This chic Paris district is becoming the trendiest city break in Europe

This chic Paris district is becoming the trendiest city break in Europe

At Boubale restaurant in Paris, you won’t find steak frites on the menu. But you will find sea bream with Persian sabzi, olives, pine nuts and tahini sauce, or a frisbee-sized schnitzel with a side-serving of fermented cabbage.

Next door at the sexy little Bar Boubale, the cocktail of the day is an unlikely mix of Grand Marnier, croissant syrup and fermented tomato.

“You’re really going to order that?” asks my friend Shelley. But after one sip, she tries to wrestle it from me.

Boubale is part of Hotel Le Grand Mazarin, a fittingly radical newcomer in Le Marais, the central Parisian district that has lived through centuries of radical change.

What started life in the 12th century as marshland – the origin of its name – became Paris’s most fashionable district in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the bogs were drained and grand villas were built for the Parisian bourgeoisie.

Bar Boubale at Le Marais’s Le Grand Mazarin attracts a trendy yet laidback crowd (Vincent Leroux/Le Grand Mazarin)

After the French Revolution, Le Marais began a long period of decay, until it was recolonised in the 20th century by artists, writers and avant-garde actors – and it hasn’t looked back since.

Le Marais is once again having its moment, and now hums with indie boutiques, concept stores, modern art galleries, bijou museums, and fabulous, eclectic food produced by its diverse and creative community.

Hotel Le Grand Mazarin is a case in point. Since it opened last September on the eve of Paris Fashion Week, it has become Paris’s latest hotspot. The five-star boutique hotel in a restored 17th-century villa has had the full Wes Anderson treatment – a crazily camp melange of salmon pinks, aquamarines and marine themes, created by the design team behind Annabel’s in London.

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The restaurant Boubale draws its influence from far Eastern Europe, from the folk prints on the walls to the food, reflecting the immigrant heritage of Le Marais in the most delicious way imaginable. In the basement is a fairy-grotto spa, with a peppermint-striped swimming pool, hot tub and steam room.

It is also the perfect base from which to explore Le Marais over a couple of days, before Olympics madness takes over the city. I’ve travelled to Paris frequently, but I still can’t quite get over the fact that you can jump on the Eurostar at London St Pancras and be walking through Paris’s most a la mode district in just 2.5 hours.

Here’s how to make the most of it.

La Place des Vosges

The prettiest square in Paris is lined with chestnut trees and stone arcades that now house shops, cafes and galleries. Make time for a cafe au lait and an eclair at Carette, and drop into Maison Pourchet, the cult handbag boutique.

Stroll around La Place des Vosges, one of the oldest squares in Paris (Getty)

Le Musee Picasso

Le Marais’s most well known museum features a small but important collection of some of Picasso’s greatest hits. Spend a couple of joyful hours wandering around the collection housed in the magnificent 17th-century Hotel Sale. Buy tickets online for €16 (£13.50).

Centre Pompidou

You will either love or hate this monument to brutalist Seventies architecture on the edge of Le Marais. France’s National Museum of Modern Art houses an impressive collection of contemporary works, from Kandinsky to Matisse and Chagall. It’s worth taking the escalator to the sixth-floor terrace for spectacular views of Paris. The Pompidou will be closing in the second half of 2024 for a (much needed) five-year renovation. So get your skates on. Tickets are €15 or free for under-25s.

The distinctive Centre Pompidou is home to France’s National Museum of Modern Art (Getty)


Quite possibly my favourite shop in the entire world, this concept store is a three-storey warehouse of non-stop delights, from chic indie fashion brands to awesomely stylish homewares and French beauty brands that only Parisian women seem to know about. Merci also has a delightful on-site restaurant serving fresh salads and cakes for retail refuelling.


Another unique fashion and homewares store, sprawled across several buildings in the wonderful shopping street Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie. For more excellent shopping, wander down Rue du Temple, Rue Vielle du Temple and Rue des Francs-Boureois.

Rue Etienne Marcel

If you are into vintage shopping, take a stroll along this street for high-quality vintage finds and quirky cafes. Around the corner in Rue Tiquetonne is Kiliwatch, one of the biggest and best vintage treasure troves in Paris.

BHV Marais

If time is short, this department store just behind Le Seine will give you a snapshot of mid-price French fashion, from Sessun to APC, plus beauty and design brands, under one roof.

A range of hip restaurants and buzzing cafes line the cobbled streets (Getty)

Where to eat

Le Marche des Enfants Rouges

Paris’s oldest food market is a great place to grab lunch from one of the tiny food stalls. There is a huge variety of cuisines, from Moroccan to West Indian, as well as classic French seafood served with a chilled glass of champagne.

La Rue des Rosiers

The centre of the old Jewish quarter, this street is crammed with delights, from delicious fast falafels at L’As du Fallafel for €8 to traditional pastries from bakeries such as Sacha Finkelsztajn and the exquisite Florence Kahn.


Book a seat at the restaurant bar to watch the theatre of the open kitchen, or a table in the indoor garden. Michelin-starred chef Assif Granit, who is also behind the Coal Office and Palomar in London, has created a menu that riffs on his Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Main courses start at €29. Finish the night next door in the jewel-box bar with disco beats.

Chez Julien

Sprawled across a bucolic garden square is this charming fairy-lit brasserie that serves a roster of extremely well executed French classics. It doesn’t get any more Parisian than this. Main courses start at €34.

Where to stay

Le Grand Mazarin

Rooms at the Le Grand Mazarin feel palatial, stylish and very comfortable (Vincent Leroux/Le Grand Mazarin)

Located steps away from BHV Marais, the quirky Grand Mazarin manages to strike a balance between sophisticated luxury and boutique. The 50 rooms and 11 suites feel distinctly Parisian but with a modern flair. The gorgeous swimming pool is a haven in the middle of the bustling district, and the Boubale restaurant is exceptional.

Pavillon de la Reine is conveniently situated in the middle of Place des Vosges, feeling like a bolthole away from the bustling streets yet just a short walk from the centre of Le Marais. There are 50 good-sized rooms and suites, some of which overlook the charming inner courtyard. The Michelin-starred restaurant, Anne, is surprisingly good value, with two courses for €79 or three courses for €89.flamboyant hotel has 17 rooms, each with its own unique style – we’re talking polka-dot carpets and zebra-print fabrics. It’s located in the heart of Le Marais, just around the corner from Le Musee Picasso, with plenty of bars and restaurants right on its doorstep. Hotel Jeanne d’Arc there are 34 rooms, each decorated in neutral tones with splashes of muted colour. Guests can enjoy a simple but varied breakfast, plus tea and coffee-making facilities in the rooms. Most importantly, you’ll be right in the heart of the action.Eurostar tickets from London to Paris start from £39 one way. Various airlines fly from the UK to Paris, including British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Air France. Flight time is around one hour 20 minutes.

Fiona McIntosh stayed in Le Marais as a guest of Le Grand Mazarin

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