Le Marais Walking Tour, Paris (Self Guided)

The district known to locals as "Le Marais" used to be a bourgeois area in the past and a major center of the Paris Jewish community that still exists today. Here, you will find different bookshops specializing in Jewish books, restaurants with traditional Jewish food and a synagogue. As one of the hippest neighborhoods in the city, it also has no shortage of narrow medieval streets, unique boutiques and quirky restaurants, very much like London’s Shoreditch. Le Marais is one of Paris’s most historic districts and contains numerous architecturally important buildings. Take the self-guided walk presented below to visit the important Marais attractions.
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Le Marais Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Le Marais Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Paris (See other walking tours in Paris)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Author: karen
1
City Hall (Hotel de Ville)

1) City Hall (Hotel de Ville)

Paris City Hall is the largest city hall building in Europe and one of the most prominent landmarks of the French capital. Curiously enough, the early sessions of Paris municipal council were held at the home of a city mayor – the practice continued until the 16th century when King Francis I ordered to build a dedicated Renaissance-style city hall.

Centuries later, that first purpose-built edifice served as headquarters for the French Revolution, accommodating Robespierre and his supporters. Ironically, it was there that Robespierre himself was arrested at the end of the infamous “Rule of Terror” period, during which anyone opposing the revolution was sent to the guillotine.

Likewise, in 1871, the City Hall once again hosted headquarters, but this time for the Paris Commune. When their defeat became imminent and the French army closed in on the building, the Communards set fire to it completely destroying everything inside. The exterior was then rebuilt following the original design, but the interior had to be created anew.

Outside the building is decorated with 108 statues of famous Parisians like Voltaire, Rousseau, Charles Perrault, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, and others. The other thirty statues there represent French cities. The clock at the central tower is also adorned with statues – several female sculptures depicting the river Seine, the city of Paris, the “Work” and the “Education”.

While public access to the City Hall is generally restricted, there are two rooms in the building constantly allocated to art exhibitions. One of them usually features photography and the other one – art in general. Also, there are almost always some cultural events or exhibitions taking place outside, in the square in front of the building. Still, the main attraction for tourists visiting the Paris City Hall is, undoubtedly, its architecture!
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Hotel de Sens

2) Hotel de Sens

Built between 1474 and 1519 as a home for the bishop Tristan de Salazar, Hôtel de Sens is one of the three original medieval residences left in Paris. The building's mixed architectural design reveals transitions that had taken place between the Medieval and Renaissance epochs. The architecture of Hôtel de Sens shows elements of a fortification structure. There are turrets (armored towers) for observing the surrounding area, a square tower served as a dungeon, as well as an arched entryway with built-in slopping passages from where boiling hot oil could be poured upon would-be attackers.

On a different note, in 1605, Queen Margot, ex-wife of King Henri IV of Navarre, settled in the hôtel. Eccentric by nature and with a taste for lavish lifestyle, Queen Margot reportedly indulged herself with numerous love affairs here and is said to have gathered her lovers' hair to make wigs that she later sported.

Sold off in 1797, the structure was badly mutilated during the 19C and subdivided for a multitude of uses. After the French Revolution (which left it with a cannonball still lodged in the wall), it was occupied by art students and, at some point, was turned into a jam factory. After decades of public pressure, it was finally saved by the Ville de Paris, which undertook an ambitious restoration program between 1933-61.

The building as we see it today is largely a reconstitution of the original, based on drawings dating back to the 17th century. The main staircase tower, however, is original, as is the wonderfully picturesque entrance front. Despite its somewhat fanciful restoration, the Hôtel de Sens is nonetheless an evocative remnant of medieval Paris – currently, home of the Bibliothèque Forney devoted to decorative and fine arts, as well as industrial techniques.

On your tour of Paris, make sure to stop by and admire this medieval residence's elegant formal gardens and dramatic design. Sit down on one of the garden benches and relax, detached from the nearby hectic city. It's a lovely place to take a little picnic lunch before continuing your Marais exploring.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Fri, Sat: 1–7:30pm; Wed, Thu: 10am–7:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church

3) Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church

The Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church is one of the oldest Jesuit sites in Paris. Completed in 1641, it boasts an abundance of classical elements, such as Corinthian pillars and heavy ornamentation, and was greatly influenced by Baroque architecture, introduced by the Romans. The salient feature of the church is a 195-foot dome, which is best viewed from the inside because the columns of the three-tiered church’s front elevation hide the dome. The church is designed marvelously with clean classical architectural lines that run through the nave and side aisles. Arches have been embellished with astounding Baroque decorations, while sculptures have been posted and paintings been drawn in the style liked by the Jesuits in the 17th century.

