Le Haut Marais, Paris

So traditional, yet so modern. So predictable, yet so surprising: How does Paris do it?

Every year, once I have returned to favorite neighborhoods, I need not look far to discover something new to get enthusiastic about. Last summer, I loved my stroll in SoPi (South Pigalle,) and wrote a story about the newly gentrified area around la rue des Martyrs.

Paris is a village in SoPi
Paris is a village in SoPi

In February, I decided to explore a neighborhood Parisian friends have been raving about: le Haut Marais, (the Upper Marais.) It covers most of the 3rd arrondissement, and is defined as the area located between the Picasso museum and Place de la République. Back in the mid-1990s, around the time I moved from Paris to Seattle, the neighborhood was nothing special. The traditional part of le Marais, (rue des Rosiers, place des Vosges, rue des Francs-Bourgeois,) was the popular place where I spent my days as a college student, or met friends on the weekends. Far from glamorous, Le Haut Marais seemed out of the way, small streets lined with former private residences, les hôtels particuliers, that had been converted into workshops and small factories. Times change. Today, le Haut Marais is a coveted section of Paris with soaring real estate prices. Celebrities live there and can be spotted on rue Charlot, or rue de Bretagne, two of the main arteries. Art galleries and art dealers line up peaceful streets. Parisians and international visitors flock to trendy boutiques like Merci, the fashion and decor concept store. 

Bienvenue chez Merci
Bienvenue chez Merci, 111 boulevard Beaumarchais.
shop 2016 bridesmaid dresses UK
Inside cosmopolitan Merci
MagneticPencil
Who doesn’t need a giant magnetic pencil?
FancyLinen
Colorful linen napkins: the perfect impulse buy

For those of us who don’t enjoy department stores, le Haut Marais is a boutique-centric shopping Mecca, where big designer names rub elbows with independent retailers.

Isabel Marant, rue de Saintonge, is housed by a former bakery.
Isabel Marant, 47 rue de Saintonge, housed in a former bakery.
Kosha Mashka, rue de Poitou
Koshka Mashka, 36 rue de Poitou
La Boutique Extraordinaire, rue Charlot, where I found two beautiful hand-knit sweaters.
La Boutique Extraordinaire, 67 rue Charlot, where I found two beautiful, natural fiber sweaters.

At lunch time, you will not go starving either. Small bistros and ethnic restaurants abound. Breizh Café has built a steady following among locals and international visitors alike as *the* place to enjoy galettes (savory buckwheat crêpes) and crêpes in Paris. On a cold Tuesday in February, around 1:30pm, the restaurant announced a 30-minute wait, and several guests were lining up outside, some with travel bags at their feet.

Breizh Café, 111 rue Vieille du Temple
Breizh Café, 111 rue Vieille du Temple

Another neighborhood classic address is Café Charlot, a bistro with a 1920s feel, popular with the “in-crowd.” The star dish? The house cheeseburger! My guest and I settled for a delicious magret de canard, served with pommes sarladaises, peaches, and berry sauce. For dessert? A café-gourmand (three miniature desserts served with a shot of espresso.)

Café Charlot, rue de Bretagne
Café Charlot, 38 rue de Bretagne: A typical Parisian terrace with Gatti chairs

MagretCafeCharlot

Tip1check
Not too bad for such a popular place. Love the exchange rate, these days, don’t you?

The good news: You do not need to splurge on a sit-down meal while visiting le Haut Marais. The French capital’s oldest food market, le Marché des Enfants Rouges (built 1610,) was revamped in 2000. This is not your traditional Parisian market: Les Enfants Rouges has more delis than produce stands. But what great vendors they are: For a few Euros, you can be transported to Greece, Italy, Lebanon or Morocco. You can take your meal home or have a picnic on site. I did not hesitate too long before I started lining up outside the Moroccan vendor’s booth. I chatted with the owner who offered me a glass of hot mint tea, the perfect antidote to a cold winter day.

Marché des Enfants Rouges, rue de Bretagne. Entrance.
Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne. Entrance.

