The Marais (4th) district in Paris has changed a lot since I lived there 10 years ago, but it is still my favorite area of Paris. Known as the hipster hub, the gay neighborhood and the Jewish quarter, the Marais has so much to do and see that you could spend 4 months there (like I did) and still leave much to see. I wanted to share with you some old haunts I still love, and a few new places I discovered on my latest trip.
Place des Vosges
This special place is the oldest planned square in Paris, and the model for countless other residential squares throughout Europe. Author of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, lived at No. 6 in the square. The arcade is lined with fashionable cafes and restaurants, but I like to enjoy the square by sitting within the square on a bench, watching the most fashionable and hip of Parisians parade by.
L’as du Fallafel
There is so much hype surrounding this little falafel stand in the heart of the Jewish district, and there are many who say it is over-hyped, but as I see it, a constant line of people out the door (for decades!) can’t be completely wrong. Having stood many times in the line for a pita stuffed with falafel and other goodies, I can say first-hand that it is worth the wait, which, by the way, is shorter than it appears thanks to an efficient system of ordering and paying while you are in line. Once you get to the window, hand over your receipt and your made-to-order falafel sandwich is assembled swiftly. The crispy falafel, marinated eggplant, pickles and hummus pack a ton of flavor. You will probably want to eat it immediately while leaning up against a nearby wall like the locals do. Even with all of the fancy, gourmet restaurants in Paris, many remember this $5 sandwich as their best meal.
Though the company was opened by the Mariage brothers 160 years ago, the family had been in the tea business for centuries before opening an official shop, so let’s just say they know something about tea. Mariage Freres has 4 tearooms in Paris, with the original store located in the Marais. Over 600 types of tea are displayed apothecary-style in large metal tins in the salon decorated with vintage tea instruments and antique furniture. You can buy tea in the shop area and also sit for a delicious brunch of scones and tea. The tea menu is so massive it can be quite overwhelming, so rely on the expertise of your waiter for suggestions. The aromatic Marco Polo blend is a popular favorite, and one I have purchased many times.
Next door to Mariage Freres is a beautiful little perfume shop with unique scents inspired by nature. When I was living in the neighborhood 10 years ago, I’d always stop in to smell their famed Mure et Musc, a blend of blackberries and musk, of which I now finally own a bottle. I was also drawn to the romantic names of La Chasse aux Papillon (“chasing butterflies”), a beautiful white floral with tuberose and lime blossom, and Mechant Loup (“big bad wolf), a masculine scent of licorice and hazelnut. The most intriguing fragrance of their line, which I almost want to hold secret, is Safran Troublant, a milky saffron-rose-vanilla-sandalwood deliciousness that stops people on the street. Which reminds me, I need to restock.
This was a new find of mine. I had been following this jewelry company’s Instagram page for a while, after seeing a well known Parisian fashion blogger The Cherry Blossom Girl wear a ring from this company. Then, while walking through the Marais, on the way to Place des Vosges, to be exact, I happened upon their new boutique and spent nearly an hour admiring their romantic, playful jewelry. I had to buy a couple pieces of their Paris-inspired “Paris mon amour” collection so I’d remember that special day wandering through my old neighborhood reminiscing, while creating new memories.
Located on rue Rambuteau, Delitaly was my favorite restaurant when I lived in the Marais (though it had a different name back then and was half the size), and it is even more popular than ever now, a decade later. It’s the best Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy, and everyone recommends the tiramisu with gusto!
What are your favorite Marais spots?