The locals’ favorite spots in Paris are usually close to the water and with the new mile-and-a-half project Les Berges de Paris (the banks of Paris), city dwellers will now have extra breathing space along the river Seine year-round.
While the river has been the lifeline of the city from its trading days, it has become somewhat of a backwater, its leisure potential largely ignored until now. Early this year, quayside roads running from pont (bridge) de l’Alma to pont Royal were paved over, infusing new life and soul in the waterfront. The Seine traded in its expressways of roaring traffic for an urban playground of new eateries, countryside spots, floating gardens and chic new art hub Faust. We took a walk along the river, and here are our top five things to keep you occupied from dawn until dusk during your next visit to The City of Light.
Yoga classes along the water at the Zen
Daily yoga classes take place on one of the daises positioned along the water for events and group sessions. Pilates, t’ai chi and Zumba classes will also take place in the area (Port du Gros Caillou; metro Alma Marceau, line 9). Bordered by a labyrinth garden on one side and the river on the other, this space is a real bubble of peace and tranquility. If you like your exercise a little more upbeat, then there is also a skate ramp (open through September 15), running lanes, a climbing wall and workout sessions with trainers, which can be booked on the Les Berges website.
Countryside living: floating gardens and fruit trees
Meander the five floating garden islets located close to the pont de l’Alma (metro Alma Marceau, line 9), have a snooze on a ‘Zzz’ terrace (large, repurposed shipping containers for napping), which you can have all to yourself for free if you book in advance at one of the information booths along the banks (Port de Solférino; metro Assemblée Nationale, line 12). Stroll through the orchard, where various fruit trees (pear, plum, apple, peach and more) have just been planted in large white boxes (Port du Gros Caillou; metro Alma Marceau, line 9). And with the weather heating up slowly but surely, it’s going to be picnic time soon and The Grand Terrace — featuring 240 seats and the “mobile trattoria of Mozza & Co. serving Italian fare from 11 a.m. to midnight each day — is perfect for doing just that (Port de Solférino; metro Assemblée Nationale, line 12).
The river’s new look also comes with a novel way of getting around: the Batobus (boat-bus). Jump from one side of the river to the other (hitting major locations such as The Louvre and Notre-Dame de Paris in intervals of 20 or 25 minutes) as you would in a taxi and explore the neighborhoods bordering the Seine, from the Musée d’Orsay to the Grand Palais.
What new project in France would be complete without food? As part of the Berges project, there are a number of eateries to choose from. A favorite with the locals, the Rosa Bonheur (located in the Buttes Chaumont park) will soon be opening its floating outpost at pont des Invalides. Settled on a barge, the Rosa will be serving fresh fare from salads to small plates of Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and fig tapenade. The barge guinguette (dancing venue) will be open at breakfast time for early risers.
For those who find food trucks too casual and floating bars too hip, there is Flow bar and restaurant, which will be serving up local food (burgers, bagels, salads and cheese and ham boards for sharing) until 2 a.m. on a temporary beach set up on the banks (Port des Invalides; metro Invalides, lines 8 and 13). The Omnivore Rives urban deli will also be offering locally sourced vegetables, sesame seed, salmon and cream cheese bagels, hot dogs, pig confit with anchovies, fruit salads and more (pont de Solférino; metro Assemblée Nationale, line 12).
A night out on the water
For something a little trendier and upmarket, Faust is a new art, exhibition and event venue combined with a restaurant, bar and pop-up vintage boutique — all floating right on the water. Stay around after restaurant closing time (try a Japanese bento box) and get ready for a night of dancing as the tables are pushed back and the disco ball comes out.
Photos Courtesy of Amélie Dupont, Marc Bertrand and Paris Tourist Office