Artists, designers and the effortlessly hip make their home in the neighborhood of North Marias. Susi Cheshire finds out why. Pictures Paul Cooper
Paris’ hippest neighbourhood is the North Marais, the place to soak up some real Parisian culture and indulge in a spot of chic shopping. Home to artists, foodies, artisans, art galleries, young designers and literary types, it sits comfortably between the Musée Picasso, the Cirque d’Hiver at Filles du Calvaire metro station, a couple of quaint churches and the Rue de Bretagne food market.
The hub of this cartwheel formation of streets is where Rue de Turenne, Rue Vieille du Temple and Rue de Bretagne meet. Steeped in history, the former marshland (Marais means marsh) lay just outside the 1180 city wall. Home to the Knights Templars and country aristocrats who desired a town mansion before they lost everything in la Révolution, Le Marais became the favoured spot for artisans who created their workshops in the former mansion houses. Thanks to a preservation order, many mansions have now been restored into small museums and the area still retains its creative character.
Try delicious Middle Eastern patisserie Le Maraikech, explore the contemporary art galleries in Rue St Claude, shop in the designer boutiques around Rue Charlot, or stop to admire the work of a fashion designer turning his creative hand to a new venture – couturier Christian Lacroix designed the exotic interior of Hotel du Petit Moulin – and you will begin to understand what life in Paris is all about.
What gives the area that certain je ne sais quoi is its speciality shops. Unique to North Marais are Food, a gourmand’s bookstore; blaq out, an arthouse DVD shop; Librairie 213 for rare and limited edition art and photography books; Oldies but Goodies, a record store for collectible vinyl and rare music videos; Julien Caviste, a superb vintner close to accompanying master cheesemonger Jouannault; and Le Boudoir et sa Philosophie, a lavish treasure trove of femininity and homage to the art of the boudoir that would make Marie Antoinette proud.