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Concierge.com

Marais, Paris

Paris
France
Concierge.com's insider take:

Since the 1990s, the focus of the city's cruising and schmoozing scene has been the Marais, especially the area around Square du Temple in the Third Arrondissement. It wasn't always so: Historically grubby (the name means "marsh"), the district was almost razed during the interwar years, replaced by a mass of skyscrapers designed by Le Corbusier. World War II stopped him, but postwar developer-visionaries tried to create a historical theme park out of the neighborhood. Instead, culture minister André Malraux designated the neighborhood a historic monument in 1962, resulting in blanket gentrification: Museums, administrative offices, and mansions now occupy buildings that once housed factories or tenements. Starting in the 1980s, the gay scene moved into the roistering Rue Vieille du Temple and engendered dozens of leisure and entertainment venues. And the small Jewish neighborhood that grew up in the 1800s around Rue des Rosiers is now a clutter of funky boutiques, kosher food stores, and falafel joints. In 1988, the Jewish History Museum opened in the masterfully restored Hôtel Saint-Aignan (71 Rue du Temple; 33-1-53-01-86-60; www.mahj.org; closed Sat). Also nearby are the Musée Carnavalet; the superb and comprehensive Picasso Museum (5 Rue Thorigny; 33-1-42-71-25-21; www.musee-picasso.fr; closed Tues); the Musée Cognacq-Jay, a small, personal collection of fine art (8 Rue Elzévir; 33-1-40-27-07-21; www.cognacq-jay.paris.fr; closed Mon); and the Pompidou. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is Place des Vosges, where fountains and horse chestnut trees are hedged by symmetrical, slate-roofed pavilions of brick built in the early 17th century to house King Louis XIII's court. Visit the Victor Hugo house museum, on the square's southeast corner, to get an aerial view (6 Place des Vosges; 33-1-42-72-10-16; www.musee-hugo.paris.fr; closed Mon).

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.