Le Marais is hands down my favorite neighborhood in Paris. Every time I visit Paris I have to make sure that I at least spend a day here wandering the streets, drinking a kir royale and having dinner here. I could probably spend my entire time in Paris here if I really wanted to. For me this neighborhood has it all and is the perfect spot to eat local in.
Le Marais was originally built up in the 1200s after the Knights Templar (who we all know thanks to Dan Brown, right??) built a temple here and ever since then this has been an attractive district to settle in. During the 1300s King Charles I of Anjou, the brother to the King of France, had a royal residence built for himself here and after that the nobility moved in in droves. Up until the 17th century Le Marais was strictly for the nobility but as the area became increasingly crowded the nobility began to move out and the area became more commercialized. With the ever growing commercialism of Le Marais the Jewish population also began to settle there. And soon the neighborhood became known as Pletzl, which means Little Place in Yiddish, with an influx of Parisian, Eastern European and North African Jews.
Up until World War II this was a thriving and vibrant community however the neighborhood and its inhabitants were targeted by the Nazis and the Vichy’s collaboration and over half of Le Marais Jewish population were sent and perished in the internment camps. After the war the area was once again a working class neighborhood and the buildings in a bad state of disrepair. From the 1960s on there was an active restoration program to revive the neighborhood and its buildings.
Today, Le Marais is a thriving and cultural neighborhood. The Jewish population is thriving here and you can see their presence throughout the streets. The neighborhood also has become the center of the LGBT community in Paris. Since the 1980’s the neighborhood experienced a growing LGBT population as well as many gay bars, nightclubs, and shops. Today Le Marais is a cross section of these two communities as well as being a fashionable district for galleries, and trendy restaurants and bars.
Eat Local in Le Marais
17 Rue Charlot
Le Baromètre is a traditional French Bistro and is the sort of place that your French grandmother, if you had a French grandmother that is, would have gone in her youth. It is a relaxed old school bistro with crocks of dijon mustard on the table and a chalkboard menu. The food is sublime in its simplicity. Alex and I had very traditional French dishes when we ate there. We started with the house gewurztraminer and a chevre salad which is most likely my all time favorite salad ever! How can you not like a salad that is topped with toasted pieces of bread with molten chevre on top? I’ll tell you, you can’t. For our main courses I had the roast chicken and Alex had the duck confit. These came with sides of roast potatoes (probably the greatest potato we have ever eaten) and fries. All of this I managed to dunk liberally in dijon because I am a mustard addict. If you are looking for a French bistro to remind you of days long gone without breaking the bank (I am looking at you, Chez George) then Le Baromètre is the place for you.
L’As du Fallafel
32-34 Rue des Rosiers
THIS PLACE IS FAMOUS and THE place to go if you are craving falafel while in Europe. And yes, I am advocating a trip to Paris in order to satiate a falafel craving. L’As du Fallafel is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a lunch to go or late afternoon snack. These falafels are quite large though, so they could easily be shared as well. The classic falafel or kebab (which is also fantastic) from here is combined with eggplant, hummus, a yogurt sauce, cabbage, and spicy sauce if you want. There is a small section of seating inside but the more popular way is to get it to go and just grab a seat anywhere in Le Marais. We chose to attempt to eat and walk, which is not an easy feat, so we ended up hunkering down on the sidewalk to finish the gloriousness that is L’As du Fallafel.
44 Rue des Rosiers
I wasn’t sure whether to put Tchik Tchak under food or drinks but I think it fits here. Tchik Tchak is a fast food place located just down the street from L’As du Fallafel but we came here for one reason and one reason only, the smoothies. I love a good smoothie and this seems to be something I always crave but is hard to find. So you can imagine my happiness when we found this place! They have several smoothies and fresh squeezed juices. All the drinks are made fresh when you order them and my only complaint is that they are too small! I could easily have had one more. Either way it was a great way to start off our day of eating adventures throughout Le Marais.
28 Rue Vieille du Temple
Les Philosophes is another classic French bistro, the kind that photographs so wonderfully with its outside seating and maroon red overhang and it is a perfect place for lunch in Le Marais. We stopped here as we were absolutely wilting from the heat wave that had overcome Paris and were in desperate need of some rosé. They have a great wine selection here especially their whites and roses if you too are stuck in the middle of the most ridiculous heat wave ever. Since it was so hot we decided to have something light for lunch and split the tomato tart tatin which came with a side salad and bread.
This was a perfect light lunch for us; the tart was flaky and full of flavor. The tomatoes were perfectly roasted and paired nicely with the goat cheese. The salad was a typically French salad with mixed greens and a few vegetables in a Dijon mustard vinaigrette and the bread was just sublime. The French really have a way to elevate the simple baguette. The atmosphere here is quite lovely and in the heart of Le Marais so the seating outside is ideal for people watching.
Between a bottle or two of wine, lunch and coffee you can easily while away an entire afternoon here and why wouldn’t you?
44 Rue Vieille du Temple
What can I say about this restaurant? It is probably my favorite restaurant ever and every time we are in Paris I make it a priority to stop here. I first discovered this restaurant when I was moving to Rome back in 2010 and was visiting Paris with my family. We stumbled upon this restaurant and were beckoned in with wine mojitos. We had already had a few Kir Royales so we said why not? BEST DECISION EVER!
