Paris - Around Town : Create Bookmark Marais and the Bastille (part 1)

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For many, the Marais is the most enjoyable quarter of Paris, with its mansions, museums and medieval lanes, but the district was little more than a muddy swamp until Henri IV built the place Royale (now place des Vosges) in 1605. Following its notoriety as the birthplace of the Revolution, the Bastille district sank into oblivion, until artists and designers arrived in the 1990s. Its streets are now home to the city’s liveliest nightspots.

The Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter, centred around rues des Rosiers and des Écouffes, was established in the 13th century and has attracted immigrants since the Revolution. Many Jews fled here to escape persecution in Eastern Europe, but were arrested during the Nazi Occupation. Since World War II, Sephardic Jews from North Africa have found new homes here.

  1. Musée Picasso

    When the Spanish-born artist Pablo Picasso died in 1973, his family donated thousands of his works to the French state in lieu of estate taxes. Thus Paris enjoys the largest collection of Picassos in the world. Housed in the Hôtel Salé, the museum displays the range of his artistic development, from his Blue and Pink Periods to Cubism, and reveals his proficiency in an astonishing range of techniques and materials . The museum is closed for renovation work, which should be completed by 2012.

    • 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003

    • Closed for refurbishment from Aug 2009

    • Admission charge (free first Sun of month)


  2. Musée Cognacq-Jay

    This small but excellent museum portrays the sophisticated French lifestyle in the so-called Age of Enlightenment, which centred around Paris. The 18th-century art and furniture on display were once the private collection of Ernest Cognacq and his wife, Louise Jay, founders of the Samaritaine department store. It is superbly displayed in the Hôtel Donon, an elegant late 16th-century building with an 18th-century façade .

    Musée Cognacq-Jay
  3. Place des Vosges

    Paris’s oldest square is also one of the most beautiful in the world. The square was commissioned by Henri IV. Its 36 houses with red-gold brick and stone façades, slate roofs and dormer windows were laid out with striking symmetry in 1612. Originally built for silk workers, the likes of Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642) and play-wright Molière (1622–73) quickly moved in and it remains an upper-class residential address. But everyone can enjoy a stroll around the area and the art galleries under the arcades.

    Place des Vosges
  4. Musée Carnavalet

    Devoted to the history of Paris, this museum sprawls through two mansions, the 16th-century Carnavalet and 17th-century Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau. The former was the home of Madame de Sévigné, the famous letter-writer, from 1677–96 and a gallery here portrays her life. The extensive museum contains period rooms filled with art and portraits. Revolutionary artifacts and memorabilia of 18th-century philosophers Rousseau and Voltaire .

  5. Place de la Bastille

    Today this notorious square has become a busy traffic circle. Originally, the Bastille was a fortress built by Charles V to defend the eastern edge of the city, but it soon became a jail for political prisoners. Angry citizens, rising up against the excesses of the monarchy, stormed the Bastille 14 July 1789, setting off the French Revolution, and destroyed this hated symbol of oppression. In its place is the bronze Colonne de Juillet (July Column), 52 m (171 ft) high and crowned by the Angel of Liberty, which commemorates those who died in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. Looming behind it is the Opéra Bastille, once the largest opera house in the world, which opened on the bicentennial of the Revolution in 1989.

    Place de la Bastille
  6. Marché d’Aligre

    Set around an old guardhouse and clocktower, the wonderful Aligre market is a melting pot of Parisians from all walks of life. It dates back to 1643 and was once as important as the more famous Les Halles  In the gourmet covered market you’ll see everything from rows of pheasants to a whole wild boar hanging from the stalls. North African traders give the outdoor produce market an ethnic flare. The flea market dates back to the days when nuns distributed second-hand clothing to the poor .

    • pl d’Aligre

    • Open am daily

  7. The Passages

    The Bastille has been a quarter of working-class artisans and craft guilds since the 17th century and many furniture makers are still located in these small alleyways, called passages. The rue du Faubourg-St-Antoine is lined with shops displaying a striking array of both traditional period furniture and modern designs, but don’t neglect to visit the narrow passages, such as the Passage de l’Homme, running off this and other streets in the Bastille. Many artists and craftspeople have their ateliers (workshops) in these atmospheric alleys.

    Bastille passage
  8. Rue de Lappe

    Once famous for its 1930s dance halls (bals musettes), rue de Lappe is still the Bastille’s after-dark hotspot. This short, narrow street is filled with bars, clubs, restaurants and cafés, and positively throbs with music. Crowds of hip night-owls trawl the cobblestones looking for action, and spill into the adjoining rue de la Roquette and rue de Charonne where there are even more trendy bars and restaurants.

  9. Maison Européenne de la Photographie

    This excellent gallery showcasing contemporary European photography opened in 1996 in an early 18th-century mansion, Hôtel Hénault de Cantorbre. The restoration is a mix of historic features and modern spaces that show off its permanent collection and changing exhibitions, including multimedia works.

    • 5–7 rue de Fourcy, 75004

    • Open 11am–8pm Wed–Sun

    • Admission charge (free Wed after 5pm &; for under 8s)


  10. Maison de Victor Hugo

    French author Victor Hugo (1802–85) lived on the second floor of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, the largest house on the place des Vosges, from 1832 to 1848. He wrote most of Les Misérables here and many other works. In 1903 the house became a museum of his life.

    • 6 pl des Vosges, 75004

    • Open 10am–6pm Tue–Sun

    • Closed public holidays

    • Admission charge for exhibitions


    Maison de Victor Hugo
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