The French capital has its equivalent of New York City’s Lower East Side. In southeast Paris, hip new places are cropping up on either bank of the Seine, from the Quartier de la Gare in the 13th arrondissement to Bercy. Shopping, clubbing on the waterside, restaurants, contemporary art galleries: the Seine is where it’s all happening!
You go from one extreme to another in this area. One minute you’ll be enjoying a village atmosphere; the next, you’ll come across ultra-contemporary architecture. In Bercy, you can’t miss the vast modern structure housing the French finance ministry, or AccorHotels Arena (formerly known as Palais Ominsports de Paris Bercy), the grass-covered, pyramid-shaped stadium. The Cinémathèque française designed by Frank Gehry is also worth seeing. To get to the Left Bank, you walk across the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge leading to the courtyard of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, a majestic building with four towers shaped like half-open books. Then, as you stroll along the Seine in the direction of the Gare d’Austerlitz, you’ll come upon the area’s most striking landmark: Les Docks - Cité de la mode et du design. A bold architectural statement designed by Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane, the building resembles an enormous fluorescent green lizard.
The avant-garde outpost of contemporary art is Rue Louise-Weiss, the historic haunt of young artists, which was stuffed with galleries until, in the late 1990s, some of them relocated to the Marais. But many of them have stayed on: like Air de Paris and Triple V, which show work by some of the edgiest artists in town. Les Docks - Cité de la mode et du design, showcasing a slew of up-and-coming fashion designers, is a must-see. On Rue Hélène-Brion, take a peek inside Mathgoth, one of the biggest galleries devoted to graffiti.
If shopping is on your agenda, head for Bercy Village. Originally built to accommodate the warehouses of the Paris wine trade, the village has been converted into an open-air shopping mall with a variety of shops (fashion, beauty, culture, interior decoration and so on). If you’re keen to keep up with the latest trends, go shopping at the Docks: that’s where you’ll find Silvera Outdoor, for instance, which makes super stylish outdoor furniture. The MK2 Bibliothèque cinema has a concept store selling DVDs and books as well as fine foods and must-have objects
This area is one big sports ground. You can actually swim on the banks of the Seine in the Josephine Baker floating swimming pool. If skating is your thing then head for the iconic Skatepark de Bercy right behind Bercy Arena. Basketball fans can shoot some hoops in an unusual setting: under the elevated metro station Chevaleret.
Several good restaurants have opened in the stretch between Bercy and the Quartier de la Gare. Organic food devotees have plenty of choice at the 13th arrondissement end: from the wood-and-concrete decor of Yuman to the all-vegetarian menu at M.O.B. in the Cité de la Mode. Street food fans can sample a variety of offerings at the food trucks that stop off in the MK2 Bibliothèque courtyard: scrumptious burgers at the Camion qui fume, frozen yogurts at Igloo dans la ville, convivial bistro fare at La Brigade, and hot dogs at Larry’s. In the 12th arrondissement, the Chai 33 bar and restaurant is a wine lover’s paradise in the heart of Bercy Village, with a selection of 300 wines.
The area has some great places for a night out, most of them a hybrid mix of bar, restaurant and club. You can just drop in for a drink, or stay on until the small hours. The converted barges moored between the Pont de Tolbiac and the Pont de Bercy are very popular with Paris clubbers. The top three: Le Batofar, La Dame de Canton and Le Petit Bain. Another place that’s hot in Paris right now is Les Docks - Cité de la mode et du design, which houses three restaurant-and-club combos: Le Wanderlust, Communion and Café Oz Rooftop.