The Coolest Hood in Paris
This week I started out realizing another year of my life has passed and I’m getting close to one of those big birthdays we wish we weren’t celebrating and then end up doing, in a big way…but I’m not there, yet. Thirty-nine percent of this life has been spent living in Paris, which is another shocking statistic for me—I never would have dreamed it was possible to be anywhere for such a long time. But, Paris is simply that addictive.
According to Time Out’s poll of 27,000 city-dwellers and local experts who ranked the 49 greatest places for food, fun, culture and community, I live in the 36th coolest neighborhood in the world…Le Haut Marais (Paris, 3rd arrondissement).
First place was Norrebro in Copenhagen, Denmark, thanks to its “dazzling blend of historic landmarks, ultramodern architecture and food.” I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but it’s tough for me to imagine it any cooler than the Marais! Andersonville, in Chicago, came in second place; Chelsea, in New York, came in 6th and Silverlake, in Los Angeles, came in 14th.
Here’s what Time Out had to say about the Haut-Marais:
36. Haut-Marais, Paris
Think you know the Marais? Think again. This isn’t the tourist-crammed Rue des Rosiers we’re on about: this is the artsy triangle that covers the often-overlooked area between Rambuteau, Temple and Saint-Sébastien Froissart. And why exactly do we—and so many other locals—rate it? These past few years, all sorts of super-stylish hangouts have popped up almost out of nowhere. There’s Enfants du Marché, an excellent wine bar-cum-restaurant tucked inside the Marché des Enfants Rouges; contemporary art galleries like Suzanne Tarasieve, Emmanuel Perrotin and Thaddaeus Ropac; countless vintage shops and concept stores with an ethical bent (bonjour Merci). And perhaps most significantly, for us at least, the neighborhood has been at the forefront of Paris’s mixology scene for going on a decade now. In fact, two of the best bars in the world (according to us) are to be found in the area. Santé to that!
When I moved into the neighborhood in 1997, it was downright scruffy. The oldest covered market in the city of Paris, Les Enfants Rouges, was scheduled to become a parking lot, but that decision was fortunately nixed, and the market was re-established. There were at one time eight tailor shops on one side of my block, all of which are gone, gone, gone, now replaced by designer boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. I watched it gentrify, starting with the redesign of rue de Bretagne, when the city narrowed the street (and hence the traffic), widened the sidewalks and planted trees the entire length of it. That’s when the cafés began to spill out onto the sidewalks, the little independent shops turned over one-by-one giving way to the big-gun chain operations and little-by-little the face of the “quartier” got a lift.
Some people complain about the progress, remembering back when it was oozing with old-world charm, but personally I like the explosive life of the “hood” and certainly don’t mind that our property values are literally six times what they were in the year 2000, when I bought my apartment from my landlord. (If they had known the future, I wonder if they would have sold it?)
I’m not the best one to ask, however, about what’s cool to visit and what’s not, since I’m just living it every day and not one of the “cool” people. But, Paris ZigZag has some good ideas for you! Here’s one day in the Haut Marais according to Paris ZigZag…if that’s all you have to spend!:
10 a.m…a Pain au Chocolat at Dupain
They claim Dupain is the new bakery to follow, but since I swore off bread years ago, you can’t ask me. ZigZag says that the organic flour makes for generous and airy loaves. But the pain au chocolat is to die for, made with Valrhona chocolate and perfect puff pastry. I wish I didn’t know about it. (20 Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, actually in the 11th)
11 a.m…Marché des Enfants Rouges
Yep, it’s the oldest covered market of Paris dating back to 1615. My own building is almost as old. Classified as a historical monument, it is worth your visit, although I must admit, I don’t go often since I stopped cooking regularly years ago (except during confinement when the restaurants were closed). There’s one stand ZigZag likes most, that of Alain Miam-Miam who is a tall guy who sings, chats loudly and lets himself be photographed while he concocts his famous sandwiches. (39 rue de Bretagne, 75003)
1 p.m…a lunch at La Maison Plisson
I disagree. Sure, La Maison Plisson is a nice grocery store and a decent lunch, but that’s a far as I’ll throw it. (93 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003) There’s nothing like lunch at Café Charlot! And that’s where I am almost every day. Try out their burgers if you don’t believe me. Although I’m known as Madame Plat du Jour, it’s the best there is anywhere. (38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003)
3 p.m…A walk along the boulevard, rich in sharp boutiques. This strip was once a wasteland. Now it’s teeming with cool boutiques, such as Leon & Harper, Swildens, Kitsuné, Cuisse de Grenouille…shopaholics will be in heaven. Merci (111 boulevard Beaumarchais) is also an essential stop in the neighborhood (but be prepared to pay a big price). My advice would be to get off the boulevard and head into the little streets where the real action is.
5 p.m…a snack at Bontemps to take away into the Square du Temple
Bontemps may be ZigZag’s favorite, but there are now too many pastry, cookie and chocolate shops on rue de Bretagne for my taste. In fact, sugar has replaced anything healthy we should be eating…this is what’s not so cool about the hood (in my opinion). I’m watching the French gain weight and lose their waifish look as a result of these bad habits. (57 Rue de Bretagne, 75003)
6 p.m…visit the art galleries
The surroundings of the Carreau du Temple, a cultural space in its own right, are rich in original galleries. There is, for example, the Galerie Glénat, specializing in comics. On Rue Saint-Gilles, you can go to the Polka Galerie, which focuses on photography and more particularly photo-reportage, while Art:Concept, on Rue des Arquebusiers, focuses on modern art. Now we’re talking! If you want art, this is the hood. There is no shortage of art museums and galleries, but don’t start at 6 p.m…as they will close before you have time to really enjoy them!
8 p.m…dinner at Les Chouettes
I remember when this was The Web Bar. It’s been lots of things, but Les Chouettes is what’s there now in front of the Carreau du Temple. The setting is exceptional and its Eiffel style glass roof leaves you speechless. ZigZag loves this spot (32 Rue de Picardie, 75003), but I have a host of others one shouldn’t miss, including Chez Omar, the mainstay of the hood where you’ll find locals and tourists enjoying Moroccan couscous and fabulous grilled meats. (47 rue de Bretagne)
10 p.m…a drink at Mary Celeste
Mary Céleste, a lively bar on the corner. (1, Rue Commines, 75003) I’ve never been, but pass it regularly, and lively it is. On my own street, however, is Candelaria, a taco bar and hidden watering hole that beats Mary Céléste for being cool. I know because the noise from it interferes with my sleep! (52 Rue de Saintonge, 75003)
This is just the beginning, if you ask me, so you need a whole lot more than one day to visit the Haut-Marais…you need 24 years at least…like me!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian at Café Charlot, photo ©Lisa Anselmo
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