Two and half years later when Alex and I were visiting Paris before moving back to California, I was insistent that we visit this restaurant. There was one catch however, I could not remember its name and had only a general idea where it was. Well luckily, I have a really good sense of direction and was magically able to find this restaurant again! So obviously, we had to visit again when we were in Paris most recently.
This restaurant is on the more expensive end, we spent about 150euros here, but it was well worth it. The menu is written on a chalkboard sign in the corner of the restaurant and then they hand you the wine list which is organized by price, which is super handy when you aren’t too familiar with French wines. We went with champagne because we were in France, it was a must! While the menu is in French the staff is more than happy to explain it to you. The cuisine is not classic French bistro but instead takes these traditional dishes and gives them a modern spin.
My favorite dish there is the small red pepper stuffed with goat cheese. They are so simple but so incredibly flavorful. We also had the whole St. Pierre white fish, which was served whole and then deboned tableside, and Alex had the chateaubriand beef topped with housemade foie gras. He was in heaven. (I think Alex would eat foie gras every day if he could get away with it). And then there is dessert, their pain perdue here is out of this world! It is smothered in a salted caramel sauce and served with vanilla ice cream, so decadent. And if you are more of a cheese person, their selection is wonderful. I had three types of goat cheese and I think the one aged in ash was my favorite. So who wants to go to Paris right now?!?
It is best to make reservations for Le Colimaçon as it is a very small restaurant and is always busy for a good reason. I mean look how good that pain perdue looks?!?
46 Rue des Rosiers
Damyel is a kosher chocolatier with locations all over the city but I had to pop in here after stopping at L’As du Fallafel one day. I could not ignore the pastel colored tower of macarons, a piece of confectionery that I had not had in Paris yet. I had walked into Laduree earlier that day and was overwhelmed both by the opulence of the store, the lines and the prices of the macarons. I may not be a very good budgeter but I am sure paying 30euros for macarons was something I didn’t need to do. There had to be amazing macarons in the city that wouldn’t require me to sell my kidneys.
And sure enough there were. I found my macaron heaven at Damyel. Damyel has more than just macarons however, they first are a chocolate house and have a huge selection of chocolates. If you are a chocolate fan I would make a stop here a priority. As for me, I stuck to my delicious and oh so trendy macarons and couldn’t have been happier!
Drink Local in Le Marais
Les Agapes de Nina
5 rue Ferdinand Duval
Les Agapes de Nina is a wine bar we discovered while attempting to escape the heat (Do you see a recurring theme?? Take our advice and avoid heat waves at all costs, if you can). But either way treat yourself to a few glasses of sparkling here. This wine bar has a fantastic selection of bubblies from all over France and not just champagne so if you are looking to expand your bubbly knowledge then this is the place to visit. If bubbles are not your thing, they do have a great selection of reds, white, and rosé. They also have a great selection of charcuterie, cheese, and snacks, to accompany your wine!
Le Belle Hortense
31 Rue Vieille du Temple
Le Belle Hortense seems to come out of a movie set. I feel like in movies there are always bars that just happen to be bookshops as well and that is exactly what Le Belle Hortense is. This cozy little bar is a huge draw for locals in the neighborhood and if you come here for a drink or two you can see them browsing the shelves, having a literature discussion (I am assuming; I don’t speak French) and enjoying a glass of wine. This is the perfect bar to visit to have quiet chat and enjoy some French wine.
Little Red Door
60 Rue Charlot
Little Red Door is the bar we accidentally went to when we were meeting up with Edna (from Expat Edna) for the first time. We were supposed to be meeting them at Red House (which is equally amazing but totally different vibe) and we went to Red Door. It was a happy mistake however. As soon as we stepped into this cocktail bar we knew that we would have to come back for a drink or two. Little Red Door is modeled after the speakeasies of prohibition era although there is no special code or password here. You just have to pay attention as the entrance is non-descript.
Once you are inside however the warm ambiance beckons you in. Grab probably the most comfortable ever seats at the bar and be prepared to have some amazing cocktails. The cocktails rotate about twice a year to take advantage of seasonal ingredients and are like nothing you have ever had before. The drinks are prepared by incredibly knowledgeable bar staff and served in vintage glassware. The bar is laid back but it can get crazy on the weekends. It was voted one of the best bars in the world after all!
Au Petit Fer a Cheval
30 Rue Vieille du Temple
When the sun sets and the weather cools off is the perfect time to visit Au Petit Fer a Cheval and believe me it is petite! This is one of Paris’ smallest bars and has been in business for over 100 years. If you can, grab a spot at one of the few bistro tables outside or head to the horseshoe shaped bar just inside the doors. On a lovely evening the doors will be open and the patrons will be spilling out onto the sidewalk as the sounds of chatter and laughter float through the air. If you want a perfect Parisian summer night, end your evening here. You never know about what and who you will end up talking about! Or if you are lucky you may see an impromptu haircut and then get yelled at for trying to take a snapchat of it….
So if you want to drink and eat local in Le Marais this is your guide! We absolutely love each and everyone of these places and I would like to be in Paris right now. Fall is probably my favorite time to visit Paris anyways, perhaps we should book a return flight there….
Have you spent some time in Le Marais? Do you have any other suggestions of places we should try here? We are always on the hunt for more restaurants and bars to drink and eat local in Le Marais! Let us know in the comments and happy travels!
Heading to Paris soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance! Sure you may not use it but its always good to have. We recommend World Nomads which we have been using for years and have always made us feel secure as we travel around the world!
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