Undiscovered Paris

The Château de Vincennes, the Viaduc des Arts, Bercy Village... Discover Paris as you have never seen it

The south-east of Paris is undergoing a renaissance. The disused former railway line has been landscaped, and benches and skater ramps installed. The futuristic portico of the Ministry of Finance straddles the quay and is reflected in the water. Artistic creation and rehearsals take place at the Frigos, the former Paris-Ivry refrigerator station.
The tramway is back on track. The Diderot University is once again open to students on the site of the former Grands Moulins flourmills. The Cité de la Mode et du Design project occupies the site of the former bonded warehouses. A shopping centre now flourishes on the paving stones of abandoned covered markets, and pagodas dot 1970s tower blocks. You won’t believe your eyes!
Flowering palisades, workers’ housing blocks standing shoulder to shoulder with skyscrapers, organic vegetable gardens on the waste ground of warehouses that back on to smoked-glass offices. And to go from one side of the Seine to the other, there are lush green tunnels, bridges of spindle-shaped steel, and an undulating footbridge between the four book-shaped towers of France’s national library – the Bibliothèque Nationale de France – and the contemporary cinema
Since the time of the medieval tanners on the banks of the River Bièvre, nothing has been lost, everything has transformed!

1 La Butte-aux-Cailles

La Butte aux Cailles, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

The highest point at the Butte-aux-Cailles is measured at 63 m. It is higher than the Montagne Sainte Geneviève and the Butte Montmartre. Originally, this Butte was covered with windmills. The area was thronged with merchants, artisans, rag-and-bone men and coal merchants … The Bièvre River also attracted numerous fishermen due to its quantity of crayfish and other varieties. Today, the Butte-aux-Cailles boasts a number of lively bars and restaurants and is known for its village-like atmosphere.

2 Mobilier National & Manufactures Nationales des Gobelins

Manufacture des Gobelins, Paris © OTCP

Jean Gobelin was part of a family of scarlet dyers, who around 1440 established themselves in Paris on the banks of the Bièvre. In 1667, Colbert grouped the tapestry, cabinet and goldsmiths workshops together to form the 'manufacture royale des meubles de la couronne' (Royal Cabinet-Makers). The name Gobelins thus became famous throughout the courts of Europe. As well as the Gobelins tapestry factories using high-warp looms, the site also houses a part of the low-warp looms from Beauvais, established in Paris in 1940, and tapestry from la Savonnerie, brought together at Les Gobelins in 1825. At the rate of 1 m² of tapestry per year and per high-warp loom, tapestry making continues in the traditional way.

3 Les Docks – Cité de la mode et du design, return to the future

Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Next to the Austerlitz train station, on the edge of the Seine, a green building catches the eye: Les Docks - Cité de la mode et du design. Inaugurated in 2012, this place is dedicated to emerging creation. It is hard to imagine that an industrial building, constructed in 1907, previously stood here! But if you look more closely, the historic building of the former Magasins Généraux d’Austerlitz is still apparent. For this ‘new’ venue, the architects Jakob + MacFarlane carried out an ingenious architectural feat (of renovation and creation), deciding to keep the original concrete structure and clothe it in apple green coloured glass. A process (called 'plug over') that the Franco-New Zealand duo had experimented with at the Georges restaurant at the Centre Pompidou. At night, the building shines brightly with the light effect created by light artist Yann Kersalé.

4 The BnF, cultural grandeur

Bibliothèque Nationale de France © OTCP - David Lefranc

Direction the south-east of the capital to the Tolbiac district in the heart of the 13th arrondissement. This is where the majestic Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand. The library houses part of the collections of the historic Bibliothèque Nationale (national library), on rue Richelieu. Designed by the French architect Dominique Perrault, this monumental building celebrated its 20th anniversary in March. The building is aesthetically sleek and minimalist, in keeping with the ‘less is more’ trend of the famous German architect Mies van der Rohe. The building consists of four corner towers in the shape of open books: a nice reference for a library! The towers are free standing without any surrounding walls or fences and are therefore easily accessible to everyone. The emptiness of the interior space is occupied by a magnificent garden. The construction of the BnF was followed by the development of a new Parisian neighbourhood around it, on both sides of the Seine linked by the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge (Feichtinger, 2006).

5 Simone de Beauvoir footbridge

Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

This bridge, the 37th in Paris, is the result of an architectural design competition whose aim was to link the new district around the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (13th arrondissement) with Bercy (12th arrondissement).

6 Bercy Park

Parc de Bercy, Paris © OTCP - Jacques Lebar

Explore its history as Bercy’s former wine warehouse by exploring its rail system, storehouse and guardhouse, now transformed into a gardener’s lodge. The park is divided into three parts: plant beds consisting of a vegetable garden, orchard, etc., lawns and a romantic garden featuring a pond and the former house of the city’s tax collector. The garden has preserved the original orthogonal outline of its roadways and some cobbled pathways once used to transport wines from the banks of the Seine. A picturesque and refreshing leap in time!

