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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No website for this ancient classic. Foie gras and roast chicken. Reservations necessary. $$$$
32 rue du Vertbois, 75003
Very nice, right around the corner from the apartment. Reservations necessary. $$$$
Inventive and delicious crêpes! $
Fun spot, tasty food. Reservations necessary. $$
Hip, casual spot with delicious food. $$
Classic, comfortable French cooking. Friendly service. $$
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. $$$
A casual place around the corner from the apartment that never fails to please. $
A corner bistro (literally) with high standards. Reservations are best. $$