When people ask where in Paris our apartment is, I know they probably won’t recognise the majority of addresses, but the chance of recognition is higher when you say, do you know the Marais? East bank, across the river from Notre Dame? Home of Place de Vosges and the Picasso Museum? No? The old Jewish quarter of Paris? Still no? Lots of trendy boutiques, gay bars and falafel shops? Ah, got it.
I’ve said before that anyone who knows Paris wants to stay in the Marais. This is probably the case for most tourists: it is perfectly located for sightseeing, within strolling distance of many of the iconic sites and its pedestrianised streets separate it from the traffic. You could never leave its cobbled quarters and still eat in a different restaurant every night. You might never run out of museums and galleries to visit or shops in which to browse. But is it somewhere you would want to live, part-time or otherwise? Here is a run-down of the pros and cons of owning an apartment in the Marais:
- The central location
The central location makes it easy to get to from the main airports and railway stations. One of Paris’s busiest metro stations, Châtelet Les Halles, connects the Marais to the rest of the city. It is easy to walk almost anywhere and you’re never more than a few metres from a bus stop, metro stop or passing taxi.
- The medieval charm
We were given the advice that it’s better to live in a new building and look out at the beautiful old ones than in an old one with its leaks and creaks. But we couldn’t be convinced to give up the dream of an old Parisian building. In the Marais you’ll find 500 year old buildings with all of the charm and history that goes with them.
- That Paris feeling
You will never forget you’re in Paris if you stay in the Marais. The streets are suitably full of boulangeries and chocolateries, cafes sprawl onto the pavements and the area has more than its share of recognizable landmarks. If you want that quintessential Paris feeling, you can find it in abundance in the Marais.
- It’s vibrant and happening
The thriving social and cultural scenes attract characters from all walks of life. Tourists mingle with Parisians of all ages and backgrounds. Every time we visit, we notice a new shop here, a pop-up restaurant there. Things happen so quickly in the Marais, it’s difficult to keep up.
- Its fashion credentials
Fancy yourself as a bit of an intellectual or an artist? The Marais galleries exhibit all of the right names to drop; the shops are full of cutting-edge fashions; up-and-coming designers, architects and restauranteurs all vie for their tiny corner of this trendy district. If a fashionable address is important to you, you can buy one in the Marais.
- Old buildings
Leaky taps, rusty pipes, rotting floorboards—you never know what might be behind the newly painted walls of your 500 year old building. Old apartments come with bags of charm but also with the risk of an expensive repair project somewhere in the future. We have already had one plumbing incident. Think about how important those beamed ceilings are to you and weigh up the risks.
- Little space for your money
The Marais is one of the most expensive areas of Paris, with an average square metre price of €12,000. That puts a 40 square metre apartment at almost half a million euros. One of the first decisions you make when buying property in Paris will be whether to prioritise space or location. We chose to compromise on space.
- It’s the quarter that never sleeps
There are restaurants, cafes and bars on practically every corner in the Marais. Great when you’re a tourist who has to be prized from the terrace at closing time. Less apt if you need to get up for work in the morning. Even our apartment, located on a quiet side street, is not spared the noisy spill at closing time or merriment from revelers moving from one café to the next.
- Tourists for neighbours
It is unlikely that you will get to know your neighbours in the Marais because they will always be changing. Our neighbours at the moment are a Chinese family, crammed into the tiny apartment above, three American girls on the top floor and a lone French student and his dog in the basement. A couple of months from now they will be gone and new neighbours will have moved in. Lodgers come and go with the seasons in the Marais.
- It’s eye-wateringly expensive
I live in Oslo where a pint of beer will set you back €15. While I’ve become more or less immune to sticker-shock, I still begrudge that the asparagus in the organic vegetable shop on Rue Rambuteau is four times the price of that sold at the street market in Place d’Aligre. Everything in the Marais gets the hipster mark-up making cost-of-living more expensive than in other areas of Paris.
Each area has its pros and cons. Make a list and choose the one that is right for you.