Le Marais - the Real Paris

18 June 2012

Flight Centre's resident blogger Lauren Burvill recently enjoyed a week in the city of love. Here she talks about her favourite area of Paris – Le Marais. 

 Just one of the many pretty pastries I ate in Paris

From locals drinking wine and smoking at sidewalk cafes to stylish bike riders carrying fresh baguette in their front baskets, the clichés of Paris are easy to spot, especially in Le Marais.

For my most recent trip to the city of light I chose to stay and explore this historic district that spreads across the 3rd and 4tharrondissement. Le Marais is not your typical tourist hub. You won't find any of the large hotel chains here but there are lovely and reasonably priced (by Paris standards) hotels to be found in amongst the winding cobble stone streets. It is also a district beloved for its creativity (my ultimate motivation for staying in Le Marais), with fashion houses, art galleries, artisans and unique boutiques all calling the arrondissement home.

First Impressions

When we first arrived in Le Marais it was a bit of a shambles as it was the day of the French Presidential election and Parisians were out in force to toast to Sarkozy's demise. After braving the city's dodgy metro with suitcases in tow (pack light if you can, most Paris stations are without escalators and lifts) we found the large and somewhat chaotic Bastille roundabout had been roped off in preparation for the night's events. Once we'd made it past the crowds of grungy teenagers and predictable fast food chains we made a simple left turn and entered the quiet yet bustling Le Marais. Young families and pampered pooches were out in force. It was also a sunny day so the parks along the way were filled with locals basking in the sun. As the city's oldest section (the Notre Dame is located close by), the buildings of Le Marais are also beautifully maintained, making for a picturesque stroll wherever you wander.

The Food

 Notre Dame

From my experience, you really can't go wrong when it comes to food in Paris. Even the croissants sold at the train station are tastier than anything I've ever found at home. For macaroons I found my local fix at Gerard Mulot on Rue de Francs Bourgeois. This patisserie is simply stunning and they even wrapped up my selection of macaroons (caramel was my favourite) into a gorgeous little box complete with ribbon.  If you're going to eat just one meal in Le Marais it has to be falafel. Le Marais has long been home to a large Jewish community and as such you'll come across a number of Jewish delis and restaurants. The arrondissement's most famed eatery is L'As du Falafel where the staff happily spruik their falafel and take your order while you wait in line. And yes, it is worth the hype, but be prepared for some messy eating!

The Shopping

The locals in Le Marais are impeccably dressed, from their classic trench coats right down to their neatly dressed children. Yes, even the kids of Le Marais are chic. I also found Parisians are not afraid of clichéd dressing and spotted numerous navy and white striped jumpers on the street – and even the occasional beret. To get into the spirit of things I picked up a classic Breton stripped knit from local boutique loftdesignby, a perfect store for purchasing Parisian-style basics. While Le Marais has a number of department stores and mega-chains like Zara and H&M, these stores are identical all of the world so if you're looking for something truly unique opt for boutiques like Barbara Bui, American Vintahge (not actually vintage) or even the area's many vintage stores. My boyfriend found an immaculate velvet navy blazer from Vintage Desire on Rue de Rosiero for only 10 Euros. Le Marais also has a unique range of artisanal jewellery and upmarket beauty boutiques including Bobby Brown, Kiehl's, Diptyque and L'Occtane.

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.