In the charming Marais district, the Place des Vosges is Paris’ oldest public square, spaciously laid out in harmoniously uniform style. This elegant square provided a model for other squares such as Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde. The Place de Vosges was constructed between 1605 and 1612 and was originally called Place Royale because it was filled with aristocratic residences. Typical of Renaissance architecture, the square has a pleasing symmetrical form with uniform houses of red brick, stone detailing, and pitched slate roofs.
The Place de Vosges offered a splendid setting for festive occasions in the 17th century, such as tournaments, state receptions, and court weddings. It was also a favorite spot for duels, in spite of Cardinal Richelieu’s ban on dueling. The celebrated courtesan of Louis XIII’s reign lived at number 11, and the future Madame de Sévigné was born in 1626 at number 1 on the square.
The Place de Vosges is at the heart of the Marais Quarter, a historic area with medieval and Renaissance palaces. In one of the neighborhood’s stately mansions, the Hôtel Salé, the Musée National Picasso (5 Rue de Thorigny) wows modern art lovers with its incredibly extensive collection (thousands of pieces) of Picasso’s artwork, including some of his most iconic masterpieces.
The Marais has become a trendy quarter and has a significant Jewish community. To learn more about Jewish culture in Europe, tourists can visit the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (71 Rue du Temple), which presents a history of various Jewish communities in Europe along with artwork by Jewish artists such as Chagall and Modigliani.
Nearby, the Jardin Anne Frank is a tranquil secluded garden with an orchard. For those in search of a refined Parisian experience, the Mariage Frères (30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg) is the place to go. This tea salon serves its aromatic tea with savory and sweet delicacies; its adjoining shop sells a wide selection of the finest teas in Paris. Many tourists wait in line to try the authentic falafel at L’As du Fallafel (32-34 Rue des Rosiers). Also worth noting: The Marais is one of the areas of Paris where the shops and boutiques are open on Sundays.
Address: Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul or Bastille station)