There are certainly worse things than getting lost in the narrow streets of the Marais. This ancient neighbourhood takes you back in time to medieval Paris. Many of the buildings now house art galleries and cosy cafes.
Le Marais is also called ‘the old Paris’. In the 17th and 18th century, it was home to the French aristocracy. They built elegant mansions, wrought iron fences and beautiful parks and squares which still radiate old money today. The peerless Place des Vosges is especially grand. Officially unveiled in 1612 as Place Royale, the square was renamed by Napoleon in 1800 in tribute to the Vosges department, which was the first to pay taxes to the central state.
The most striking quality of the houses on this square is that they are all based on the same design. The façades consist of red brick and white stone, and all buildings have elegant arcades. Many famous French people have lived on the square, including Cardinal Richelieu and the writer Victor Hugo. The author of novels such as Les Misérables lived on the second floor at number 6 from 1832 to 1848. The Maison de Victor Hugo is now a free museum.
There is a modern gem on the outskirts of the Marais: the Centre Pompidou. President Pompidou decided to build a major cultural centre on the Plateau Beaubourg in 1969. The international design competition was won by Briton Richard Rogers and Italian Renzo Piano, who have since become world-renowned architects. The centre opened in 1977.
All lifts, stairs, ventilation tubes, water pipes and metal structures are located on the outside of the building so as to allow the interior space to be fully utilised. The outside pipes are colour-coded by the architects: blue for the air supply, yellow for electricity, green for water. The red tubes are for the transport of people, i.e., lifts and escalators.