The Marais District is located in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris between Beaubourg and the Place de la Bastille on the right bank of River Seine. It was the preferred residential area of the Parisian aristocracy up to the 18th century. It takes its name from the marshland (marais in French) that used to surround the Rue Saint Antoine in the 13th century.
Many beautiful and fine townhouses and mansions (hôtels particuliers) have been built in the Marais in the 17th and 18th centuries such as the Hôtel de Sully, the Hôtel Carnavalet, the Hôtel de Sens, the Hôtel de Lamoignon or the Hôtel de Soubise. The Marais is home of one of the first squares to be laid out in Paris: Place des Vosges.
The district of Marais is not an administrative one, its limits are historical. It is bordered by Rue de Beaubourg and the Paris City Hall to the West, Rue de Bretagne to the North, Boulevard Beaumarchais and Place de la Bastille to the East and the Seine to the South.
Medieval Paris in the Marais
Apart from churches, traces of medieval structures and buildings in Paris are very rare. The Marais incorporates most of them and it sometimes requires an attentive eye to spot them:
The remains of the Phillip Augustus Wall (enceinte Phillipe Auguste) from the 13th century can be seen in Rue Charlemagne.
Rue Charlemagne is a narrow little street that has not been touched by the grand urban work of Baron Haussmann in the 19th century.
The Porte de Clisson (14th century) is a gateway flanked by a pair of corbelled turrets. Leaning against the Hôtel de Soubise, it is the only example of domestic medieval architecture still existing in Paris.
In Rue François Miron are two well restored half-timbered houses dating back to the 15th century. The neighbouring Rue des Barres offers some fine views of the Old Paris.
Not far from the bustling Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, the Billettes is Paris’ only medieval cloister to have survived.
Place des Vosges
The picturesque Place des Vosges is located at the junction of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. This excellent example of Louis XIII-style architecture is the oldest planned square in Paris and its charm comes from the regularity of the façades. Often considered as one of Europe’s most beautiful squares, the Place des Vosges, formally named “Place Royale”, is a perfect symmetrical square (140 m X 140 m) bordered by 36 buildings.
Find out more about Place des Vosges.
Mansions (Hôtels Particuliers)
The Marais district covers a large number of fine and splendid mansions called “Hôtels Particuliers”, mostly built by the nobility and aristocracy in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The best examples are :
Hôtel de Sens
Hôtel de Sully
Hôtel de Lamoignon (formerly Hôtel d’Angoulême)
Hôtel de Soubise
Hôtel de Châlons Luxembourg