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Hôtel de Sens in Le Marais: My Secret Paris Locations

Last Updated on 27th January 2021 by Sophie Nadeau

Whether you’re looking for a spot to escape busy city life, or merely trying to find a quiet space to read, there are always tranquil escapes around the city just waiting to be found. One such place is located right in the heart of Le Marais, not far from La Seine. Hôtel de Sens was once home to archbishopric of Sens but is now a specialist library. It also happens to be the oldest mansion house in Le Marais…

hotel de sens le marais

A brief history of Hôtel de Sens

The grand mansion here is not a hotel in the traditional sense and so is not somewhere you can stay. Instead, it is a former medieval Château and is one of just three remaining medieval residences in the heart of Paris. Looking as if it’s come straight out of the Loire Valley, the building is complete with winding staircases, turrets and grand windows.

Built at the end of the 15th-Century, this great building was commissioned by the Archbishop of Sens, Salazar. Building work began in 1475 and the medieval housing took 27 years to complete. During the middle ages, Le Marais was transformed from a swampy marsh to the chic area you see today.

The city was rapidly expanding and the residents needed more space. The first people to relocate to the newly dredged area north of the river were the clergy. Hotel de Sens was one of the first residences built in the area.

Hotel de Sens Paris France

Salazar and his successors continued to live in the building for the next few generations. However, the power of the clergy diminished and nobles moved into the area instead. As a result, Hôtel de Sens’ most notable, and perhaps most infamous, resident was Queen Margot. Shortly after her marriage to King Henry IV, he annulled the marriage in favour of marrying a Medici.

Unable to have children, Queen Margot was banished to Le Marais, an area of the city which was a former marshy swamp turned chic district. Once there, she turned Hôtel de Sens into her own personal playground. She had countless lovers and held extravagant parties within the walls of this grand château.

Hotel de Sens, Paris, France Hotel de Sens, Paris, France

Hôtel de Sens Cannonball

One of the most unique aspects of the medieval mansion turned library is that of a tiny metal ball lodged in the side of the front of the building. You see, one of the most hidden gems of Le Marais is this cannonball, which dates all the way back to the French Revolution. The ball allegedly hit the building on July the 28th, 1830 and today a small stone inscription commemorates it hitting the building.

Hidden Gems & Secret Spots in Le Marais You'll Love! Delightful offbeat and unusual things to do in Le Marais, Paris, France

Hôtel de Sens Today

After being confiscated during the French Revolution, Hôtel de Sens sadly fell into poor repair by the beginnings of the 20th Century. It was then purchased by the city of Paris in 1911 and restored to its former glory. Since 1961 the former mansion has housed the Forney Library (Bibliotheque Forney). The library specialises in the decorative arts and often houses small exhibitions which area open to the public.

Bibliothèque Forney: Studying in a Medieval Library in the Middle of Le Marais: inside details

Hôtel de Sens Garden

Lying adjacent to the grand medieval building, you’ll find a small garden. Wandering around Le Marais, it’s often hard to find spaces without people, especially in the summer. However, I’ve always found the Hôtel de Sens garden to be fairly quiet, even in the height of high season.

With little-painted benches surrounded by small floral borders, the garden is the perfect place to watch the world go by for a couple of hours. It also happens to be a wonderful place to enjoy a small picnic. The garden is free and open to the public and is easily one of the best green spaces in Paris.

The nearest metros are Sully-Morland, Saint-Paul on Lines 1, 7.

Hotel de Sens Gardens, Paris, France Hotel de Sens Paris France

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Hotel de Sens: My Secret Paris Locations  Paris Le Marais France

My secret Paris locations: visiting Hôtel de Sens, a medieval mansion turned library in the heart of Le Marais, Paris, France.

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Alan Levitan

Wednesday 1st of February 2023

I'm so glad you write so eloquently about Hotel de Sens. There are sites that deal with this hotel that never mention Queen Margot's residence there. (She was on very good terms with her divorced husband, by the way; they actually played chess together.) I visited it (as the Bibliotheque Forney) in 1996 (when it was already a Decorative Arts museum) and was thrilled to walk up and down the medieval and early renaissance staircases (which are beautiful). It's a wonderful building. Thank you for liking it so much.

Michael Wisecup

Tuesday 3rd of September 2019

Please reconsider your description of Queen Margot. She was not “banished” to this site, but rather rewarded by her former husband after a very amiable divorce. This generous and by far smartest member of her debauched family became close to the woman who replaced her as queen and even had a close relationship to her children. When she died, Paris mourned her passing unlike her mother’s unmourned death, Catherine de Medici. Now there was a real monster. Read recent histories on this extraordinary woman and how she has been maligned by generations of royal historians and misogynist men before the feminist movement.


Monday 5th of June 2017

Did you notice that there is a cannon ball still lodged in the wall above on of the windows from 1830 during the three insurrection days again King Charles X. I can see if on your third picture down. I went to see if last time I was in Paris, i thought it was a neat little piece of history being perserved.

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