel de Ville, always called le BHV (pronounced le bay-ash-vay). It’s particularly fun (in my opinion, anyway) to poke around on the basement floor where you’ll find a zillion different kinds of nails, paints, sandpaper, and other home-improvement items. But there are floors of clothing, shoes, housewares, and food, too. At the top of the building is a bar with great views.

Cute bag from Jamin Peuch.

La Place des Vosges

The Place des Vosges, the city’s oldest planned square (1612), is surrounded by beautiful brick buildings and arcades that house art galleries, restaurants, and shops. It was home to nobility. Victor Hugo lived here, too, and his apartment has been turned into a museum. On a sunny day, join locals hanging out on the lawns surrounding the statue of Louis XIII on horseback. Ma Bourgogne (19 Place des Vosges) is a nice spot for a cozy dinner.

Food Shopping

The apartment is between two great market streets, rue Rambuteau in the Marais and rue Montorgueil closer to Les Halles. On the rue Rambuteau you’ll find cheese shops, produce shops, fish and meat shops, pastry shops (my favorite breakfast food, the praluline from Pralus, a shop at 35 rue Rambuteau), a Nicolas wine shop, and traiteurs selling prepared foods.

My favorite breakfast food. Yeasty brioche with pralines.

Restaurants

L’Ami Louis

No website for this ancient classic. Foie gras and roast chicken. Reservations necessary. $$$$

32 rue du Vertbois, 75003

1.48.87.77.48

Benoit

Very nice, right around the corner from the apartment. Reservations necessary. $$$$

Breizh Café

Inventive and delicious crêpes! $

The Clown Bar

Fun spot, tasty food. Reservations necessary. $$

Elmer

Hip, casual spot with delicious food. $$

Gaspard de la Nuit

Classic, comfortable French cooking. Friendly service. $$

Grand Coeur

Do you remember the Mexican place, Le Studio, from the 1980s? This is what’s there now. Dine in the courtyard if the weather is nice. Reservations are best. $$$

Le Grizzli

A casual place around the corner from the apartment that never fails to please. $

Le Temps des Cerises

A corner bistro (literally) with high standards. Reservations are best. $$

Le Grand Bain in Belleville

A straight métro trip away, Belleville is home to Paris’ Chinatown, a solid working class, and now some great, new restaurants. One of these is Le Grand Bain and it’s fantastic. The ambiance is Brooklyn-cool and friendly.

We were a group of six, so we were given the chef’s multi-course prix-fixe. Inventive small plates followed by our main course and dessert. Unfortunately, one in our group didn’t eat lamb, so no slow-cooked, spoon-tender gigot for us. Instead, the team graciously switched our main course to beef Wellington (the chef is a Brit). We got two different desserts, one of which as an amazing riff on s’mores. Mmm.

The crazy part of the whole night was the check. For such a delicious feast I was expecting a hefty bill. We were charged just 35 euros per person! Bargain in Belleville!

Le Grand Bain

14 rue Dénoyez

75020

Le Grand Bain.

Le Train Bleu

I don’t usually dine in fancy places in Paris, preferring, instead, more relaxed restaurants. But we made an exception recently with lunch at Le Train Bleu with our teenage daughter and her friends.

I picked Le Train Bleu for its sumptuous decor and because it’s in a train station (how cool is that?). Service was amazing (they sent us Champagne while we waited all of about ten minutes for our table) and the food was perfect.

I will note, though, that the menu is limited and there aren’t many simple options for picky eaters. I would’t take little kids there, but the teens loved it.

I’ll also say that, because it’s in the train station, there are lots of travelers dining here, making the restaurant feel somewhat casual and less stuffy than other places.

Le Train Bleu

Gare de Lyon

75012