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Le Marais: French LGBTI culture’s colorful home in fashionable Paris

Le Marais: French LGBTI culture’s colorful home in fashionable Paris

The district's aristocratic background is still visible in its architecture.

France may be going in a more conservative direction, but (some would say as per usual) Paris and its citizens counteract this national trend.

The world’s most visited city remains tolerant and the capital is a hot contender for the title of Europe’s gayest city, together with Berlin and London.

The district prides itself on its historical buildings, like the Temple du Marais, surviving Haussmann's renovation of Paris.
The district prides itself on its historical buildings, like the Temple du Marais, surviving Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.

Spreading across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, Le Marais is a multicultural hub in the city’s heart, hosting a large Chinese population, the Jewish quarter and, located in the South West of the district, with its borders defined by Sainte-Croix de le Bretonniere and rue des Archives, a thriving gay quarter.

In the 1980s, the LGBTI community began to turn the former aristocratic quarter into their home; today, an estimated 46% of France’s gay men live in the capital, with 40% of gay-focused or –owned businesses located in Le Marais.

A welcome respite: the busy district's winding roads hide small parks and green space, ideal for a short break.
A welcome respite: the busy district’s winding roads hide small parks and green space, ideal for a short break.

A sign of Parisians embracing their city’s gay culture was, no doubt, the installation of an openly gay mayor (one of the first in Europe), when they elected Bertrand Delanoe – whose campaign was built on many things, but never put his sexuality into the spotlight.

As fashionable as Paris itself, the Marais boasts over 300 gay venues, according to locals, ranging from bars and restaurants to gyms and saunas.

Nights out usually start by meeting at a friend’s, before going for a leisurely dinner, which we hear can, in classic Parisian fashion, take two or three hours – after dinner, it’s time to hit the clubs.

The Marais is where French gay culture celebrates itself - not just during Pride.
The Marais is where French gay culture celebrates itself – not just during Pride.

Lining the rue des Archives, there a club for every taste, from hip little bar Les Souffleurs to the vaulted cave dancefloor of Le CUD Bar, which starts to really come alive well after midnight, when other bars start closing.

And as the Metro (much like the London Underground) only runs until shortly after midnight, there’s only one thing to do: party until 5:30am, when the trains start running again.

Outside the Centre Georges Pompidou, street artists show their craft; inside, exhibitions attract tourists and locals.
Outside the Centre Georges Pompidou, street artists show their craft; inside, exhibitions attract tourists and locals.

Of course, there’s more to Le Marais than just a good night out and a closely knit, but very welcoming, gay community.

The winded, cobbled streets – bringing you closest to the feeling of medieval Paris – play host to a mix of boutiques, hip designers, wine shops and traditional bakeries, set against fashionable art galleries and museums.

Often hailed as one of Paris's most beautiful spots, the Place des Vosges was home to many famous names and faces.
Often hailed as one of Paris’s most beautiful spots, the Place des Vosges was home to many famous names and faces.

On the Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest planned square, No. 6 was formerly home to Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables; today, it’s a museum devoted to his life.

Stroll up the Rue des Rosiers to find yourself in the Jewish quarter, also known as Pletzl, once Europe’s largest Jewish community; packed with delis, old hamams and restaurants, the streets will catapult you head first into the lively community – unless it’s Saturday and the Pletzl observes Shabbat.

From Sunday to Friday, the Jewish quarter bustles with life - and some of the best food in town.
From Sunday to Friday, the Jewish quarter bustles with life – and some of the best food in town.

As its commercial and cultural background make it a very popular place to live, property prices in Le Marais stand slightly above the Paris average.

Buyers are looking at an average price of €7,198 (£5,284.11, $8,072.81) per square meter, while rents clock in at €28.96 (£21.25, $32.47) per square meter per month.