Walking Tour: Medieval Marais Meanderings

  • Start Hôtel d’Aumont
  • End Hôtel de Sully
  • Length 2.6km; two hours

While Henri IV was busy building place Royale (today's place des Vosges), aristocrats were commissioning gold-brick hôtels particuliers (private mansions) – the city’s most beautiful Renaissance structures that lend the Marais a particular architectural harmony.

At 7 rue de Jouy stands majestic Hôtel d’Aumont, built in 1648 for a councillor of the king. Continue south along rue des Nonnains d’Hyères and turn left onto rue de l’Hôtel de Ville; at 1 rue du Figuier is Hôtel de Sens, the oldest Marais mansion, with geometric gardens and a neogothic turret. It was begun around 1475 for the archbishops of Sens and restored in 1930 (look for the cannonball lodged above the main gate during the 1830 Trois Glorieuses).

Head northeast along rue des Jardins de St-Paul. To the left, two truncated towers are all that remain of Philippe-Auguste’s enceinte, a fortified wall built between 1190 and 1209 and once guarded by 77 towers. Cross rue Charlemagne, duck into rue Eginhard and follow it to rue St-Paul and Église St-Paul St-Louis (1641). At the end of rue St-Paul, turn left, then walk north up rue Malher and rue Pavée, the first cobbled road in Paris. At No 24 is the late Renaissance Hôtel Lamoignon, built for Diane de France (1538–1619), the legitimised daughter of Henri II.

North along rue Payenne is the back of the Musée Carnavalet (closed for renovations until 2020); the Revolutionary-era ‘Temple of Reason’ Chapelle de l’Humanité at No 5; and the rear of the Musée Cognacq-Jay. From grassy Square George Cain opposite 11 rue Payenne, walk northwest to more spectacular 17th-century hôtels particuliers: Hôtel de Libéral Bruant at 1 rue de la Perle, and Hôtel Salé, housing the Musée National Picasso.

Retrace your steps to rue du Parc Royal, walk south down rue de Sévigné and follow rue des Francs Bourgeois eastwards to end with sublime place des Vosges and Hôtel de Sully.