An underrated district: the old Marais

L'ancien Marais par Esprit de France
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A walk between Saint Gervais-Saint Protais Church and Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church

Do you know that the part of the Marais enclosed between Saint Gervais-Saint Protais Church and Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church was originally a Royal city built according to the wishes of King Charles V, who no longer felt safe on the Ile de la Cité ? Today very few things remain of this royal city, except for some traces still visible in the courtyards occupied by the antique dealers of the Village Saint Paul. We suggest a walk linking the origins of this little-known district of the Marais to the buildings occupying it today.

Leave the parvis of Saint Gervais-Saint Protais, where an elm tree stands. It recalls the one that stood there from the thirteenth century on and used to be a symbol of justice. People would come under the tree to claim or pay their debts! The church itself dates mostly from the seventeenth century though it is very famous for its Renaissance stained glass windows and its organ, since four generations of musicians from the Couperin family used to play there on a regular basis. Walk through the building and then exit, along the apse, into the rue des Barres. You will find yourself in a pedestrian medieval street with picturesque timbered houses: a true village atmosphere in the heart of old Paris. Nearby, the Holocaust Memorial reminds us that many Jewish craftsmen lived and worked in the courtyards of this old neighborhood.

The quiet rue du Pont Louis-Philippe is lined with designer boutiques to be discovered without forgetting to make a stop at Les Merveilleux de Fred pastry shop, the specialty of which, a whipped-cream-topped meringue which comes from the north of France, is delightfully light! Then, through the secret and narrow rue du Prévost, you will reach the Hotel de Sens, once the residence of the Archbishop of Sens and Paris and a shelter for the astronomer Nostradamus and also Queen Margot at the time of Catherine de Medicis.

Then, before ending your walk in the quiet courtyards of the Village Saint Paul with their shops and cafes, you will follow the 70 m-long remnants of the medieval Paris fortress built by the king Philippe Auguste at the end of the 12th century before Charles V decided to push the walls to the current Place de la Bastille, two centuries later.