A green and cultural walk in Bercy Park

The Bercy district is an intriguing mix of tradition and innovation, green spaces and cultural venues.

The rarely-visited Bercy district has many little-known places that are well worth discovering, right from the moment you emerge from the Bercy metro station (Line 14 or Line 6). Exit 4 leads out to Rue Henri Desgrange. Look down as you wander along this street – it is covered in pavement games in pretty pastel colours, drawn in 2018 as part of the Embellir Paris (Beautify Paris) call for projects to incorporate art into various streets and squares in the city.

It’s an attractive preamble to this walk starting outside AccorHotels Arena, the prestigious sports and concert venue. Follow the guide!

1/ The Cinémathèque française

You cannot walk past this striking building on Place Leonard Bernstein without pausing for a closer look. When the great architect Frank Gehry designed it in 1994, he said it resembled ‘a dancer lifting her tutu’. Today, the building is home to the Cinémathèque française, whose mission is to acquire, archive, restore and disseminate France’s film heritage.

It houses some 40,000 films and thousands of documents, as well as film-related objects, sets and costumes. Started in 1936 by Henri Langlois, the collection has been enriched over the decades and is now one of the world’s most comprehensive film archives. What with the museum, the Donor Gallery, some fascinating exhibitions and a variety of events, there is plenty to see and do at the Cinémathèque.

The Cinémathèque canteen, Les 400 Coups, puts on a great weekend brunch. They also have a menu of delicious snacks which you can order to eat on the spot or take away for a picnic in the park.

Cinémathèque française, 51 rue de Bercy -Paris 12th

Museum and Donor Gallery: Open daily except Tuesday from 12pm to 7pm.

Les 400 Coups: Open from 11am to 3.30pm on Monday, 11am to 8.30pm from Wednesday to Friday, 11am to 10pm on Saturday and 11am to 9pm on Sunday. Closed on Tuesday. (Opening times may vary depending on events at the Cinémathèque).

 More info on the Cinémathèque française

2/ Bercy vineyard

You’ll be surprised to find there is a vineyard tucked away behind the rose garden in Bercy park. The 350 Sauvignon and Chardonnay vines are among the last remnants of the history of the district, which began in Roman times, when the first vines were planted here. The opening of the first wine warehouse came much later, during the reign of Louis XIV.

Ideally positioned on the banks of the Seine, and exempt from paying city taxes (Bercy was merely a village on the outskirts of Paris until 1860), the district soon became Europe’s principal market for wines and spirits and a favourite spot for a night of revelry. Look out for vestiges of the past – cobblestoned lanes; stone warehouses; a brick chimney; the railway tracks along which the wine was transported in tank cars to the riverbanks. You’ll even spot the ruins of an 18th-century folly in the southern part of the gardens.

Clos du Parc de Bercy - 1 rue Joseph-Kessel, Paris 12th

 More info on Bercy vineyard

3/ The Chai de Bercy

A short distance from the kitchen garden is the Chai de Bercy, an authentic storehouse dating to the time when the area was a wine warehouse complex. Most of the storehouses were demolished from the 1950s to the 1980s, but this one – formerly used for bottling wines – has been restored and repurposed. Like the nearby Orangerie, which usually serves as the park’s conservatory, this building is used to hold a variety of exhibitions – whether photography, painting or sculpture – that are well worth seeing.

Chai de Bercy - 41, rie Paul-Belmondo, Paris 12th

4/ The Maison du Jardinage

This is a haven for green-fingered Parisians. Located in a 19th-century building formerly housing a tax office, the Maison du Jardinage (literally House of Gardening), which opened in 1997, is an oasis of greenery in the city centre. The grapevines tumbling gracefully around the building’s façade offer a clue to the organization’s mission: introducing Parisians of all ages to the joys of gardening. There is a well-stocked library, an educational greenhouse and a community vegetable plot, as well as regular how-to workshops. The goal is to encourage local urban farming, as with the City of Paris-approved Agricool shipping container used to grow fresh strawberries at the entrance to Bercy park. Afterwards, you can enjoy a pleasant stroll through the maze, the scented garden, the bulb garden and the orchard.

When you’ve had your fill of greenery, come out into Rue George Gershwin and wander at will along the evocatively-named surrounding streets (Rue de Pommard, Rue de Chablis, etc.). Admire the pretty millstone houses in this area. Turn right into Rue de Bercy, then take a left turn to get to Place Lachambeaudie.

Maison du Jardinage - 41, rue Paul-Belmondo, Paris 12th

 More info on the Maison du Jardinage

5/ Place Lachambeaudie

Formerly known as Place de l’Église, this charming square hosts a market every Wednesday afternoon (4pm to 8pm) and on Sunday mornings.  Other attractions to look out for here:

- Notre-Dame de la Nativité de Bercy. This church’s external peristyle, reminiscent of an ancient Roman basilica, is a relatively modern addition. Initially built in this spot in 1677, the church survived the French Revolution, bombardment, flooding, a fire and the Paris Commune, and has been rebuilt twice. It is worth going inside to have a look at the 17th- and 18th-century paintings it contains, together with a statue of Saint Émilion (the patron saint of wine merchants).

- A fire station located in a millstone building with bright red doors.

- The Lachambeaudie urban farm on the roof of the RATP building – a winner of the City of Paris’s ‘Parisculteurs’ call for projects to create a more sustainable urban environment. Fruit and vegetables are grown hydroponically, using water instead of soil, and the rooftop also has beehives. RATP employees are given baskets of fresh produce, and an opportunity to learn to grow their own. The rooftop project also supplies some local restaurants in the area with fresh produce.

Walk back the way you came to the park and go over one of the footbridges spanning Rue Joseph Kessel.

Place Lachambeaudie, Paris 12th

6/ The Jardin Romantique

Ponds filled with herons and ducks, lush vegetation and centenary trees, water lilies and a riot of flowers … deep inside the park is the well-named Jardin Romantique (romantic garden) – a haven of peace. In the centre of the garden is the Pavillon du Lac, formerly a guard house and now used to host exhibitions. This little house is also the seat of the Paris Climate Agency, a non-profit organization set up by the City of Paris to help achieve Paris’s climate goals. If you climb to the belvedere while you’re here, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the surroundings.

Jardin Romantique - Parc de Bercy - 41, rue Paul-Belmondo, Paris 12th

7/ Bercy Village

Head over now to Bercy Village, a flourishing wine trading centre back in the 19th century. It has since been redeveloped into a pleasant little village where railway tracks still run through Cour Saint-Émilion, the main street lined with former warehouses. Casks of wine were transported here in tank cars and passed along from hand to hand to be bottled, sold and drunk. The area stood derelict for a long time after the warehouses went into decline, but these days it is an enjoyable place to while away time, filled with shops, restaurants and a cinema.

Bercy Village - Cour Saint-Emilion, Paris 12th

 More info on Bercy Village

8/ The Musée des Arts Forains

From the village, walk on a little further and you will come to the Pavillons de Bercy, the location of one of Paris’s most unusual museums: the Musée des Arts Forains. It houses a collection of 19th- and 20th-century fairground artefacts such as century-old merry-go-rounds and other vintage attractions. Prior booking is required to visit the museum, where enthusiastic guides accompany you on a fascinating journey back in time to the Belle Epoque, focusing on the objects and art commonly used in fairgrounds of that era.

Pavillons de Bercy - Musée des Arts Forains - 53 avenue des Terroirs de France, Paris 12th

 More info on the Musée des Arts Forains

Make your way back to Cour Saint-Émilion to take the metro (Line 14) after this interesting foray off the beaten track.