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21st Century Paris

21st Century Paris Walking Tour

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Why you will love it?

Parisians are proud of their 2000 year old city, but Paris is also a capital that stays current, mixing modernity with its many centuries old monuments. One of these modern areas is located on the very eastern part of Paris, along the Seine River. Take a break from the old Paris to go through some of the main highlights of the modern day city. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

118 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris
Line 6 / 14 - Bercy

Our Insiders' Article


Exit the metro station “Bercy” (line 6 and 14) via exit 4, and you will find yourself facing the Palais Omnisport de Paris Bercy (POPB), the biggest concert and sports hall in Paris. With a surface of 55 000m², the hall can welcome 18 000 people and can be modified to welcome almost any kind of sports, including water sports (surf competitions). Opened in 1983, it was the world’s first hall of its kind, enabling very quick setups for different kinds of activities. The grass covered walls of this pyramid looking building makes it a very distinguishable building in Paris. Don’t hesitate to walk up the building to get a nice view on the Parc de Bercy, on the opposite side of the metro station. The modern building on the west side of POPB is the Ministry of Finance.

Parisianist Fun Fact: POPB is now being enlarged andwill reopen in 2015 for a total cost of 110 million Euros and will be renamed Bercy Arena.

Bercy Park

POPB lays at the western end of Parc de Bercy, a modern park alongside the Seine River. Head east inside Parc de Bercy. The park is divided into three parts. The part closest to the concert hall is called the Prairie. Its large grass fields welcome amateur football (soccer) players in summer. You might also see some tightrope walkers training, with their rope attached to two of the many tall trees in the Prairie. Next to POPB is a skate park for those who might wish to mingle with the local skaters. Climb up the stairs after the skatepark and you will have a great photo spot on the park and the Bibliothèque Nationale on the other side of the Seine River. The 21 sculptures you will see represent 21 kids of 21 countries, and children’s rights in general in the 21st century.  Opposite the stairs is the Film Museum and Library of Paris (“Cinémathèque”, 5€ /12PM-7PM, closed on Tuesday).

Bercy Park

The second part of Parc de Bercy on your way east to Bercy Village is special garden designed for teaching purposes. Schools organize field trips here so the children can learn about plants and gardening. After taking the footbridge over a street, you will end up in the “Romantic Garden,” where ponds filled with fish, dunes and lovely landscape architecture await. In summer, many Parisians gather here for a picnic or to simply relax in this quiet hideaway.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Parc de Bercy was built on the grounds of the wine warehouses of the 18th century. In the second part of the park, you can still see railroad tracks and the houses were used as tax gathering checkpoints. This activity lasted until 1960.

Bercy Village

At the end of Parc de Bercy is the distric of Bercy Village, otherwise known as Cour Saint Emilion. Enter one of the tunnels through the first set of buildings to access the main road, a small road with many different shops and restaurants. Interesting stores include a pet store, a tea shop, a cooking shop and “la Cure Gourmande,” a candy store straight out of a fairytale. “Nature & Découverte,” on the southern side of the street next to the big movie theater is also worth visiting. You can either get a nice French croissant or pastry at Eric Kayser, or still and enjoy a good meal at either Chai 33 or the friendly English pub “The Frog at Bercy Village”.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Not too far away to the east, at 53 Avenue des Terroirs de France is the Fairground Art Museum (14€ cash only, reservation needed). The magical museum displays objects and attractions of fairground people. Reservations are compulsory via internet.

Moulins de Paris

After having walked around Bercy Village, go back to Parc de Bercy. This time, do not cross the footbridge, but instead, exit the park on Rue Joseph Kessel and turn left to head for the Seine River. Cross the Seine on Pont de Tolbiac and turn left on Quai Panhard-et-Levassor. About 200m ahead is the main entrance to part of Tolbiac University, on Esplanade Pierre Vidal Naquet. Turn right and follow the large pedestrian walkway towards the South. The university was once the famous “Grands Moulins de Paris”, a gristmill supplying most of the flour to Parisian bakeries since its creation in 1927. As this activity was wearing down, the gristmill ceased to produce flour in 1996. Although the silo was torn down, the main building was rehabilitated into a university. From the park and stairs at the end of Esplanade Pierre Vidal Naquet and leading up to Rue Olivier Messiaen, you will see that the original building on the left kept the sign “Grands Moulins de Paris” on its façade.

