City whisper

Merci et plus

It’s hard to say which Paris neighborhood is topping the trendsetters’ hot spot list right now. Is it Sentier? Oberkampf? Canal Saint-Martin? Our guess is Haut Marais, a neighborhood that has always been beautiful and scores with cool addresses.

January 2021, Reading time: 10 minutes

Not for sale: The tomato-red vintage Fiat 500 is part of Merci’s inventory. Photo: Jérôme Galland

BoHo chic: Merci has the furniture to match.
Photo: Jérôme Galland

When have Parisians begun giving their neighborhoods short phrases? SoPi (South Pigalle) probably started it a good 15 years ago, followed by BaBel (Bas Belleville), SoCo (South Colonel Fabien), BaBar (Bas Barbès) and others. The chic Marais has been divided into three parts, there are SoMa (South Marais), BaMa (Bas Marais) and HaMa (Haut Marais). The latter is considered the stomping ground of the BoBos – another such word: it stands for Bourgeois Bohemien -, and currently the chicest district in Paris.

“To blame” for the new hype is Marie-France Cohen, who opened the concept store Merci in an old wallpaper factory in 2009. “It was clear to me,” says the entrepreneur, “that I had to offer something special to attract people to this neighborhood, because Parisians are reluctant to leave their usual comfort zone.” Merci became a style stronghold among old-fashioned stores and workshops in the maze of alleys in the northern 3rd arrondissement. And it became a model for other stores, studios and eateries that gradually moved into the district, setting themselves apart from the mass tastes that characterize the tourist paths further south. HaMa is different: local designers and craftsmen work here, keeping the “made in Paris” alive – much of what is here is only here.

Geographically, the “upper” Marais lies between the recently spruced-up Place de la République to the north, the Picasso Museum to the south, Boulevards Beaumarchais and Filles du Calvaire to the east, and Rue du Temple to the west. Rue de Bretagne, whose café terraces not only convey genuine Parisian flair, but are also frequented by real Parisians, is considered the artery. Increasingly, it’s not just residents – as was the case a few years ago.

Because nowadays, many inhabitants of the capital are quite happy to leave their familiar surroundings to drink a glass of Chablis at Cafe Charlot or to enjoy a portion of lamb couscous at Chez Omar. They buy a few macarons at star chocolatier Jean-Paul Hevin or a Camembert at cheese paradise Jouannault. None of these places are new – there has always been good living around Rue de Bretagne. But now they are benefiting from the spotlight shining on the new stores and eateries. “In addition to regular customers, more and more strangers are coming into our store,” says Priscilla Jouannault, “they also go to the market next door and to the boutiques around it. Apparently, word has spread about the charm of this area.”


Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris Marais

Opened in 1990, this four-story gallery by world-renowned Austrian art guru Thaddaeus Ropac is considered a platform for contemporary artists such as Daniel Richter, Silvie Fleury, Alex Katz and Imi Knoebel. On view through July 31, 2021 are Irish-American painter Sean Scully’s horizontal stripes of color and Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming’s self-portraits.
Photo: Charles Duprat

Temple of Art:
Musée national Picasso

The museum is located in the grand 17th-century Hôtel Salé, which is worth a visit in itself. It houses an unrivaled collection of sketches, paintings, sculptures and personal documents that chronicle Picasso’s creativity and artistic life. Additionally: some 150 works from Picasso’s private collection including works by Matisse and Cézanne.
Photo: Fabien Campoverde


Great tacos:

The Mexican cuisine at this tiny, unpretentious taqueria is considered particularly authentic. Delicious tacos, frijoles and tostadas are prepared in plain sight in the open mini-kitchen. This is where connoisseurs of the scene get a solid base in their stomachs before heading out an unmarked back door to a dimly lit cocktail bar for some excellent margaritas. 52 Rue de Saintonge, Tel. +33 1 42 74 41 28

Market Kitchen:
Les Enfants du Marché

For nearly three years, talented young restaurateur duo Michael Grosman and Laurent Perles have secured a stall in the hubbub of the bustling Marché des Enfants Rouges. The frequently changing selection includes oysters, fried sole, calf’s brain tempura or squid with ginger mayo. The few stools at the counter and tables are fiercely contested; you can shorten the wait with a glass of white wine or a Moscow Mule.