Louis XIII laid the foundation of the church in 1627. In 1641, Cardinal Richelieu served the first mass here in the presence of the royal family. The church was badly damaged during the French Revolution; the invaders stole most of the artifacts and collectibles. The not-stolen items were brutally broken, largely depriving the church of its precious assets. A handful of works, that have survived unharmed, can now be seen near the entrance; also, fortunately enough, the church has retained its abundant internal carvings. The St Paul-St Louis also briefly served as a "Temple of Reason" under the Revolutionary government, which had banned traditional religion. Nearly 250 years after its construction, in 1872, it was finally re-consecrated and has served since as one of the local community churches. The massive red doors and asymmetrical clock face give it a burst of whimsy that makes it worth a quick stop as you explore Le Marais.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-8pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Place des Vosges

4) Place des Vosges (must see)

Originally known as Place Royale, this classy corner of Paris was built by King Henri IV in the 17th century. Situated in La Marais district, this is the oldest planned square in the city, featuring a unique, perfectly symmetrical layout of houses with red brick facades and slate roofs constructed over vaulted arcades. On the southern side of the square is a King’s pavilion overlooking Queen's pavilion on the opposite, northern side. Of a special note here are the balconies, the first extended balconies ever built in Paris.

Previously reserved for the royals, today Place des Vosges is a public square, quiet and peaceful, with a nice well-manicured park complete with shady trees, refreshing fountains, and sandy walkways. Classically elegant and very French in style, it represents a perfect example of an early 17th-century garden. Boxed in by the buildings, this park is invisible to the outsiders, but the locals know it all too well and come here regularly on weekends, especially in summer. The surrounding homes are quite expensive properties. Having an apartment overlooking the square is the luxury very few can afford.

Apart from the lovely architecture, much of the area's appeal is associated with the historic figures that once resided here. One of them is Victor Hugo whose house stands on the corner. Today, this is the museum with the interior caringly preserved just the way it was back when Hugo was alive.

At the ground floors of the buildings are the art shops, designer clothing boutiques, and outlets selling handicrafts, musical instruments and other pleasant things. There are also plenty of small Parisian-style bars and restaurants in the vicinity, somewhat bohemian yet with a casual touch and leisurely attitude that is hard to find anywhere else in the city center. They make a perfect landing space for those keen on a small round table for a quick snack with a glass of beer or wine. Apart from the typically French restaurants, there are also those serving kosher and ethnic cuisine nearby.

So, whether you are a history buff or an art-minded shopaholic, or a connoisseur looking for fine dining, or just a casual someone in need of relaxation, you may rest assured to find it all here, at Place des Vosges.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most classy corners of Paris, with well-manicured gardens, nice shops (including the superior Damman Frères tea store), many art galleries to browse around, and several places to have your lunch or dinner, for every budget and taste. Great place for a picnic, too...
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo House Museum)

5) Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo House Museum)

The museum of Victor Hugo in Paris, at Rohan-Guéménée Hotel in Place des Vosges, is actually just an apartment on the 2nd floor that the writer rented for 16 years, from 1832 to 1848, in which he wrote the bulk of his “Les Miserables” and other major works.

Apart from being a writer, Hugo is recognized as one of the greatest French poets who also made significant impact on classical music – based on his books are several operas including “Lucrezia Borgia” by Donizetti, “Rigoletto” and “Ernani” by Verdi, and “La Gioconda” by Ponchielli. Hugo was also a grand political figure, which together with his creative talents, had earned him much love and admiration of the Parisians during his lifetime.

The museum consists of several rooms, including antechamber, Chinese-decorated living room, Medieval-style dining room, and the reconstructed bedroom featuring the interior of 1885 in which Hugo passed away at the age of 83. Upon the announcement of his death, Paris mourned deeply seeing over two million people take to the streets to bid farewell to the writer at his funeral procession stretching from the Arch of Triumph to his final resting place at The Pantheon.

That procession is depicted in one of the paintings displayed at the museum alongside the sculptures, caricatures and other memorabilia collected by Hugo over the years.

On the first floor, there is a permanent exhibition of Hugo's drawings plus the iconography of his literary works. At times, there are also temporary exhibits presented there, too.

