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Le Marais: Saint Paul Walking Tour

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Why you will love it?

The Marais district is famous for its shopping and its food, but it’s also the heart of Paris and there are many incredible sights to see. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

6 Place de la Bastille, 75012 Paris
Line 1/5/8 - Bastille

Our Insiders' Article


Exit the metro station “Bastille” via any exit. Today’s busy roundabout used to be a prison fortress taken over and destroyed by the revolutionaries on July 14th 1789 (Bastille Day), marking the start of the 10 year French Revolution. There are only very few remains of the famous prison: part of the prisons’ wall can be seen on the platform of metro Line 5 station (Bobigny direction). The Opera Bastille, constructed in 1984 to replace an obsolete train station on the east of the roundabout, is home (along with the Opéra Garnier) to the National Opera of Paris and showcases world-class opera performances. The iconic July Column, with the golden “Spirit of Freedom” on top, now stands in the middle of the roundabout. Built in 1840, it symbolizes King Louis-Philippe’s access to the throne of France in 1830.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Under the July Column is the final resting place of about 700 people that participated in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, but also a few 4,000 year old mummies brought by Napoleon and buried in haste here!

Henri Galli

Walk down Boulevard Henri IV almost all the way to the end of the street, until you reach a small park called Square Henri Galli. On your way, on your left had side, you will surely smell the horse stables of the Republican Guard. You can even enter the building (18 Boulevard Henri IV) and visit the small museum of the Republican Guard, free of charge. In Square Henri Galli lay relics of the Bastille fortress. Built in 1383, the Bastille fortress was used to protect Paris against invaders as well as the king (Charles V) in case of a revolution. Turned into a state prison in the 17th century, it became the symbol of monarchial excessive power. On the 14th of July 1789, although only 7 prisoners remained (for 100 armed guards), the people attacked this symbol and sacked the fortress. This event is considered as the first real revolutionary action of the French Revolution. It is only in 1899 that, when building the Metro Line 1, workers found some of the stones of one of the fortress towers. These stones were brought to Square Henri Galli and reassembled.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Other stones of the Bastille prison were carved in the shape of the fortress. One of those stones can be seen in the Musée Carnavalet (free, 10AM-6PM, closed on Monday), dedicated to Paris. Other stones have been used to biuld the Pont de la Concorde (Concorde Bridge)

Jim Morrison

To the north, take Rue du Petit-Musc. Hôtel de Fieubet, on the corner of Quai des Célestins and Rue du Petit-Musc, is a beautiful legacy of Spanish style architecture of the 17th century. Rue du Petit-Musc, already existing in 1358, was a street where prostitutes would gather in the 18th century. Its former name was Rue Pute-y-Muse, meaning “where prostitutes hide” in old French! Turn left at the first intersection (Rue des Lions Saint-Paul). This road was built on a former alleyway of the Hôtel Saint-Pol, the royal Palace of King Charles V in the 14th century. This alley used to separate the King’s apartments on the left from the Queen’s apartments on the right.  Turn right on Rue de Beautreillis. At 17 Rue Beautreillis is where Jim Morrison was found dead on July 3rd 1971. The old gate amidst the modern constructions in front of 7 Rue Beautreillis is also a curiosity. Walk back to Rue des Lions Saint-Paul, turn right and walk to the end of the street.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Don’t forget to look up at the end of Rue des Lions Saint Paul, the building is listed as a historical monument with a classic 16th century external turret.

Village Saint Paul

Cross Rue Saint Paul and enter Village Saint Paul, once a medieval village by the same name that later became the gardens of the Royal Palace Hôtel Saint-Pol. Village Saint Paul is one of the best kept secrets of Paris, a unique shopping area with a variety of different shops, from garments to decorative stores as well as old antique shops. Lose yourself in this maze of courtyards and gardens, and head north once you have discovered the area.

Parisianist Tip: Don’t hesitate to enter the shops as they offer a lot of original things to buy and are a lot more charming than the international chain stores.

