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Experience the vibrant Marais district

One of Paris’s most popular districts, the Marais combines aristocratic charm with vibrant art galleries and modern bars. Verity Hogan explores some of this desirable district’s most enticing venues

City Guide
Verity Hogan,

Set across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris on the Right Bank of the River Seine, this formerly aristocratic district has become a centre for trendy restaurants, directional fashion boutiques and independent galleries. With its narrow streets and quirky architectural styles, this is one of the only areas left in modern-day Paris that preserves its medieval architecture rather than the Haussmann-renovated buildings and wide boulevards found elsewhere.

The Marais can be broken down into smaller districts; the Saint-Paul village charms with its clutch of quiet, interconnected courtyards, home to art galleries, fine antique stores, food shops and artisan boutiques. In contrast, rue Vieille du Temple is a hive of activity after dark, playing host to the area’s growing nightlife.

For fashion and design, head to rue des Francs-Bourgeois, one of the Marais’s most popular shopping areas, while those in search of heritage and culture will revel in the Hôtel de Sens. This medieval residence was once home to the eccentric Queen Margot, known for her wild love affairs, and offers elegant formal gardens as well as a well-stocked art gallery.

Fans of alternative film flock to club Silencio; this distinctive space was conceived and designed by legendary director David Lynch and inspired by his film noir Mulholland Drive. With its smoked glass walls, cavernous proportions and 50s-style furnishings, the club has a distinctive style and ambience.

The eclectic entertainment on offer suits the setting; concerts by the artist-in-residence, sets by up-and-coming local bands and appearances by international DJs make up the rota. The club’s cinema is a highlight, offering a programme of premières, films of the week and retrospective showings that are sure to appeal to Lynch’s legion of loyal fans.

The drinks selection is equally attractive, featuring a wide range of classic cocktails complemented by a delicious array of finger food. Although Silencio is only open to members before midnight, those willing to stay up late are sure to find it worth the wait.

Silencio, 142-144 rue Montmartre, 75002 Paris, +33 (0)1 4013 1233

With its elegant brown leather armchairs, sumptuous purple sofas and striking silver walls, Jefrey’s resembles a 19th century gentlemen’s club, albeit one with feminine touches. The low lighting helps to create a romantic ambience while cut-glass decanters and a vintage gramophone add a more masculine tone. The overall speakeasy-feel fits perfectly with the Marais’s old-world charm, inviting its patrons to escape the modern world in this suitably stylish hideaway.

The cocktail list leans more to the classic than the experimental but is cheekily divided into his or hers sections. Those who prefer their spirits straight can buy a bottle and store it on the shelf, labelled with their name to await their next visit.

Jefrey’s, 14 rue Saint-Sauveur, 75002 Paris, +33 (0)1 4233 6077

Andy Wahloo
Hitch a ride on the hippie trail and head to 70s Morocco, recreated in delightfully kitsch style at Andy Wahloo. First designed as a waiting room for the 404 restaurant, the space soon became so popular that it was opened as a venue in its own right, attracting an eclectic clientele.

The décor was inspired by film-set Arabia; the vaulted, orange-walled room features Arabic film posters, vintage soda bottles and detergent boxes while visitors sit, and often dance, on the North African upholstered banquettes.

The cuisine continues the African theme, with Moroccan tapas-style dishes offered alongside more international fare; spiced burgers, miniature pizzas and fresh salads all appear on the menu. Drinks range from North African wines to a varied cocktail list including mojitos, mai tais, caipirinhas and dry gin martinis. Be sure to try the house cocktail, a spicy mix of rum, banana liqueur, ginger and cinnamon with a dash of lime.

Andy Wahloo, 69 rue Gravilliers, 75003 Paris, +33 (0)1 4271 2038

When in the Marais don’t miss….

L’As du Fallafel
This welcoming café offers some of the best falafel in Paris, if not the world. Try the pitta sandwich with its garlic chickpea fritters, creamy hummus, pickled red cabbage, aubergine and just-hot-enough harissa.

L’As du Fallafel, 32 rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, +33 (0)1 4887 6360

Maison de Victor Hugo
The writer found inspiration in this second-floor apartment, writing both Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame here; don’t leave without admiring his writing desk.

Maison de Victor Hugo, Hôtel de Roahan-Guéménée, 6 place des Vosges, 75004 Paris, +33 (0)1 4272 1016

Musée Carnavalet
This stunning period property showcases the history of Paris, re-creating home interiors from the 17th to the 20th century with an array of original artworks and furniture, including pieces sourced from famous Parisians throughout history.

Musée Carnavalet, 23 rue de Sévigné, 75003 Paris, +33 (0)1 4459 5858, carnavalet.paris.fr



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