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The Northern Marais/Temple Quarter

The Low-down
The Quartier du Temple, located between the Marais, Place de la République and Arts-et-Métiers, was considered to be a bit of a “dead” area, with nothing more than wholesale shops and ateliers for the leather and jewellery industries. But over the past few years things have begun to change. The once quiet, northern section of the Marais neighbourhood is seeing new restaurant, bars and trendy shops opening up as the branché Parisians escape the heavily touristed – and expensive – streets around Rue des Rosiers and Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. This northern push means that more and more ateliers are being snapped up and converted into loft apartments and flats, and the wholesale district around Temple is showing signs of renewed life.

A History Brief
The Quartier du Temple, and many of the streets in the Marias, were once the domain of the Knights of Templar, a religious and military order formed in the 12th-century to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. By the 13th century, they had over 9000 outposts around Europe, independent from the monarchy or ruling government. Entrusted as powerful bankers, they amassed enough wealth and property – at one time owning ¼ of the land area of Paris—to arouse resentment by the French King Philip the Fair. With the blessing of the Pope in Rome, he had the Templars imprisoned and burned at the stake in 1307, taking 2/3 of the estates for the Crown, and giving the rest over to the Knights of Malta. They, in turn, were cast out during the French Revolution, and the Templar Tower became a prison for the doomed French monarchy. Louis XVI was immediately guillotined, and Queen Marie-Antoinette was transferred to the Conciergerie before it was her turn, leaving the dauphin alone in the Tower before he eventually died. There was a lot of speculation by royalists that it wasn’t really the dauphin who left in the coffin, until recent DNA tests proved it.

Temple Today
The Tower was razed in 1808, and the Carreau du Temple market built in its place in 1857 by Baron Haussmann, along with the Mairie for the 3rd arrondissment and the Square du Temple. If you’ve passed by the Carreau du Temple market (corner of Rue Picardie and Rue Perrée) over the past few years, then you know there’s nothing much going on there aside from a few dodgy leather coat stands and the occasional neighborhood concert. But that’s all going to change this winter as the Mairie gives the Carreau a facelift and a new image as a neighborhood cultural centre. No one’s quite sure yet exactly what that means, but the new plans should be revealed by the end of 2004.

The nearby Marché des Enfants Rouges (corner of Rue de Bretagne and Rue Charlot) is an example of successful restoration. It’s the oldest covered market in Paris, built in 1612 and named for the red uniforms worn by the kids of a neighboring orphanage. It was almost razed in 1995 to become a parking lot, but after a lot of local outcry it was instead renovated and reopened November 2000. Today there are 15 market stands and a wine bar, with the typical fish, bread, fruit and veggie sellers (open Tues-Thurs 9am-2pm and 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-8pm, and Sun 9am-2pm). Just up the street are the lovely gardens of the Square du Temple (corner of Rue du Temple and Rue de Bretagne). Its sandbox and playground are popular with the local mums and their tots, while the nearby Chinese community practice their graceful tai-chi exercises each morning on the grass lawn.

Eating, Drinking and Dining
The Web Bar (32 Rue de Picardie, M° Temple, tel: 01 42 72 66 55, open Mon-Fri 8:30am-2am, Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-midnight) was one of the first trendy establishments to open in the neighbourhood back in 1996, with a bar, restaurant, art gallery and internet café on three levels of a converted silversmith’s workshop. Lunch and dinner is served daily, brunch on Sundays, bar is open all day. Closer to the Marais, Le Petit Café (9 rue Charlot, M° St-Sebastien-Froissart, tel: 01 48 04 37 99, open Tues-Sun 10am-7pm) is a tiny little contemporary art café in the Passage Retz, where you can get a coffee or Perrier and hang out reading the art and design magazines. There’s no sign for the tearoom Appart’Thé (7 rue Charlot, M° St-Sebastien-Froissart tel: 01 42 78 43 30, open daily 12-9pm), but it’s hard to miss the plush, scarlet red interior as you walk past the window. Here you’ll find Mariage Frères teas and pastries, as well as a few savoury tarts and full brunch on Sunday.

For something with a bit more kick, l’Estaminet du Marché (in the Marché des Enfants Rouges, Rue de Bretagne, M° Filles du Calvaire, tel: 01 42 72 34 85; closed Monday) is a boisterous wine bistro in a converted printing press, packed at lunch for the €12 menu, and on Sundays for the Brunch with fresh oysters (in season, bien sûr). Anyone who fancies themselves to be pretty talented in the kitchen should stop by the gourmet spice shop and kitchen gadget boutique, Goumanyat (3 rue Dupuis, M° Temple, tel: 01 44 78 96 74). There are no regular hours and you have to ring the belle to get in, but it’s worth the effort for the high quality of the products and friendly advice by the bilingual owner.

This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged. 

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