Le Marais, a historic district of Paris, holds many spots of cultural and architectural importance. These include beautiful old buildings, the Place des Vosges and many other interesting sites, such as (mostly modern) art galleries. There are also a great many boutiques and restaurants.
Le Marais is now one of Paris’ main localities for art galleries. Following its rehabilitation, Le Marais has become a fashionable district, home to many trendy restaurants, fashion houses and hype galleries.It is also known for the strong Chinese community it hosts, and for the growing gay presence. Notable places to see there include the Musée Picasso, the house of Nicolas Flamel, the Musée Cognacq-Jay and the Musée Carnavalet.
The neighbourhood has experienced a growing gay presence since the 1980s, as evidenced by the existence of many gay cafés, nightclubs, cabarets and shops. These establishments are mainly concentrated in the southwestern part of the Marais, many on or near the streets Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie and rue des Archives.
The Marais is known for the strong Chinese community. The community began during World War I. At that time, France needed workers to replace its at-war soldiers and China decided to send a few thousands of its citizens. After the victory of 1918, some of them decided to stay in Paris. Today, most deal in jewellery and leather.
In 1240 the Order of the Temple built its fortified church just outside Paris’ walls, in the northern part of Le Marais. The Temple turned the district into an attractive area, and many religious institutions were built nearby. In time, these buildings were followed by splendid mansions erected by aristocratic families.
In 1361 King Charles V built a mansion known as the Hôtel Saint-Pol in which the Royal Court settled during his reign as well as that of his son’s. From that time to the 17th century and especially after the Royal Square (current the Place des Vosges) was designed under King Henri IV in 1605, Le Marais was the French nobility’s favorite place of residence. French nobles built their urban mansions there, such as the Hôtel de Sens, Hôtel de Sully, Hôtel de Beauvais, Hôtel Carnavalet, Hôtel de Guénégaud and Hôtel de Soubise.
By the 1950s, the district had become a working-class area and most of its architectural masterpieces were in bad shape. In the following decades, the government and the Parisian municipality led an active restoration and rehabilitation policy.
After the nobility started to move to the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the district became a popular and active commercial area, hosting one of Paris’ main Jewish communities, centred especially around the rue des Rosiers.
Public notices announce Jewish events, bookshops specialise in Jewish books, and numerous restaurants and other outlets sell kosher food. The synagogue on 10 rue Pavée, not far from the rue des Rosiers, is a strong religious centre. It was designed in 1913 by Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard, famous for having designed several Paris Metro stations.