Timeless Marais: Explore the Village Saint-Paul

Timeless Marais: Explore the Village Saint-Paul
On the quieter Seine-side of the Marais, behind the Eglise Saint-Paul, lies the Village Saint-Paul, a peaceful enclave the size of a rectangular city block that encompasses a labyrinth of five cobblestoned courtyards. It is both remarkable and unremarkable. Remarkable for the diversity and individuality of the shops and galleries clustered along two sides of its perimeter as well as for the hidden world within; and unremarkable because, if you were not paying attention while passing along its boundaries, you might just miss it. And that would be a pity.  There’s more than one way to get to the Village Saint-Paul. The most straightforward is from the rue Saint-Antoine (either direction). Turn onto the rue Saint-Paul and carry on to where it intersects with the rue Charlemagne. It’s also quite pleasant to make your approach from the Seine — whether strolling the riverbank or along the Quai des Célestins — by starting at the opposite end of the rue Saint-Paul and walking one block to the corner of the rue de l’Ave Maria.  And then, there’s a third route, which I particularly recommend for history enthusiasts. Directly behind Métro Saint-Paul is the rue du Prévôt, an ancient cobblestoned alley, just over 9-feet wide for most of its length. Turn left onto the rue Charlemagne and at the end of the block you’ll spot the rue des Jardins de Saint-Paul, the western boundary of the Village Saint-Paul. First, however, you’ll come to the longest and best-preserved fragment of King Philip Augustus’ enceinte, the fortified wall that encircled the city of Paris at the end of the 12th century. It consists of a large chunk of the base of the turret plus the wall itself, which now forms one side of a modern athletic playing field constantly in use by the youth of the neighborhood.  The longest existing part of the Philippe Auguste Wall is located at the corner of rue Charlemagne and the rue des Jardins-Saint Paul. Photo credit: Sam Spade/ Wikimedia commons Once arrived, there are 10 arched entryways leading from the surrounding streets into the inner courtyards. In one is a plaque stating that the Village Saint-Paul was built on the site of the former gardens of King Charles V (1338-1380) and, after a checkered history that included the French Revolution, in 1981 it took on a new identity as an artistic, commercial, and residential complex. Shortly before the pandemic, it was determined that a major refurbishment was in order. The new, spiffed-up version of the Village was introduced to Parisians in 2021.   

Lead photo credit : The Cours Rabelais in the Village Saint Paul in 2021. Photo credit: VVVCFFrance / Wikimedia commons

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A native New Yorker, Joy first visited Paris after her junior year in college, returning countless times over the years, before eventually putting down roots in the Marais. A veteran travel writer and editor, her original focus was on family travel, later turning to business travel. Having traveled to many corners of the globe, both independently and on assignment, it turns out that Paris is “the one”. How do you beat morning strolls along the Seine before the crowds arrive; weekend shopping at second-hand markets in undiscovered corners of the city; stepping back into history in museums, churches, or just out on the street; being constantly tempted by the delectable works of art showcased in patisserie windows, and so forth? There is always more to be embraced in Paris.