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Last updated on 15/12/20
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Fancy a trip to Paris in 2021? At the time when France is putting an end to its second lockdown, tourism will slowly come back to our beautiful capital. Your experience as a tourist here will be different, no doubt on that. But there still will be many ways to enjoy Paris, because well… It’s Paris. Now if there’s one neighborhood you should absolutely see here, it’s the Marais. Historical district, jewish district, gay district, posh district, hipster district… There are so many sides of it and that’s what makes it so fascinating! It also has a special place in my heart, since I’ve been living there for 4 years now.
So how would you like to take advantage of the peace and quiet caused by coronavirus to discover this mythical neighborhood? Let me guide you in this 2021 edition guide… And I promise, you won’t need to photoshop your pictures to get rid of the crowd.
Please note: I am by no means encouraging you to take risks by travelling during the pandemic. You must of course check all the regulations in force in your country prior to the trip. Also, France’s frontiers are still closed at the moment. This guide’s purpose is to help you travel safely once it will be possible.
Table of contents
I. The essentials of the neighborhood
The Marais is packed with incredible landmarks: each street has a fascinating story, each beautiful facade hides a mansion, each open door is an invitation to discover a unique world… It would be impossible to make a complete guide of the district here. However, if you want to make sure you enjoy all the best spots during your next visit in 2021, keep reading!
A touch of royalty at the Place des Vosges
Can you even talk about the Marais without mentionning the Place des Vosges? The famous square is a must-see in Paris. Today, the city’s oldest square (built in the 17th century under King Louis XIII) hosts numerous art galleries and cafés under its arcades. In terms of atmosphere, it can’t get fancier than that, but no need to get yourself a 6€ capuccino to enjoy the beauty of the place!
Since covid 19, the central square got rid of quite a lot of its crowd. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a quiet stroll or chill in the park 😉
The iconic rue des Rosiers
The rue des Rosiers (rosebush street) is Paris’ main jewish street. The smell of traditionnal jewish delicacies, the language spoken and the outfits of the locals will almost transport you to the Middle-East. But don’t be fooled, the remaining ruins that you see here and there are not part of the Wailing Wall: it’s actually Philippe Auguste’s bulwark, along which the street was built 800 years ago!
You can’t miss this spot if you’re a street food lover, since it has the best fallafel in town (possibly the best in the world according to some bloggers, but I won’t give my opinion!)! Usually there’s a never-ending line in front of the restaurants, so make sure to swing by while it’s time!
Go to the number 10 of the street and push the little portal. A wonderful, secret and tiny park is hiding there!
The magnificent Hôtel de ville (city hall)
If you get to the Marais by subway (or métro), there is a big chance the first thing you’ll see is the city hall (or Hôtel de ville), located right by the exit of the station. I still remember my American friends who asked me if this was the Château de Versailles haha! You have to admit that the monument is pretty impressive. While it underwent quite a turbulent story (several renovations, an arson..), the Hôtel de ville is now a staple of the city center. Good thing to note: the tourism board is located in the building.
The secrets of the Saint Paul church
The Saint Paul Saint Louis church (locals simply call it Saint Paul) is a true gem of the Rivoli street. Whether there’s covid or not, it’s always a good idea to go visit the Marais’ most beautiful religious monument. Did you know that Victor Hugo’s daughter got married here? Here’s my favorite fun fact, though: if you pay attention, you’ll see a graffiti on one of the pillars inside the church that says « République française ou la mort » (French Republic or death). Historians say that this message was written under the Paris Commune in 1871! Click here for more info on this historical period.
One always enters in a church through the main door, right? Well, let’s be original! Go to the little Saint Paul passage (on the corner of the Saint Paul street) where times seems to have stopped… A dead-end, you say? Try and push the door at the end of the path.
The oldest houses in Paris
Not everyone agrees on this, but according to several sources, the oldest houses in Paris are located at the n°11 and 13 of the François Miron street. Indeed, these impressive, a tiny bit inclined houses with « colombage » style (half-timbered) are remains of the Middle Ages – which is very rare in Paris.
If you’re even more curious, head to the other place that claims the title of « oldest house in Paris ». It is actually Nicolas Flamel‘s house (Harry Potter fans, does that ring a bell?) located at the n°49 Rue de Montmorency (15 min by foot).
