Paris: A Sensory Walk Through The Marais

In the previous article, Paris, Oh Lovely Paris, I suggested that it was the tourists’ imperative to get lost and discover a Paris that thrills because you made that left turn down the wrong street. Pure happenstance usually leads to great finds; sometimes, it even  leads you to the door of a pâtisserie where a posted sign declares them winners of the best croissant in Paris. A guidebook won’t necessarily have those late breaking details; exploring beyond a book’s static pages, opens up a delicious, adventurous  world.


Croissant Heaven

This past winter, I lived in Paris for 3 months and on a nightly basis, I browsed the feeds of my favourite Paris Instagram accounts to plan for the next day. If a picture intrigued me, I read the caption, Googled the address and the arrondissement for points of interest, atypical tourist spots, pâtisseries, hidden passageways, and unique architecture. This type of insta-tourism is like a good friend telling you what interests them; it’s the kind of bespoke travel that makes for a memorable trip (my top 5 feeds are listed below).

The 3rd and 4th arrondissements can be overwhelming with all its experiences, understanding the fine balance between tourist burnout and living in the moment is tricky; everyone travels differently, I prefer to see a handful of sites in a given area, and include time to enjoy a picnic, relax on a patio with a café crème, while planning our next steps.


Musée Carnavalet

Historical Paris

Rue des Francs-Bourgeois divides the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, it is also home to a first-rate stroll with historic gardens, free museums, great Parisian boutiques, and quaint restaurants. In fact, if you want to undo your diet, the Marais district is the place to go.

Start at Rambuteau Métro (line 11) and walk east on Rambuteau to discover chocolate shops, pâtisseries and the local, Terres de Café for a selection of great coffee beans. Further east, you’ll know you have reached, Les Fromages de Raphaël cheese store, when your nose wrinkles at a sharp pungent scent; the shopkeeper is well versed on the many luscious cheeses on sale. Note: the truffle cheese is well worth the splurge.

Continuing east, the street changes to rue des Francs-Bourgeois, visit the inspiring Musée Carnavalet , free entrance to the permanent collection; 16th century buildings house the complete history of Paris, including interesting facts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, as you walk upstairs, look out the windows for a view on Paris’s iconic rooftops. Keep walking east, popping into stores as you slowly amble towards Place des Vosges.

Place des Vosges is unforgettable; its garden, architecture and arcades will bring you back to the 17th century and one of King Henry IV’s stunning revitalization projects. Make your way down the west arcade, through the red doors to see a beautiful courtyard surrounded by the stunning, Hôtel de Sully. Head back to the arcade and walk towards the south east corner; Victor Hugo’s apartment, free entrance to the permanent collection. The museum provides an overview of his life and artwork; note, the view from the upper floor windows onto the entire square, gives you another perspective on the clean, repetitive architectural lines gracing the park, take a second to enjoy different set of rooftops.



Taking a Rest

Every inch of Paris has something to offer, imposing colourful doors, quirky people, well designed shops with flowers flowing out of them, and the delicate balance of soft scroll work against wrought iron, it seems haphazard but it all works together to tell a story, and there are many stories in that beautiful mess.

Make your way to rue du Parc Royal (north of Place des Vosges) and head west, you will cross paths with the Picasso Museum and the historic, Meert , known for their delicate Madagascar vanilla waffle cookies. Continue west and walk north on Charlot street, it is full of funky local designer shops, gourmet stores and cafés; walking two blocks could take an afternoon as you pop in and out of shops. When you reach, rue de Bretagne, hang a left for two blocks and visit the oldest covered market, Marché des Enfants Rouges, for tasty treats and provisions.


Passage de L’Ancre

Passageways and Parks

Paris has a variety of covered and uncovered passageways; guidebooks usually talk about the most spectacular ones, filled with glitzy stores, art galleries and restaurants. The smaller, nondescript passageways are not as noticeable unless you read about it or someone told you. I came across the Passage Moilière on Quincampoix in the 3rd arrondissement by accident; the trick is to put your phone down, and keep your eyes peeled; the thing about Paris is you never have to walk more that 5 feet to see something of interest, blink and you’ll miss it. Le Passage de L’Ancre at the corner of rue Chapon and rue Saint Martin, is unexpected with its hanging ivy, colourful doors and potted plants.

There are many parks in the Marais, but my favourites: Rosiers-Joseph Migneret, after visiting the Jewish quarter, grab a snack at one the famous Falafel restaurants, walk through the open gate between 8-10 rue des Rosiers and quietly enjoy your picnic in this backyard oasis with great architecture and soothing greenery. Another picnic worthy park, Square du Temple on rue de Bretagne, west of the market Enfants Rouge; sit near the pond while you plan out the rest of your day. Note: the buildings just north of the park are worth a walk by.


Nôtre-Dame’s Glow

Paris at Night

Paris at night; a romantic way to end the day.  Walk towards City Hall (corner of rue de Temple / rue de Rivoli) the City of Lights does not disappoint; the ambiance from well placed lights gives this building an ethereal glow.  With the Seine in view, spot the shimmering Eiffel Tower in the distance, then meander towards Nôtre-Dame to admire her noble radiance and marvel at a day well spent.

Five Favourite Paris Instagram accounts: – personal blog and thoughts on Paris, inspirational photos

@mylittleparis – Paris’s secret spots

@linstantparisien- chronicles of Parisian lives

@seemyparis – hidden gems, daily life in Paris

@paris_maville – official account for the City of Paris (mostly in French)

Article and pictures by Caterina Salvatori:

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