If you're a fan of Hugo and happen to be in the area, paying a quick visit to the museum is a good idea, as it is free to enter and doesn't take long to explore. For visitors convenience, there is an audio guide in English which helps put into context all that is to see there.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Last admission: 5:40pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois

6) Rue des Francs-Bourgeois

Once a street where artisan weavers worked, today Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is a trendy shopping area of fashion and design in Paris. Dotted with many designer boutiques, often housed in beautiful old townhouses (some of which are set back in courtyards), you can find numerous French clothing brands, jewelries and perfumes. There's really something for everyone in just a few blocks.

The street and its surrounding area also boast many cafés, restaurants and beautiful historic buildings. Since Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is one of the few streets which largely ignores France's strong tradition of Sunday closure, it is a popular location for weekend brunches, walks and people watching.
7
Carnavalet Museum — History of Paris

7) Carnavalet Museum — History of Paris

Editor's Note: This museum is closed for renovation until the end of 2019.

Immerse yourself in Paris’ rich history at the Carnavalet Museum that occupies two neighboring mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau. Inside the museum, the exhibits show the transformation of the village of Lutèce, which was inhabited by the Parisii tribes, to the grand city of today with a population of 2,201,578. The Carnavalet houses about 2,600 paintings, 20,000 drawings, 300,000 engravings and 150,000 photographs, 2,000 modern sculptures and 800 pieces of furniture, thousands of ceramics, many decorations, models and reliefs, signs, thousands of coins, countless items, many of them souvenirs of famous characters, and thousands of archeological fragments.

Not only does the Carnavalet provide the most compelling summary of the history of Paris – its politics, art, and people – but also houses globally important exhibits, such as the Fouquet jewelry shop which is a most beautiful complete Art Nouveau room with exquisite décor.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Rue des Rosiers

8) Rue des Rosiers

The Rue des Rosiers, which means "street of the rosebushes", is a winding, pedestrian-only street running through the historic Jewish quarter in Marais. Jewish communities have lived in the nearby neighborhood since the 13th century and the area used to be called "The Old Jewry".

During the last two decades, Rue des Rosiers has been going through a transformation, seeing many fashion boutiques moving in. Fortunately, however, the Jewish shops and restaurants have stayed on, so you might want to take advantage of the kosher restaurants with delicious kosher cuisine that follows all kosher rules, including places like MI-VA-MI, L'As du Fallafel, Chez Hanna, or Korcarz. Also, the bookstores and Jewish specialty shops are very nice.

Similar to the nearby Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, shops on Rue de Rosier remain open on Sunday so the street is another meeting point for Parisians who want to eat out and shop on Sunday or during any of the off days.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Paris, France

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Creating your own self-guided walk in Paris is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour

St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour

This self guided walk takes you to explore the 6th arrondissement, covering St-Germain-des-Prés quarter, the River side districts and the areas nearby the Luxembourg Garden. It is one of the most expensive districts of Paris, home to posh boutiques, eateries and iconic cafes once favored by legendary writers, the likes of Hemingway and Camus. The area is particularly renowned for its unique...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
Religious Sights Walking Tour

Religious Sights Walking Tour

Paris is one of the cities that can fairly be considered a religious destination because of the number of churches that one is able to visit here. Reports show that, for instance, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, recorded 13.65 million visits in 2006, and the number is increasing every year. This is a self guided walk that includes some of the most beautiful Christian relics located in the center...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour

The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour

The French Revolution had a huge impact on France's history as it gave rise to a radical democratic republic and resulted in violence during the Reign of Terror. A lot of Paris' buildings were damaged beyond repair in the course of the Revolution. The sites they occupied are of a great historical value now. This self guided walk is to visit the landmarks of the French Revolution that...  view more

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 10.5 km
Montmartre Walking Tour

Montmartre Walking Tour

Originally named “Mons Martis”, meaning the “Mount of Mars”, Montmartre is one of the most famous and visited neighborhoods in Paris. Beyond the Sacré-Coeur, the Moulin Rouge and notable landmarks, the district is also about the atmosphere, the narrow streets, and the artsy culture that has made Paris famous. Once home to artists such as Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh, Montmarte continues...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
Champs-Elysees Nightlife

Champs-Elysees Nightlife

A haven for the arts in Europe, with its influence felt worldwide, Paris boasts a steady stream of visitors to its fine city. After dark, guests to the City of Light can enjoy a multitude of great nightlife establishments that is sure to appeal to anyone looking for a hot night on the town. Whether its live DJs spinning intense electronic beats or a live acoustic jazz band you’re looking for...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
City Center Nightlife