Vintage Chic: Grand Café Tortoni

Victoire de Taillac and her husband Ramdane Touhami first founded the great skincare line Buly, then in 2016 opened the matching store and café in a former 19th-century foundry. If you don’t want to buy anything, sit at the long wooden counter and have a chocolate madeleine or an onigiri from the in-house Japanese bakery to go with your café crème. 45 rue de Saintonge,
Tel. +33 1 42 72 28 92

Speakeasy: Little Red Door

The unassuming entrance is deceptive: behind the door is an extremely charming cocktail bar with natural stone walls and candlelight. Hip Parisians sit on blue velvet bar stools or at the few tables, have creative cocktails served in pretty vintage glasses, and discuss a personalized drink with the smartly dressed bartenders.
Photo: Tom McGeehan


Above the Bakehouse: Hotel du Petit Moulin

Christian Lacroix has transformed the space of a 17th-century building into a hotel as luxurious as it is inventive with intriguing details. The reception is in a former bakery with an originally preserved glass facade. The 17 rooms feature wildly patterned wallpaper, real and faux furs, ’60s furnishings, Venetian mirrors, and fashion sketches by the master.


Minimal Chic: The Broken Arm

Arguably the city’s trendiest concept store resides on two floors in the rather quiet Square du Temple. The latest models from selected brands such as Balenciaga, Vetements, Marni, Isaac Reina and Raf Simons hang on minimalist clothing racks. There are also rare Nike sneakers and Prada slingbacks. The store also includes a cool café with delicious daily specials.
Foto: François Coquerel

Shoe Box: Fred Marzo

You have to look for Frédérick Marzorati’s little store, but it’s worth it because Fred Marzo shoes are beautifully crafted, feminine and playful, and totally unique. The trained fashion designer learned with Stéphane Kélian and Christian Louboutin before creating his own label. Among insiders, he is already considered the next big name in Parisian footwear.

Land of milk and honey: La Maison Plisson

After a successful fashion career, Delphine Plisson fulfilled a dream in 2015: 500 square meters of delicatessen. The team of buyers scours all of France for the best products, whether it’s olive oil from Corsica, goat cheese from the Pyrenees or fruit from local farmers. For those who get abruptly hungry here, there’s a nice terrace restaurant.
Photo: Romain Ricard

Trend-setting: Merci

You could spend all day in this multi-level concept store – and you still probably wouldn’t have sifted through all the hip clothes, cool glasses and bags, furniture and kitchen utensils, as well as nice gift ideas and funny nonsense. For recreation, there’s a cozy café and a lunch spot with healthy treats.
Photo: Jérôme Galland


The enchanting Marché des Enfants-Rouges has been around since 1615, making it the oldest market in Paris. Yet there’s nothing old-fashioned about it – quite the opposite. You can shop here at fruit and vegetable stands, fish and cheese vendors, but in between, mini-restaurants have established themselves, which are heavily mobbed, especially at lunchtime, offering oysters, couscous, Japanese bento boxes, vegetarian dishes or farmer’s burgers. 39 Rue de Bretagne


HaMa: an old district.

In the late 14th century, King Charles V and his court settled in the “upper” Marais, and the French nobility built magnificent limestone palaces here, such as the Hôtel Salé (17th century), which houses the Picasso Museum, and the Hôtel Carnavalet (16th century), which houses the Museum of Urban History. It is said that Victor Hugo bought his baguette in the bakery that now serves as the lobby of the Hotel du Petit Moulin, and a plaque in front of the Grand Café Tortoni indicates that this was the site of the foundry where Rodin’s Thinker was created.

My HaMa

Victoire de Taillac,
owner of Buly and Grand Café Tortoni

My husband and I looked for a long time in this part of the Marais for suitable premises for our store and café. We liked the neighborhood because it is lively and Parisian. There are many small stores and artisan businesses and new ones are constantly being added. We ourselves are a good example – an electrician used to work in these rooms, and when he retired, we moved in. That’s exactly how many young businesses have come to the neighborhood; you can discover something new here every day. Others, on the other hand, are very old. The Marché des Enfants Rouges, for example, where I shop or have lunch every day – most often at Le Stand, whose owner Tatiana prepares delicious vegetarian dishes. With my husband, I often go to his favorite restaurant, the new Bagnard Saintonge, where they serve delicious Mediterranean dishes like hummus, Greek salad or southern French pan bagnat. Diagonally across the street is Café de la Poste (124 Rue de Turenne), which I prefer to the terraces on Rue de Bretagne. In the evening, I like to have a frozen margarita at Candelaria’s bar (52 Rue de Saintonge, tel. +33 1 42 74 41 28), just across the street from our store.

If I want to treat myself or someone else to a gift, the bookstore Comme un roman and the chocolaterie Jean-Paul Hévin are excellent addresses. I also recently discovered an original boutique, Marilyn Feltz This is a small Parisian production, very feminine, slightly glamorous but unusual, unique and not a bit traditional. A few houses down is a fun, tiny little store: Caractère de Cochon (42 Rue Charlot), where an equally tiny man sells what must be the best ham sandwiches in town.

Glamorous: Marilyn Feltz.

Delicious: chocolate from Jean-Paul Hévin.

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