7 AccorHotels Arena

Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy © OTCP - David Lefranc

Everything goes on under this grass-covered pyramid: spectacular shows with pop and rock stars, horse riding, skiing … even skating on the Sonja Henie ice-skating rink, from t4! The Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy is France’s largest concert venue and every year it hosts the biggest concerts in the capital. In its 20 or so years of existence, top French and international stars — Michel Sardou, Prince, Mylene Farmer, Madonna, etc. — have performed at Bercy.

8 Cinémathèque française

La Cinémathèque française, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

With its 40,000 films, the Cinémathèque Française is one the biggest film archives in the world. Founded in 1938, this collection covers almost every film producing country in the world and features items from the 18th and 19th centuries (magic lanterns, optical boxes, etc.), and numerous projectors and cameras from around the world, enabling the visitor to explore almost every stage in the international development of cinematographic technology. In addition, the Cinémathèque also has a collection of costumes, devices, visual art works (drawings, models, posters, etc.) including the skull of Norman Bates’ mother in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, gears from Chaplin’s Modern Times and more.

9 Bercy Village - Cour Saint Emilion

Bercy village, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Housed in a former 19th-century wine storehouse, completely renovated and transformed into boutiques, the Cour Saint Emilion is ideal for shopaholics and anyone who loves to watch the world go by from the terrace of a cafe. Drawing its charm from its historic role in the capital’s love affair with wine, Bercy Village, an open air shopping centre, enables visitors to take their time and sample the delights of the adjoining Bercy garden.

10 Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration - Palais de la Porte Dorée

Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration, Paris © OTCP - Marc Bertrand

Classified as a historic monument in 1987, the Palais de la Porte Dorée houses the Cité nationale de l’immigration. This museum exhibits works that allow the public to enjoy and understand the wealth of art and culture brought to France by its immigrant populations.

11 Tropical aquarium - Palais de la Porte Dorée

Discus, Aquarium tropical de la Porte Dorée, Paris © DR

The Aquarium Tropical de la Porte Dorée is the oldest public aquarium in the capital! It features numerous exotic species of marine life. The specimens on show are all of educational interest: electric fish, piranhas, invertebrates, sharks and much more.

12 Bois de Vincennes

Paris, Bois de Vincennes, balade en barque © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Originally named 'Vilcena', the Bois de Vincennes is a remnant of the old belt of forest that once surrounded Lutetia. Its beauty may be explored on foot, on horseback or in a boat on the lake. Two signed fitness trails provide the opportunity to train outdoors.

13 Parc Floral de Paris / Jardin botanique de la Ville de Paris

Parc floral de Vincennes, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Laid out in 1969, on the occasion of the Third International Flower Show, the Parc Floral de Paris is a beautiful setting that changes with the seasons. It is an ideal place for a stroll and popular with plant lovers. Along with the Parc de Bagatelle, the Ecole Du Breuil and the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil, it forms the botanical garden of Paris.

14 Château de Vincennes - Centre des Monuments Nationaux

Château de Vincennes © Thinkstock

A royal residence from the 12th to the 18th century, the Château de Vincennes has retained its enceinte, its medieval towers, the 14th-century donjon, and the Sainte-Chapelle with its 16th-century stained-glass windows. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the vestiges of the residence where Philippe-Auguste and Saint Louis stayed. Today, the King’s and Queen’s pavilions, built in the 18th century, and the 19th-century blockhouses house the Ministry of Defense‘s historical archives and research department. Guided tour of the châtelet, the walkway, the donjon, the Sainte-Chapelle, the moat and the curtain walls.

15 Viaduc des Arts

Viaduc des Arts, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Just two steps away from place de la Bastille in the 12th arrondissement, the prestigious Viaduc des Arts showcases internationally-recognized French craft expertise with 52 arts and crafts workers and is a unique place for mixtures of the latest trends, where prestigious designers come together to create elegant, refined and luxury objects. Unique jewellery, everlasting flowers in subtle colours, theatre sets, puppets and antique dolls, restoration of paintings, tapestry, contemporary furniture, art objects, painting on porcelain, lights, bronzes … all on a pleasant musical note of flutes and cellos. Not forgetting temporary exhibitions on the subject of art professions but also on Mozart, Africa, the potters, etc.

16 Promenade plantée

Promenade plantée, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

Created in 1988 by Philippe Mathieux and Jacques Vergely on the former railway line, which from 1859 linked the Place de la Bastille to Varenne-Saint-Maur, the Promenade plantée mixes areas of wild vegetation that had sprung up alongside the railway line with more modern landscaped areas.