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Video:A Quick Spin Around the Marais

with Courtney Traub

Looking for traces of medieval and Renaissance Paris? Don't miss the Marais neighborhood, a trendy hub for fashion boutiques, restaurants, cafes and bars.See Transcript

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Transcript:A Quick Spin Around the Marais

Hi, I'm Courtney Traub, you're Guide to Paris for About.com. Today I'm going to be talking to you about the Marais neighborhood, which is one of Paris' hippest areas. But also has a very rich history.

Why Visit the Marias Neighborhood?

Looking for traces of medieval and Renaissance Paris? Don't miss the Marais neighborhood. Situated near the center of the city on Paris's right bank, the Marais district is today a trendy hub for fashion boutiques, restaurants, cafes and bars. First developed in the 12th century over swamplands, the Marais, which literally means "swamp," is a perfect example of how old and contemporary often rub shoulders in Paris. It's not unusual. for example, to see buildings that once housed bakeries or locksmiths get reconverted into clothing or concept shops in this area.

Hotel Particuliers in Marais

One of the only remaining areas of the city to retain the architecture and layout of pre-19th century Paris, the Marais is home to many dazzling residences, or hotels particuliers. The sumptuous Place des Vosges is the most famous of these and was built for Henry the 4th in the 17th century. In the covered passageways surrounding the square, restaurants and art galleries have since set up shop.

The Hotel Carnavalet is another hotel particulier worth visiting, especially since it houses the Carnavalet Museum, a free attraction which traces the history of Paris all the way back to the city's Celtic origins. The museum's permanent exhibit especially shines for its rooms dedicated to the French Revolution of 1789.

Le Pletzl in Marais

The Marais is home to Paris' historic Jewish district, known as Le Pletzl from the Yiddish word. The heart of the old Pletzl is the Rue des Rosiers, which houses some of the city's tastiest falafel, in addition to tradtional Yiddish bakeries like Sasha Finkelstein. Here you can treat yourself to traditional specialties such as bagels, appel strudel or babkas. The area also features a major gay nightlife scene, adding another interesting layer to this lively neighborhood.

Medieval Marais

Okay, let's take a closer look at some medieval landmarks in the Marais. One of Paris's little-known gems is the Hotel de Sens, a residence that was built between 1475 and 1519, and originally housed a medeival order of archbishops. Later on, royals like the eccentric Queen Margot would live here.

The covered passageways and interconnected courtyards known as the Village St Paul stretch even further back in time. Today home to antique dealers, quaint boutiques and restaurants, the Village once housed a women's monastery that was built in 630, and Charles the 5th built a royal residence here in 1360.

Just outside one of the entrances to the Village St Paul and adjacent to the historic Lycee Charlemagne, you can see the largest remnant of the fortified wall that completely surrounded Paris under the reign of King Philippe-Auguste in the 12th century. The King built the wall to keep invaders out. Certain parts of the Marais were excluded from the protection of the king, who banned certain populations, including Jews, from the city. In yet another example of how Parisians reclaim old spaces, one side of the wall is now enjoyed as a basketball court.

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