The intriguing hôtel de Sens
What’s this manor house standing proudly by the Seine river? Chances are you’ve never heard about the hôtel de Sens before, and yet, it’s worth the stop. Today a city library, the medieval/renaissance style monument was originally a mansion built for the archbishop of Sens. Its architecture is truly mind-blowing.
Fun fact: make sure not to miss the bullet stuck in the wall on top of the main gate! Can you believe it’s been here since the July Revolution of 1830??
While you’re here, head over to the riverbank by the Marie Bridge, located a few meters away. This side of the riverbank is stunning, especially in the late afternoon! When the sun’s out, many locals come here to do the apéro – even during corona 😉 (but try and stay clear of the crowd, people!)
The village atmosphere of the rue des Barres
The rue des Barres has to be one of my favorite streets in Paris. Usually, it is pretty lively, which contributes to its charm… But with its beautiful cobblestones, its sunday strollers, its little restaurant terraces and the sound of the Saint Gervais churches’ bells, the street keeps a lovely countryside atmosphere. Amateur photographers, the area is yours!
Reach the end of the street towards rue de Rivoli and you’ll come across the pretty Baudoyer market. Seize the opportunity to try some local cheese or charcuterie, while enjoying the lively atmosphere of a traditional market (it remains open during covid)! Opening time: wednesday, 12:30am-8:30pm ; saturday, 7am-3pm.
The marché Sainte-Catherine square
This little square, full of character, used to host an indoor market. It is often forgotten by visitors, and yet! I find the place so atypical and picturesque, with its King Louis XV buildings. Here, you’ll find the perfect mix of bucolic and intimate atmospheres that make the Marais so unique. The current unusual tranquility makes it even more scenic.
II. Eating out in the Marais
Click on each name for more info/reviews!
I’m broke (less than 15(€):
– L’As du fallafel: Paris’ best fallafel place, located on the previously mentionned rue des Rosiers. Be ready for a line!
– Le Ju’: located on the beautiful rue des Archives – which is, btw, the epicenter of gay bars! – le Ju’s offers simple and cheap dishes. Very friendly atmosphere (which can be hard to find in fancy neighborhoods) and great location.
– Crêperie Gigi: try France’s famous savoury crêpes in this cute little restaurant. Perfect for a taste of Brittany!
Average budget (15€-30€):
– Le Petit Marché: beautiful bistrot style restaurant located by the Place des Vosges.
– Homer lobster: it may not be your typical french food, but this lobster roll won the award of best in the world in 2018!
– Les foodies: mix Mediterranean delicacies with asian flavours.. You get the foodies. Great hospitality in this chic and trendy place.
– Le Colimaçon: for a typical, great quality French cuisine in a stunning setting.
– Chez Julien: here, truffle is the house specialty! If you can, make sure to eat on the terrace, from which you’ll have a view on the marvelous rue des Barres that we mentionned earlier!
Good to know: as a consequence of covid, food to go became extremely widespread. I know. It’s not the same as going out in a restaurant. But if you really want to avoid crowds, just know that you can find anything you’d fancy on these apps: Justeat, Deliveroo, Ubereats.
Also, be aware that all restaurants must now reduce their number of clients to respect social distances. If you’ve spotted a place, make sure not to get there too late if you want to find a table!
III. Basic rules and tips to know when visiting Paris during covid
Last updated on 13/12/20
Masks must be worn everywhere in Paris (inside and on the streets). Hydroalcoholic gel is put at your disposition in every shop/restaurant. Make sure to carry some with you anyways. At the moment, we still have a curfew from 8pm to 6am.
Airports: only certain terminals are open. All info available here. I’m reminding you that France’s frontiers are still closed. This information is to help you plan your future trip.
Public transports: metros and buses run. For the buses, you can’t buy the ticket directly in the bus anymore. Tickets must be bought at the automatic vending machines in the metro and bus stations. More info here.
If you want to avoid public transports, you can use Uber. Bicycle or e-scooters are also quite easy to find throughout the city. You must download the Velib app for the bicycle or the Lime, Hive or Voi app for the scoots.
For some coronovirus general travel information click here
IV. Looking for a place to stay in the Marais?
Hotels in the Marais can be very pricy. When I leave my mini parisian cocoon to spend time at my family’s house, my apartment is available on Airbnb. If you’re looking for a simple, yet cosy little place right in the heart of the Marais, feel free to check my schedule of availability (you can even contact me directly here if it’s not available on your dates of stay)!
No worries: I follow the strict sanitary protocol put in place by Airbnb