When I come to Paris, If I am not staying in St-Germain-des-Prés then I am definitely staying in Le Marais. Just on the other side of the Seine, the Marais is one of the oldest districts of the city and has even been dubbed "the aristocratic district" dating back to 1240 when a number of religious institutions were built, namely the Knights Templar which still stand there today in the northern part of the district. But by the 17th century when the Parisian nobility began to relocate to the St-Germain area, the Marais became an active commercial area hosting Paris' main Jewish communities. Indeed until today, synagogues and Jewish institutions & businesses continue to thrive in the area - another reason for which the Marais is the only area in Paris where you can shop on Sundays.
Since the 1980's, the Marais has become a popular area for the gay community to which we can credit the sudden proliferation of trendy retaurants, cafés and boutiques. There are so many that, in fact, to list all of my favorites would take too long. For starters, I never miss a glass of rosé at La Perle, the café where John Galliano infamously made some racial slurs ultimately leading to the end of his career at Christian Dior. Or you can simply walk down Rue Vieille du Temple which is the heart of the Marais and you will find all of the main hot spots - Les Philosophes, L'Etoile Manquante, and Les Etages are the ones not to miss. Right around the corner is La Place des Vosges - Paris' oldest square - where you can meander under the arcades and ogle the various art galleries and antique stores. For a place more off the beaten path, Café Charlot has become a local hot spot for the hipsters with its authentic wrought iron bakery shop and sunny terrace. Or if you want to see and be seen, it doesn't get much better than Le Progrès for a fun night out.
Where to eat? One of my favorite restaurants in all of Paris is Chez Janou whose convivial atmosphere and traditional 'home-cooked' French fare never disappoint. For a little more action, Derrière is too much fun with their eclectic decor and lively staff who will not be shy to join you in a drink. For the best crêpes I go to Crêperie Suzette which serves crêpes and galettes in the traditional Breton style (that is where they were invented). The Marais is also famous for its shawarma "à emporter" (take-out) where lineups are sometimes around the block.
Some great small hotels are the Grand Hotel Malheur, the romantic Hotel Caron de Meaumarchais, the more modern Hotel Caron, and the newly opened cute Hotel Emile right near Place St Paul. But for me, the Marais is all about staying in an apartment and feeling like a local, if not just for a short time. The Marais is probably the district with the most options as many of the agencies seem to have a substantial amount and variety of apartments in this district. Hands down the best agency for Marais apartments is without a doubt Paris Autrement. I have personally stayed in about a dozen of their properties, each time it was an amazing experience: the apartments were "nickel" (spotless), the staff super friendly, and because their offices are located right in the district there was always someone readily available to come by if there was a problem or another.
(Please note that prices are quoted for high-season. If traveling in low-season, rates tend to be 20% lower).
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STUDIO, 1-2 person(s)
(near Métro Filles du Calvaire)
1 BEDROOM, 2 person(s)
(near Métro Saint Paul)
1 BEDROOM, 2-3 person(s)
(near Métro Rambuteau)
2 BEDROOM, 4-6 person(s)
(near Métro Rambuteau)
5 BEDROOM, 10 person(s)
(near Métro Les Halles)