One side of Place des Vosges
If French nobles once fell over themselves to build their urban mansions in the Marais, why did it end? Because the main French court moved from the Louvre Palace to Versailles in the 1680s, so the nobility moved away from the Marais in order to be closer to Court.
All the aristocratic building programme of the C17th became a distant memory for 19th century Parisians of the 4th arrondissment. At the end of the C19th and even after WW1, millions of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe moved west. Most went to New York, Chicago, Cape Town, Tel Aviv, London and Manchester, but thousands and thousands settled in the district around the rue des Rosiers. Perhaps they needed kosher food shops and synagogues. Perhaps they were seeking work in the Marais’ factories and retail outlets.
Main synagogue, built in 1913
When the Germans invaded France in May 1940, 175,000 Jews were living in Paris. The Vichy French collaborated with the Nazis and by the time the Allies liberated Paris in Aug 1944, 50,000 Parisian Jews had been deported & murdered.
Today most Parisien Jews live in the 4th (Marais), 9th, 11th, 13th, 19th and 20th arrondissements.
Note the 4th arrondissement
Apart from the delicious kosher restaurants and bakeries, another reminder of the deep Jewish presence in the Marais is the Museum of Jewish Art and History. Opened in Dec 1998 with special music and posters, the museum is dedicated to French Jewish life via the arts, documents and religious artefacts. And not just pre-war Ashkenazim. The Sephardi Jews of the Maghreb (North West Africa) played a very significant role in Paris after WW2, a role that is well reflected in the Museum of Jewish Art and History.
Picasso had amassed an enormous collection of his own work by the time of his death in 1973. So Musée Picasso houses thousands of his own art objects, plus Picasso's own personal art collection of works by Cézanne, Degas, Seurat, Matisse and others. This museum is closed now, for renovations, but will open again next year (2013).
Carnavalet Museum is housed in adjoining hôtels particuliers and specialises in Paris’ history. Baron Haussmann may have been heavy-handed when he reorganised Paris in the 1860s, but he made a great decision on behalf of the Municipal Council of Paris. Carnavalet opened to the French public in 1880 and opened to my sons in 110 years later. The boys loved the squillions of street photographs, art works, models and furniture. And because we ate at a different kosher restaurant or bakery every night for a week, my sons now believe the Marais has the best food in the universe.
Restaurants and coffee shops in the Marais
For a good look at Place des Vosges in particular, see Melbourne - Our Home By The Bay.