Jews have lived in Paris since the medieval period. In this 3-hour Jewish Paris tour in the Marais we'll join a local historian and discover this hidden history of the city's Jewish Quarter, from the 12th century to World War II. Together, we'll learn how the Jewish population of Paris has informed the development of the city as a whole, from gastronomic delights, to striking architecture, to the dark days of World War II.
Jewish Paris Tour
We'll start our visit by looking at vestiges of King Philippe Auguste's city wall, which formed Paris' 12th century city limits, and the first of many barriers that the Jewish population had overcome to create a vibrant and crucial community. Short of funds in the royal coffers, King Philippe Auguste sought to remedy this problem and assert his royal power by expelling the Jews, seizing their property in the process. However, when funds were later depleted, the Jews were invited back—but only if they complied with a heavy tax. This characterized the ongoing cycle of tension between the King and the Jews for the entirety of his reign.
"[Our docent] was just wonderful. She was very knowledgeable about the specific focus of the tour and her background in art allowed her to field the considerable number of questions we had about dealing with confiscated art from the Jews of Paris/France after the war. Highest recommendations."
Situated just outside the wall, the Marais—called Pletzl
, or little place—became the center of Jewish Paris. We will walk along streets inhabited by Jewish people for centuries that today are bustling with lively cafes, specialty shops, and Kosher restaurants. Despite the growing bourgeois-bohème
presence the Marais remains the core of the Jewish community, especially the cheerful rue des Rosiers. Kosher bakeries, Jewish bookshops, and beloved falafel stands form ways of sharing Jewish culture within the city, while synagogues stand as religious centers for community support and places of worship. We will spend time taking in the splendid façade of the Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue (designed by Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard—a subject discussed further on our Paris Architecture Tour
), and discussing other synagogues in the neighborhood.
From its beginnings as an enclave on the outskirts of the city, to the horrors of the 20th century, Paris' Jewish community is no stranger to struggle. As we explore the Marais, we will address issues faced by French Jews, such as the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal which stretched from 1894 to its final resolution in 1906. Our itinerary also includes a visit to the Memorial of the Shoah, which sheds light on the complex history of the Jewish minority within Paris. With the Tomb of the Unknown Jewish Martyr and wall of names noting French victims, the Memorial of the Shoah forms a somber and poignant reminder of the atrocities committed against the Jewish community during the Holocaust. Here, we may focus on the acts of the Occupation's Vichy government, such as the roundup of Jewish Parisians in the Velodrome d'Hiver, and their subsequent removal to concentration camps, taking time to reflect upon the effects this has had on the Jewish community (for more on this difficult era, see our Paris WWII Tour
Jewish Quarter Paris
At the end of this walk, after having explored the cultural and historic center of Jewish Paris in the Marais district, we will have gained insight into relevant topics such as the waves of immigration into the city, well-known French Jewish figures, and current and past issues. Clients with a further interest in the Marais district may wish to take our Marais Walking Tour
Note: We will not enter any synagogues during this itinerary. Many of the synagogues in the Marais have undergone violent attacks and even bombings in the past, making them extremely security-conscious and forcing many to close to the public. In addition, all but one of the synagogues on this tour are small, shopfront temples belonging to Orthodox Jewish groups, which aren't appropriate for mixed groups of non-Jewish women and men to visit.
Will we enter any synagogues on this walk? We will not enter any synagogues during this itinerary. Many of the synagogues in the Marais have undergone violent attacks and even bombings in the past, making them extremely security-conscious and forcing many to close to the public. In addition, all but one of the synagogues on this tour are small, shopfront temples belonging to Orthodox Jewish groups, which aren't appropriate for mixed groups of non-Jewish women and men to visit.