The Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, situated in the heart of Le Marais, is one of the streets most starkly effected by the mass gentrification and modernization of this historic French neighborhood. Throughout history, Le Marais has served as one of the biggest Jewish quarters in Paris, a haven for aristocratic society, and most recently the hub of Paris' LGBT community. However, despite the neighborhood's diverse history, the area has still fallen victim to the effects of the gentrification of Paris. These effects are outwardly noticeable on the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in particular as one side of the streets is largely 16th century mansions and hotels while the other side of the street is lined with designer stores such as Chanel, Maje, and Zadig et Voltaire. When walking down this street, the contrast between the two sides is incredibly evident, and one cannot help but be struck by the ways in which the gentrification that Le Marais has undergone in recent years has drastically changed the landscape and character of the neighborhood.
While the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is neither one of the major Jewish streets of Le Marais nor one of the major LGBT streets of Le Marais, it does serve as one of the most famous locations in Le Marais today. Those who visit the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois have the rare opportunity to view both 16th century historic mansions and modern, high end shops alongside one another. Walking down the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois gives one a glimpse of the character of Le Marais as a whole, as it is the perfect mixture of historical buildings and the fashionable, chic aesthetic that Paris is famous for. When walking down the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, simply turning one's head to the right or left completely transforms the feel and character of the street. The ornate, aristocratic mansions largely existing on one side of the street, most notably the Hotel Mortier de Sandreville, the Hotel d'Albret, and the Hotel d'Alméras, tell the story of Le Marais' past as home to many families in the upper echelons of French society. Furthermore, the Hôtel de Soubise, which is home to the Musée des Archives Nationales, is one of Paris' most famous old aristocratic mansions. In the case of the high fashion store Zadig et Voltaire, an old Parisian structure stands directly on top of the incredibly modern store. This visualization further demonstrates that Le Marais' history as a hub for aristocratic life continues to mix and exist alongside the chic, contemporary establishments dotting the streets today. The lavish architecture and décor of these buildings is striking, and walking past them is a stark contrast to wandering by the falafel stands, concept shops, and street art that characterizes much of Le Marais. However, the most shocking thing about seeing these ostentatious mansions on the streets of the now very artistic Le Marais is the fact that they exist in such close proximity to the designer shops and establishments that have appeared in Le Marais as a direct result of severe gentrification.
In recent years, the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois has become home to some of the most famous designer stores, including Ted Baker, Michael Kors, Bimba & Lola, and Sandro. The existence of these stores in Le Marais speak volumes about the ways in which the neighborhood has changed overtime as a result of gentrification and the desire to transform Le Marais into a chic, highly coveted place to live. While Jewish culture is still visible on the streets of Le Marais through the many Kosher restaurants periodically situated throughout the neighborhood, Le Marais has become much more modern. Le Marais is no longer home to solely authentic French establishments, and today many American and European chain shops such as Zara and Forever 21 have locations there. The Rue des Francs Bourgeois is a striking example of this mixing of cultures, and the contrast between the 16th century French mansions and the modern, high fashion stores on the street speaks volumes about the ways in which gentrification has changed Le Marais.