City Center Nightlife

A haven for the arts in Europe, with its influence felt worldwide, Paris boasts a steady stream of visitors to its fine city. After dark, guests to the City of Light can enjoy a multitude of great nightlife establishments that is sure to appeal to anyone looking for a hot night on the town. Whether its live DJs spinning intense electronic beats or a live acoustic jazz band you’re looking for...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


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8 Best Food Markets in Paris for Authentic French Produce

The image of Parisians that you may have in your head as strolling through a colourful market with a basket on their arm, chatting to vendors and picking up fresh produce, is quite accurate. Most Parisians do visit local markets at least once a week to stock up on the freshest fruit, vegetables,...
Paris Souvenirs: 19 Distinctively French Products to Bring Home from Paris

Paris Souvenirs: 19 Distinctively French Products to Bring Home from Paris

You can hardly have enough money and luggage space to get all the takes your fancy in Paris. Luckily, with a little bit of tasteful advice and experience, you can save yourself some time and effort and pick up just about the right amount of things worth taking home. Listed here are some of the hints...
Top 16 Vegetarian Restaurants in Paris

Top 16 Vegetarian Restaurants in Paris

The French have great respect for the fresh, organic produce yet France isn’t famous for its vegetarian cooking. Hence it’s a good idea for vegetarian visitors to Paris to come prepared in advance. This guide shows you places around the city which serve vegetarian food, complete with the...
9 Must Try Cafes in Paris

9 Must Try Cafes in Paris

Discovering the best coffee and cafes in Paris can be difficult. The city is filled to the brim with brasseries and cafes, but very few offer the Anglophone standard of a good cup of coffee. This is a guide to inform tourists and Parisians alike of the new and somewhat established cafes in Paris...
18 Must-Visit Cafes in Paris, France

18 Must-Visit Cafes in Paris, France

Paris is home to thousands of cafes; there is a café on practically every street corner you turn, in every square you stumble across, on every boulevard you stroll along. The age-old Parisian tradition of sitting around at rickety tables and shooting back espressos is a fundamental part of everyday...
15 Places for Tasting Best French Desserts in Paris

15 Places for Tasting Best French Desserts in Paris

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Paris for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Paris has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money visiting Paris's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Paris Pass, Paris Explorer Pass, Paris Museum Pass, or Paris Night Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Paris' top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Paris hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Novotel Paris Les Halles, Les Rives de Notre-Dame, 9Confidentiel.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Paris, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Paris typically costs from around US$20 up to US$200 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Paris from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get off at any of the stops along the two interconnecting routes (your ticket is valid for both).

- Alternatively, you can cruise along the river Seine on a similar hop-on hop-off sightseeing boat viewing Paris's top attractions from a different angle, able to get on and off as often as you want at any of the eight stops along the Seine riverbanks. The ticket is valid for one day (24 hrs) and may be upgraded to two days (48 hrs).

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts about 3 hours and allows you to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Paris on a bike tour. In the course of 4 hours you will visit the city's most spectacular sights stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Take a walk around Paris with a knowledgeable guide for an alternative view of the French capital. Over the course of this 2-hour walking tour you will get insights and hear stories about every major classic sight of this fascinating city. A complete overview of Paris from the ground up!

- Come see the best of the French capital in just one day in a combo of a Seine river cruise and historical walk of Paris. You may start either with the Eiffel Tower or the Notre-Dame Cathedral making your way around the iconic sights of the city: the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Alexandre III bridge, Invalides, Concorde Square, Orsay Museum, etc.

- Missing out on the French food, whilst in Paris, would be worse than a crime – it would be a mistake! If you don't want to make such a mistake, consider a private 3-hour food tour of Paris complete with a set of 10 unforgettable tastings the memories of which will last you a lifetime. Just make sure to bring along your appetite to make the most of the savory treats awaiting!

- Live a chocoholic’s dream right at the heart of Paris! Follow your sweet tooth sense on this 2-hour guided “chocolate walk” in central Paris visiting some of the best chocolate boutiques of the French capital, learning about peculiar chapters in the history of the city and the place delectable chocolate played in it. Adding to the excitement is a round of free tastings.

Day Trips


If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Paris, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Versailles, Fontainebleau, Champagne region, Loire valley, Normandy, or a combo of Honfleur and Giverny. For as little as US$90+ to US$200+ per person you will get a chance to discover highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, see the favorite residence of the French royalty, world-famous vineyards, charming castles, and historic battlefields of World War II. For any of these tours you may be picked up either straight from your hotel or any other place in Paris, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned minivan or train (whenever applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.