Medieval Wall

Exit Village Saint Paul to the north, on Rue Charlemagne, and turn left. A few meters away, on your left next to a playground, you will see the longest remains of the Wall of Philippe Auguste. The King of France Philippe Auguste had the wall built between 1190 and 1215 in order to protect Paris from a possible English invasion. The Wall of Philippe Auguste included inhabited lands, fields and vineyards to be able to survive in case of a siege. The wall, which had a shape of a heart, was destroyed in the 16th century, yet some parts are still visible, and this section is the longest section visible.

Parisianist Fun Fact: moats were dug outside the city walls, later used as open air sewers and eventually filled up because of health issues in the 17th century. The tower visible on Rue Charlemagne was where Gabriel 1er Montgomery, involuntary murderer of King Henri II in a friendly dual, was imprisoned for a  few days.

Hôtel de Sens

Continue on Rue Charlemagne and turn at the first intersection to the left on Rue du Fauconnier. Follow this street until the first intersection and, on your right, you will see one of the 2 last medieval castles left in Paris. This castle was built between 1475 and 1519 in a flamboyant gothic style, and was home to one of the most well known Queens of France, Queen Margot. Sold to private investors during the French Revolution in the 1790’s, becoming even a jam factory for several years, the city of Paris bought it back in 1911. Since 1961, it houses the Forney Library, a space dedicated to fine arts, art jobs and skills and decorative arts.

Parisianist Fun Fact: look up. There is a cannonball lodged in the front wall, dating July 28th 1830. Moreover, the little opening just above the entrance of the castle is said to have been used to pour boiling oil on intruders.

Parisianist Tip: Hôtel de Sens cannot be visited, but you can always enter the front court to have a closer view at the fine architecture. Proceed up Rue du Figuier and immediately turn left 30m ahead to access the gardens of Hôtel de Sens and get a look at the back side of the castle.


Exit the Hôtel de Sens garden via the northwestern exit and turn right on Rue des Nonnains-d’Hyères. During the 18th century, a child living on this street is arrested for theft, but people thought that he had actually been kidnapped by King Louis XV and had his blood used in the royal baths! Quickly, more than 2000 people protested against the king. Having heard of the rebellion, Louis XV decided to build a direct road between Versailles and a royal palace further north avoiding Paris, a road known today as the Rebellion Road. Turn left on Rue de Jouy and turn left again at the first intersection (Rue François Miron). About 30m on your right, you will see 2 very old houses (11 and 13 Rue François Miron), believed to have been built at the beginning of the 16th century. These cannot be visited.

Parisianist Tip: On the other hand, cross the road and at 46 Rue François Miron and enter Maison d’Ourscamp, a house also built in the beginning of the 16th century. Someone will most likely take you to the amazing cellar (under renovation). Don’t hesitate to give a donation to this association that focuses on preserving the old heritage of Paris.

Shoah Memorial

Walk back to the intersection with Rue Geoffroy l’Asnier and turn right. At 26 Rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, you will see the impressive entrance to Hôtel Chalon-Luxembourg, a private residence. Almost opposite this massive door, at 17 Rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, is the Mémorial de la Shoah (free, 10AM-5:30PM, closed on Saturday), a museum dedicated to the history of the Jewish people during WWII. Among the curiosities of the Mémorial de la Shoah is the Wall of Names with the names of the deported French citizens carved into the stone. After the visit, take the Allée des Justes pedestrian street at the corner of the Mémorial de la Shoah west, where a homage is paid to the people that have risked their lives helping the Jews.

Saint Gervais

Go all the way until the end of Allée des Justes, cross the road and go straight on Rue du Grenier sur l’Eau. At the end of the street look up and, on your left hand side, you will see an old 17th century house. Just above the street sign “Rue du Grenier sur l’Eau”, you will see a carved Fleur de Lys (Lily Flower), symbol of the monarchy, which was scratched during the French Revolution. Slightly to your left, in Rue des Barres, is the entrance of Saint Gervais church. Walk to the end of Rue des Barres to get a great photo of Saint Gervais Church or have a drink on the nice terrace up ahead. Although it was finished in 1621, Saint Gervais was built on the foundations of a 4th century church, making it one of the oldest churches on the Right Bank of Paris. Take the time to walk inside the church as it contains some very interesting paintings and architecture. Sadly,in 1918, an enemy bomb fell on the church killing 88 people, thus becoming the deadliest bombing in Paris during WWI. Exit Saint Gervais church through the main entrance to the west (opposite from where you entered), and walk towards the main road up ahead.