Parisianist Fun Fact: You have probably noticed a yellow water fountain on Esplanade Pierre Vidal Naquet. These are the famous Wallace Fountains, first installed in Paris but which you can find in many other countries around the world. Usually painted in dark green color, some of them have become art sculptures, like this one painted in yellow.

Les Frigos

Turn right on Rue Olivier Messiaen and take the 3rd street to the right (Rue Primo Levi). A few meters ahead, on your left hand side, is the “Frigos.” Built in 1920, the Frigos was formally a refrigerated warehouse for the railroad industry, but it was abandoned in 1970. Slowly, artists and non-artists alike started squatting in this abandoned place, seduced by its thermo and sound isolation characteristics, without paying rent. Today the Frigos has become a very interesting mix of 15 different professional activities, from a small printing company to artists and actors, all paying an official rent. Although the doors might be closed, you can still try to get inside as it’s well worth a try to peek at one of the 90 workshops in the building. And if inside is not a possibility, walk around the building and look at the diverse graffiti (access via Rue des Frigos on the left).

Parisianist Fun Fact: The word Frigos in French means refrigerators.

Bibliothèque F. Mitterrand

Walk west to the end of Rue des Frigos and turn left on Rue Neuve Tolbiac. On the first street to your right (Rue Jean Anouilh), you will see another Wallace Fountain, this time painted in pink. Continue walking up Rue Neuve Tolbiac and turn right on Avenue de France. This part of the avenue is becoming a very lively place, because of the nearby universities. A 100m ahead is a large movie theater, and behind it lays the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, aka Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, the French President that ordered the creation of this building. Created in 1994, architect Dominique Perrault’s award winning library is the biggest in France and one of the largest in the world. Within its glass walls are books from different times and places, including old royal manuscripts dating back to the Middle Ages.

Parisianist Fun Fact: During construction, the project was not very popular, and some journalists wrongly claimed that the old manuscripts were going to be stored in the glass towers, therefore exposing them to sunlight and unavoidable damage.

Seine Banks

Walk down the stairs facing the Seine River, and descend onto its banks. There are many different boats docked in front of the Bibliothèque Nationale. In summer, this place becomes very crowded at night when the locals gather here to drink beer or wine and enjoy a picnic-style meal. Barges such as the “Batofar,” with its characteristic lighthouse, the “El-Alamein” and its impressive plant collection, or the Chinese junk boat “La Dame de Canton” all welcome visitors for a drink or live entertainment. Walk towards the west, with the boats to your right. These parts of the river banks have also been redesigned and modernized. The Josephine Baker swimming pool, a floating public pool, also attracts many locals.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Bad luck has struck the swimming pool several times. After a fire incident in 2006, destroying part of the structure, it nearly sank to the bottom of the river in 2007, following a maintenance mistake.

Les Docks

Walk down the banks of the Seine until you reach the “Docks”, a modern green building on the banks of the Seine. Climb up the stairs on the left side, located under the building. This modern architectural building is home to several shops, restaurants, bars, a museum and the French Fashion Institute. Wanderlust, on the ground floor, is a trendy cluster of different activities for both adults and children, especially popular on the weekend. Climb up to the rooftop and you will find two popular terrace bars / restaurants: Nüma (best) and Moon Roof, both offering a nice view on the Seine and the modern buildings of the area. The Musée Art Ludique (Playful Arts Museum, 14€, daily 11AM-7PM) does not have a permanent collection but offers interesting expositions, such as Pixar movie sketches.

Parisianist Tip: The Fashion Institute can only be visited in a group and with prior reservations.

Gare de Lyon

Exit the “Docks” either on Quai d’Austerlitz street or on the banks and proceed to your right (west). Take the first bridge to cross the Seine River (Pont Charles de Gaulle). Ahead, you will see a tower (belfry) with a clock: Gare de Lyon railway station. Walk all the way to the entrance of Gare de Lyon. Gare de Lyon is one of the 7 railway stations in Paris, and was built in 1900 for the Universal Exposition. The former Gare de Lyon built in 1847 was not adapted to the increasing population of Paris, and was even partially burned down during the French civil war in 1871. To impress the 1900 Universal Exposition visitors and cater to an increasing demand in transport, a new Gare de Lyon was built, with 13 lines instead of 5, and adding the iconic belfry.

Parisianist Tip: Enter Gare de Lyon and find the restaurant “Le Train Bleu,” a mythical restaurant that resembles a 1900 museum. Its impressive decoration and the height of the ceiling will surely leave you breathless. The metro and RER stations “Gare de Lyon” are located at basement level of this station.

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