For an update on the very latest trends, head for the heart of Paris, to the stretch between the Marais and the Canal Saint-Martin. Everyone who’s anyone can be found in this ultra-trendy area with its fashion boutiques, contemporary art galleries, chic eateries, pavement cafes and cocktail bars. The area around Place de la République covers several arrondissements and the whole spectrum of hipsterishness, from the high fashion artiness of the Marais to the bohemian quirkiness on the canal banks. Take your pick! Come with us for a tour of Paris at its trendiest.
Also known as ‘old Paris’, the Marais is one of the capital’s most talked-about districts thanks to its charming paved streets, imposing carriage entrances, magnificent mansions and hidden gardens. The northern part of the district is the Haut Marais or North Marais (‘NoMa’ for insiders). This tiny ‘golden triangle’ covers a portion of the 3rd arrondissement, from Rue Vieille-du-Temple to Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, all the way to Place de la République. So what’s the attraction of the Haut Marais? The vibrant mixture of all things avant garde in a very villagey atmosphere. Go to NoMa to shop, wander around galleries, brunch, lunch or sip cocktails in warm, friendly surroundings with a backdrop of world-class historical buildings.
The Marais is the preserve of contemporary art and gallery-hopping is the local sport. Go and discover the Sobering Galerie, which defends South-American to European established and emerging artists, Rising stars like Éric Dupont and School Gallery rub shoulders with their widely acclaimed counterparts such as Emmanuel Perrotin and Thaddaeus Ropac.
Le Marais is home to one of the most original museums in Paris, the newly-refurbished Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. This hunting museum boasts a huge collection of stuffed animals and is definitely worth a visit.
NoMa is paradise for fashionistas. The streets are lined with luxury brand names, prêt-à-porter and clothing by young designers who have taken root in the area. A.P.C., Lemaire, Zadig & Voltaire, Abou d’Abi Bazar and Isabel Marant are all here. Following in the footsteps of the famous Colette, several other concept stores have sprung up nearby: Merci, which gives its profits to charity, Bonton for children, the Swedish fashion house ACNE (short for Ambition to Create Novel Expressions) and The Broken Arm, a cross between a shop and a café.
For style aficionados, buying French has become the height of fashion. The neo-workwear clothing store FrenchTrotters stocks a range of jeans designed in Paris. For men’s underwear made in France, head for the Temple du Slip.
Rue de Bretagne is overflowing with food stores, all rivalling to entice your palate. The riot of colours, aromas and flavours are a festival for the senses. But the real draw is undoubtedly the 17th-century Enfants-Rouges covered market, one of the oldest markets in Paris. It’s also a great place for a quick bite to eat, and the ideal spot for Sunday brunch. Among the host of excellent eateries, a special mention goes to L’Estaminet for its local dishes made with farm produce and Taeko for its Japanese cuisine. The best buttery croissant in Paris in 2015 is to be found at 134 r.d.t., at 134 Rue de Turenne. If you want to stock up on fine foods, go to La Maison Plisson, a gourmet concept store (a deli, wine shop, bakery, restaurant and takeaway rolled into one) stuffed with the best products France and Europe have to offer. And if that brings on a craving for all things Italian, head for Mmmozza, the mozzarella specialist. Popelini is the place for cream puffs. The one with a salted butter caramel filling is to die for.
Season offers original organic fare with a daring twist. Kitchen near the Arts-et-Métiers metro is highly recommended for a vegetarian meal.
There is plenty of choice too when it comes to street food and healthy fast food. If you can’t resist a burger, try Blend or Cantine California. More attracted to the flavours of Italy? Then head for Tappo, a wine bar with Italian-style tapas, or Grazie, a very popular bar-pizzeria.
Have you heard of purr therapy? Try it out while you’re in Paris! Le Café des Chats Marais has recently opened on Rue Michel-Le-Comte. Snuggle up with a hot chocolate in this tea room inspired by the Japanese cat café trend and hang out with a dozen free-ranging felines.
For daytime breaks, stop off at Le Progrès on the corner of Rue de Bretagne and Rue Vielle-du-Temple, at Café Charlot opposite the Enfants-Rouges market or at La Perle. All three have become the headquarters of the select few. For evening drinks, there are plenty of cocktail bars. Candelaria, with its Mexican ambience, is definitely one to try. Mary Céleste comes a close second. And don’t miss the very creative Little Red Door, ranked in the top 50 best cocktail bars in the world by the British magazine Drinks International. The new kid on the block is Lavomatic.
Set out like an English garden, the Square du Temple, opposite the arrondissement town hall, is the biggest park in the Marais. Further exploration will lead you to more secluded spots such as the Jardin Madeleine-de-Scudéry next to Enfants-Rouges market and the Square Saint-Gilles-Grand-Veneur, which you enter via Rue Villehardouin.
Forming a crossroads between the 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements, Place de la République links the Marais to the other hipster quarter, the Canal Saint-Martin. The square was completely renovated in 2013 and is now a large contemporary pedestrian area and popular meeting place.
To the east of Place de la République lies another of the French capital’s trendy districts, the Canal Saint-Martin. The canal is Paris at its most picturesque and attracts the bourgeois-bohemian, ethical, ecological crowd. Parisians like to stroll along the banks, picnic by the locks, play boules or have a lazy drink at a pavement café.
Board a barge and peruse Paris from the canal. Less of a tourist attraction than a cruise on the Seine, a Canal Saint-Martin boat trip reveals another side of the city.
There are plenty of relaxed bars and restaurants around the canal, in particular Le Valmy, which has a lovely terrace. An institution in these parts, Chez Prune is a meeting place for youngsters, students, forty-somethings and seniors alike. With a great location near the famous Hôtel du Nord, this friendly café is a favourite with locals who come for a drink after work or for Sunday brunch. If you’re looking for something more offbeat, you’ll love Le Comptoir Général. It is a bar, restaurant, secondhand shop, museum and cinema. The ecologically-minded establishment is in an old factory tucked away at the back of a courtyard. As you sip your wine in the bric-à-brac decor you could be forgiven for thinking you were in an alternative joint in Berlin. At the top of Canal Saint-Martin, Le Point Ephémère is a quirky underground artistic centre that hosts exhibitions, concerts and workshops practically at the water’s edge or in the new rooftop area.
On Quai de Valmy, the pretty facades of the three Antoine & Lili shops seem part of the landscape. French fashion stretches beyond the canal with a number of boutiques on Rue Beaurepaire, Rue Yves-Toudic and Rue de Marseille: Agnès B, A.P.C. and The Kooples, as well as the concept store Centre Commercial, which sells Arpenteur, the Lyon-based, 100% French brand. For good deals on chic labels, don’t miss the Les Petites, Maje and Claudie Pierlot outlet stores.