Exploring the Jewish Quarter of Paris

photo by Jen Wen Luoh

Le Pletzl,  located in the 4th arrondissement, is the most famous Jewish quarter in Paris, dating back to the 13th century. This little corner of Paris is an endless source of fascination, thanks to its cultural variety and its historical richness, and also one of the quaintest and most unusual shopping spots in the city. While Le Pletzl is not usually part of the major tourist routes, those visitors who want to know Paris intimately shouldn’t miss a visit to this area. So if you’re planning a visit to the French capital, don’t forget to take some time for exploring the Jewish Quarter of Paris.

About the quarter

Le Pletzl is not the only Jewish quarter in Paris, so of course opinions can vary when it comes to which one is the ‘real’ one. However, many Parisians (especially those living in Le Pletzl) will swear that the area around the Rue des Rosiers is the real deal. Historically, Le Pleztl has been the a Jewish neighborhood since the 13th century, and between the end of the 19th century and WWII,thousands of Eastern European Jews moved to the quarter, chased by the threat of pogroms. Wealthier Jews from Alsace and Lorraine also came to live in Paris after these territories were annexed to Germany, and the two groups of immigrants, being part of different social classes, had little in common. This lead to the establishment of different synagogues (one for the poor and one for the bourgeois). In the past, the quarter was an amazing place for shopping for all sorts of things, and local merchants would set up stalls on the street every day. Even today, it is not unusual to see booths selling an assortment of things, especially before important holidays.

Sights

Exploring the Jewish Quarter of Paris is best done on foot or on bike – the narrow streets of Le Pletzl a perfect for longer or shorter walks. Expect your walks in the area to be frequently interrupted by stops at various shops, as you can hardly resist the aromas wafting from bakeries, patisseries and sandwich shops. Countless world cuisines can be found (in kosher version) in Le Pletzl, and between bites there’s a lot to see. The art nouveau style Synagogue Agoudas Hakehilos on Rue Pavée is definitely worth a look, or the more grandiose synagogue on Rue Victoire. Rue des Rosiers is the heart of the quarter, with an old hammam, a couple of synagogues, cafes and shops. History buffs might want to pay a visit to Rue Ferdinand Duval, made (in)famous by the Dreyfus Affair.

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