Le Marais Walking Tour (Self Guided), Paris

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.

Start your trip at the Hôtel de Ville – a splendid building and quite ostentatious, acting as seat of the city government. Pay particular attention to notices for art & history exhibits, because they are excellent and free.

Further along the road, one of the oldest buildings in Paris is right out in the open for you to see with the garden in front. Hotel de Sens has been beautifully restored, but look out for the cannonball embedded into the eastern wall – one of Paris' quirky oddities from the French Revolution.

Among other highlights is the Place des Vosges – arguably the most beautiful square of Paris. Its lawns and greenery have always been a big success; just ask Victor Hugo, whose house-museum is on one corner. The best shopping, however, remains on bustling Rue des Francs Bourgeois and Rue des Rosiers, where most of the shops are open on Sundays.

Follow this self-guided walk to check out the most important Marais attractions!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

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: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: karen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • City Hall (Hotel de Ville)
  • Hotel de Sens
  • Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church
  • Place des Vosges
  • Maison de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo House Museum)
  • Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
  • Carnavalet Museum (Paris History Museum)
  • Rue des Rosiers
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!
Hotel de Sens

2) Hotel de Sens

Built between 1474 and 1519 as a home for the bishop Tristan de Salazar, Hotel 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 hotel. 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 19th century 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 city government, 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 Hotel 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
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
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, it 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.
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 great idea, as it is free to enter and doesn't take long to explore. For visitor's 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
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 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.
Carnavalet Museum (Paris History Museum)

7) Carnavalet Museum (Paris History Museum)

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 more than 2 millions.

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.

Carnavalet provide the most compelling summary of the history of Paris – its politics, art, and people. It is a must-see for those who are interested in the history of Paris.
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 can still find the kosher restaurants with delicious kosher cuisine that follows all kosher rules.

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.

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.
Souvenirs Shopping Walk

Souvenirs Shopping Walk

It would be a pity to leave Paris without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. Being one of the world's premier shopping cities, Paris attracts thousands of shopaholics every year. Even people who hate shopping, enjoy doing it in Paris. In addition to fabulous designer shops and luxury items, it is a great destination if you are into fashion, gourmet...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Latin Quarter Walking Tour

Latin Quarter Walking Tour

Paris’ Latin Quarter is situated on the left bank of the Seine and dates back to the Middle Ages. For years, it was known as a bohemian enclave, attracting students, writers and intellectuals. Centered on the Sorbonne University's main university campus, the area was so named a few centuries ago because the students were speaking and learning in Latin. It remains very lively, with a...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Paris Introduction Walking Tour I

Paris Introduction Walking Tour I

The capital of France takes its name from the Celtic tribe of Parisii who, back in the Iron Age, around the 3rd century BC, settled near the river Seine. The Romans conquered the Parisii and established on their land a garrison town which, towards the end of the 5th century AD, fell to the Franks and flourished under their rule. Despite wars, revolutions and numerous social cataclysms, Paris had...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
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, Montmartre continues...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour

St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour

This self-guided walk takes you to explore the 6th arrondissement, covering the quarter of St-Germain-des-Prés, the riverside 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 philosophers and legendary writers, the likes of Hemingway and Camus. The area is likewise renowned...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
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 quite a bit of violence during the infamous "Reign of Terror". Even though many of Paris’ buildings were damaged in the course of the bloody conflicts, the sites they occupied – which you can find on this self-guided tour – are of a great historical...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 Km or 4.5 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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...
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...
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...
15 Places for Tasting Best French Desserts in Paris

15 Places for Tasting Best French Desserts in Paris

If you have a sweet tooth and it wishes to "eat your way" through Paris, this guide will show you how! Featured here are some of the most famous and prominent dessert spots in the French capital, where you can grab something sweet to enjoy. With 20 listed recommendations, you should be...
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...
8 Best Food Markets in Paris for Authentic French Produce

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,...