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Despite its small size, the 4th district occupies many pages in your tourist guide of Paris. Even snobs will like it because it hosts the Gay and Jewish quarters. The map is simple:


        3rd
2nd| |      rue des Francs-Bourgeois    11th
  -| |-------------------------------
   | |  Beaub.                       \
   | |                         Pl     Pl.
   | |                       Vosges  Bastille
1st| |                                 \
   | |                                 \  
   | |                                  \
   | |  Hôtel                           \    12th
   | | d.Ville                           \
  -| |------------------------.          \
  _| |_______  ______________  \          \
  Ile Cité   \ \ Ile St.Louis\  \         \ 
   | |    N-D \ \_____________\  \_________\ 
  -| |--------' Seine
   | |  


Everything in italics is outside the district. The 4th district is the third smallest district in Paris (1.60 km2). Population was 30,675 in 1990 (3rd least populated district).

Le Corbusier, in its Plan Voisin, planned to replace much of Paris with skyscrapers and high-speed roads, keeping only a few historical buildings in the Marais. I am very, very glad that towns are built by corrupt politicians and not by artists.

Notre-Dame, the City Hall, Beaubourg...

The 4th district owns the eastern part of Ile de la Cité, including the cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Paris. Yes, you saw it in movies and musicals. The place is usually crowded. Have a look at Saint Denis's statue on the facade: he carries his head under his arm. Also notice a mark on the ground in front of the church: it indicates the starting point for all distance computations in France. You are here in old Lutece. Read Asterix for more.

Then have a walk in the small streets behind the church, and take Pont Saint-Louis. It will not lead you neither to the right bank nor to the left bank, but to another island, Ile Saint-Louis. It's a very calm island with small shops, restaurants and some of the best situated and most expensive apartments in Paris.

On the right bank, the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) is an impressive buildings. In front of the building, a square in front of the City Hall hosts a free open-air skating rink during the winter. It's very beautiful inside, but you probably won't have a chance to see it.

More to the north stands the once controversial Georges-Pompidou National Art and Culture Center, also known as Beaubourg. It contains the Museum of Modern Art and a library. See Beaubourg to understand why this ugly building is one of the most wonderful treasures in Paris.

... le Marais, ...

The rest of the district is known as the Marais, which also extends over the 3rd district. It's a former swamp (marais), which was drained and became the home of many kings and noblemen. From that time old mansions remain with their French gardens, as well as the oldest houses of Paris in rue François-Miron (one of which has turned into a swinger club). Young people play basket in rue des Jardins along a medieval wall, from which you can deduce that this very central quarter was once the limit of Paris. More to the south and the east, Pavillon de l'Arsenal (metro Sully-Morland) holds free and very interesting exhibitions about Paris.

North of rue de Rivoli, walk along rue des Francs-Bourgeois. The narrow sidewalks get more and more crowded up to Place des Vosges, a perfectly symmetrical square.

Night life in the district occurs mostly in the gay quarter, around rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie. Rue Vieille-du-Temple marks the limit between the gay quarter on the West and the Jewish quarter on the East, around rue des Rosiers. The Marais, which was a disreputable location a few decades ago, has turned into a very fashionable quarter. Rents are high.

... and beyond

Eventually you'll get to Bastille, which will be described in the 12th district.

After writing all this, I feel I have not been very enthusiastic. The district is nice for walks, but I am not really fond of it. Maybe that's because it's almost impossible to have a cheap meal at 1 a.m. I wouldn't live in the Marais.

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