La Marais – the fancy Parisian quarter
Located in the 3rd arrondissement and a bridge across Île de Cité, where Notre Dame still proudly stands, La Marais is arguably the coolest and most stylish quarter.
I went there for the first time last Christmas to meet up with my friend and his girlfriend for drinks and she told me about a street of designer outlets they have here. We sat outside the restaurant, Le Petit Marché, where they had their dinner, before heading towards a funky little bar called Peppa Café as we continued catching up and sipping mojitos.
A few weeks after, I went back to La Marais to shop for a coat along Rue de Sévigné and after hours of rummaging through the racks in various stores, including the like of Claudie Pierlot and Sandro, I finally found the one at Pablo. It was love at first sight and for sure sparked a lot of joy. After that, we headed to the best crêperie in town, BREIZH Café for the most amazing crêpes and galette (savoury buckwheat crêpe) ever. It was definitely worth the long wait in the rain.
Since then, I frequent La Marais as much as I can. Whether I'm there for a purpose or not, it is simply a relaxing and vibrant place to be in. For tearooms/ cafes, Lily of the Valley is an adorable mini café, where the décor is fairly girly and the outdoor seating is perfect on a good day. Right next to it is also the famous and always crowed Season café, one that I have yet to try out but am always meaning to. Not too far from Rue Dupetit-Thouars, where the above coffee places are is the city park – Square du Temple-Elle-Wiesel, a calm green space among the lively streets of cafés. Staring right at it on Rue de Bretagne is Paprika, a calm, cash only café. My friend enjoyed her cup of latte, but my soy chai latte was rather watery and tasteless. The grammable Café Berry, which is more than just a coffee place, is also located in La Marais. I previously mentioned it in my article for Wander-lust. Check it out! Probably the smallest cafe existed - Boot café is on Rue du Pont aux Choux, right next to the metro stop, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart. Don't be surprised to find a queue outside the shop or yourself unable to grab a seat inside. It is so tiny! On the beginning of the same street, you'll find the trendy multi-stories boutique, Merci, selling overpriced home and fashion goods. Nonetheless, you should pay it a visit, albeit a short and unfruitful one, unless, of course, few hundreds for a tote bag is right up your alley. If you're there for Christmas, the shop is always well-decorated, which is worth going just for the photos.
Now that the weather is getting better and the temperature is raising, I enjoy going to Place des Vosges on the weekend to chill with my friends, pretending to be one of the locals in the beautiful square. Around it, you’ll find many restaurants and cafes, arts and street performances. My favourite is the lady who sings opera under the bridge next to Juice Lab & Co., a chic healthy juice bar (all vegan I believe), serving all kinds of smoothies, acai bowl and avocado toasts for the basic people like me. For something more filling, try one of their sandwiches or hot dishes, like a veggie curry. When the weather is nice, grab a seat outside for a lovely view of the square. In the same quarter, you’ll also find Maison de Victor Hugo, a heritage museum which you can go in to see the home of the famous French writer. Across the corridor, on the next corner, is a hidden gem, a beautiful building called Hotel de Béthune-Sully. While it is not open to public visitors, you’re free to wander into the gorgeous courtyard and admire the 17th-century building.
For the museum-goers, make sure to check out the art museum, Musée Cognacq-Jay for a taste of the 18th-century. For history-lovers, go to Musée Carnavalet, which is just around the corner from Cognacqy-Jay. The building itself is immaculately Renaissance and houses an extensive collection from the same era. (Update: Musée Carnavalet is closed for renovation until the end of 2019.)
Thriving on its fanciness, you’ll find many Michelin starred restaurants in the area. I had lunch at one this weekend called Des Gars dans la Cuisine, where they do a three-course lunch menu for just 23,50€ on Sundays and 16,50€ during the week and on Saturdays. Whilst on the hunt for our perfect lunch spot, we came across Glou, a local restaurant with a tempting menu. We end up elsewhere simply because, by the time we were hungry, we had already wandered too far off Rue Vieille du Temple.
For cocktails and views, make sure to check out Le Perchoir, a beautiful rooftop bar, before making your way towards Hôtel de Ville, then down to the Seine for a nice long walk. However, should you fancy a late one, try Little Red Door, voted one of the best cocktail bars in the area. You will also find a concentration of gay bars in La Marais. While I have yet to visit any, Les Souffleurs and COX are two of the more popular ones.
I hope this comprehensive guide will help you navigate the charming neighbour of La Marais with more ease when you next visit!