TaginedePoulet

CouscousMixte
“Un Couscous mixte pour French Girl in Seattle, s’il vous plaît!”

Le Haut Marais offers more than [good] shopping and eating. In the heart of winter, the neighborhood appears quiet and authentic. Local shop keepers greet each other on the sidewalk in the morning. Passers-by hurry on their way to work. The occasional bicycle warns pedestrians to stay out of the way with a commanding “Ding, ding!” Nearby, at the Square du Temple, Parisian children chase pigeons while their mothers (or nannies?) chat on a bench. Just another day in le Haut Marais.

ColonneMorris

CarreauduTemple
Le Carreau du Temple, a 19th century market hall turned into a cultural and community center.

Bicycle

 

A bientôt.

CafeCharlotterrace

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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)

16 Comments

  • Bonjour Veronique!
    It is wonderful to read your post about the Haut Marais!
    It would be lovely to meet and chat. Perhaps at Macrina Bakery on Queen Anne next to my current gallery show of Impressionist oil paintings from France, which opened this past weekend? On April 18, there is a second ooening for the Union des Francais a L’Etranger de Seattle, from 530pm to 730 pm.
    Would you like to come?
    Best regards,
    Valerie

  • Absolutely wonderful photos of my favorite place on earth. Try to make it over to the Brasserie il st loui…ask for Paul Kapp, owner…such a great place to eat and watch the world go by.

  • I love this neighborhood-the Moroccan meal looks delish-and I first enjoyed their delicious mint tea while eating in a very small restaurant in Tangier-on the second floor with sweeping views of the entire port city-loved it-Paris and it’s diversity-all close at hand GOTTA LOVE IT!! another wonderful informative post-love seeing Paris through your loving heart and eyes!

    • Merci beaucoup, g. I spent two days in le Haut Marais. I loved the area. The Couscous was probably my favorite part (that and finding that great boutique where I purchased the pretty natural fiber sweaters.)

  • Nice exposition and photos and nostalgia-inducing because I lived at the southern and northern edges of this area. But I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing, i.e. a type of gentrification of another area of Paris. And the nerve of those in the 3rd trying to steal the Marais name so some of its hipsterdom magic rubs off 🙂 It inevitably means the property prices and rents go up. On the other hand, everything must be allowed to evolve …. I suppose.
    When I lived a bit further north–a few blocks from Republique just off the Canal St Martin, this area was not very hip at all, almost anti-hip. Now the Canal is apparently hipster central with canal-side picnics and pop-up restos on the weekend. And Place de la Republique has undergone a big renovation with one side of the Place closed to thru traffic.

    Earlier this year I read about the latest Paris foodie experiment that happens to be here in the Haut Marais: “La Jeune Rue” (The Young Street) on rue Vertbois along the side of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers. A whole street of 30+ restaurants and shops using biologique and locafood ingredients to present something a bit different from the usual. In April it was running late in its official opening. Perhaps it has been inspired by the nearby weekend marché Richard Lenoir which I think is one of the main ones for produits biologiques?
    …….
    Ooops. I thought before posting my comment I better Google it to see the latest news on La Jeune Rue and it doesn’t look good:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/world/europe/an-audacious-project-and-its-founder-slide-toward-failure-in-paris.html
    La Jeune Rue Project, and Its Founder, Slide Toward Failure in Paris
    By LIZ ALDERMAN, JUNE 9, 2015
    …………..
    Curiously, the man behind this ambitious project, Cédric Naudon, also owns the restaurant Le Sergent Recruteur on Ile St Louis. This is in the building I lived in for many years. Back then it wasn’t a Michelin starred restaurant like today, but a bit of a dive, frequented by mostly German and English tourists (I think it had one of those all-you-can-eat deals.)

  • Last year my AirBnB host warned me I’d find the Marais far more “bobo” than I remembered it, and it was so true! I was there in 2007, and it certainly had changed since then. I still love it though. Next time I’ll have to check out some of the places you mention – those sweaters are gorgeous!

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