Parisianist Fun Fact: In front of Saint Gervais Church is a lone elm, a tradition that has been kept since the Middle Ages. In the old days, people would gather under an elm tree mainly to settle financial disagreements.

Hôtel de Ville

In front of you is Hôtel de Ville, the city hall, the impressive building which, aside from the exhibition areas, unfortunately cannot be visited. Turn left on Rue de Lobau and then right on Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville in order to go around the building and find yourself on Place de l’hotel de Ville, a lively square facing the city hall. The neo-Renaissance style Hotel de Ville was built in 1882 following the destruction of the former city hall during the French civil war in 1871, but with similar architectural plans.

Parisianist Fun Fact: All the way until the beginning of the 20th century, most of the laundry was done in the Seine River on huge barges, the biggest one being l’Arche Marion, employing over 250 people docked at the foot of Hôtel de Ville. 

Tour Saint Jacques

Walk up to the northwestern side of Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (where the merry-go-round is) and go on Rue de Rivoli. Less than 100m ahead is the Tour Saint Jacques. This Flamboyant Gothic tower is all that remains of Saint Jacques de la Boucherie church, a 16th century church that was destroyed shortly after the revolution. Between the 13th and the 16th century, this church stood in the middle of the Grande Boucherie (Great Butchers) district, and contained relics of James the Great, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. It was also one of the starting points of the pilgrimage that lead to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Beautifully restored in 2012, enter the small park to get a closer view on this beautiful tower. 

Centre Pompidou

Walk up Rue Saint Martin (on the north eastern side of Parc de la Tour Saint Jacques), one of the oldest streets built by the Romans in the 1st century, and take the third street to the right (Rue du Cloître Saint-Merri). Ahead, on your left, you will see the 1983 Stravinsky Fountain, a public fountain with 16 colourful animated sculptures representing the works of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Walk towards the modern building behind the fountain and slightly to your left, you will be able to see the large square at the foot of the Centre Georges Pompidou (13€ / 11AM-10PM / closed on Tuesday). Built in 1977, this architecturally daring building was commissioned by former French President Georges Pompidou and is home to the biggest collection of modern art in Europe. It also houses the biggest public reading library in Europe.

Parisianist Tip: The Pompidou Center always hosts very interesting exhibitions. If you are not a big modern art fan, you can always buy a 3€ ticket to go up to the 6th floor and enjoy the view on Paris or a drink at “Le Georges” restaurant.

BHV / Marais

Walk to the north of the square and turn right on Rue Rambuteau. Cross the busy Rue Beaubourg and proceed on Rue Rambuteau up to the first intersection. Turn right on Rue du Temple, a very busy and lively street in Paris, with a lot of boutiques and cafés. Rue du Temple is one of the main streets of the Marais district, and a very popular gay and lesbian area. Walk down a few blocks until you reach Rue de la Verrerie and the northwest entrance to the BHV / Marais, one of the biggest department stores in Paris. Created in 1856, the BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville or “City Hall Bazaar”) was initially a do-it-yourself store, but today, you will find all the famous clothing and cosmetics brands in this very popular store. The metro station “Hôtel de Ville” is located on Rue de Rivoli, between BHV / Marais and Hôtel de Ville.

Parisianist Fun Fact: BHV creator Xavier Ruel only had a small shop in 1855, when Eugénie, Napoleon III’s wife passed by the shop on Rue de Rivoli in her stagecoach. For some odd reason, the horses suddenly panicked, but Ruel jumped on the horses and managed to calm them down. To thank him for his act of bravery, Eugénie gave him a sum of money which he then used to buy the shops next to his, and therefore starting his shopping empire.

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