As one of the world’s most popular tourist destination (around 29 million visitors per year) Paris is one city that can afford to rest on its laurels – only it doesn’t. Since 2001 Paris socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoë (since succeded by his deputy Anne Hidalgo in 2014) have pursued an exciting and forward thinking approach to urban development. Their mission: to make Paris more liveable for the people who live there. Emblematic innovations include the Velib public bike rental scheme subsequently copied by London’s Boris Bikes and New York’s CitiBike scheme. There’s also the playful Paris Plage whereby the quays along the Seine is closed to traffic for a month through July-August and is instead replaced by sand, sun lounges, water features complete with pop restaurants, a library and even a swimming pool. The idea behind Paris Plage – to create a holiday beach experience with plenty of free activities so that people who can’t afford a holiday can enjoy a mini day out in Paris.
The latest in this series of urban developments is Les Berges, opened summer 2013, that stretches along the Seine from the level of the Musée d’Orsay right down to the Tour Eiffel. Once a major traffic thoroughfare for commuters the quays have been closed and now offer car-free space to cyclists, roller bladers, amblers and picnickers. The summer months are particularly vibrant with free games and weekend activities (ranging from free yoga classes to kids sports) and lots of seating for people to picnic with friends, read a book or simply enjoy the view. There are also pop up bars, restaurants and the bobo-friendly Rosa Bonheur has a peniche (boat) anchored off-shore. Things quieten down in the winter months when a lot of the foliage and seating is removed to protect it from the harsh weather, but it still remains a lovely place for a stroll.
See the Les Berges website for program details.