From the Parc de Bercy to the Allée Arthur Rimbaud, Paris

On a sunny week day in early December the Parc de Bercy is full of life and colour.   The most westerly end of the park ‘La Grande Prairie’ (The big meadow) is never closed.   This large open grassy space was designed to be used for games and picnics and hosts a busy skate park.  It is one of the rare places in Paris for the young and energetic to let off steam.

The north of the prairie is dominated by Franck Gehry’s Cinamathéque Française which hosts the National Cinema Museum.  I really like this building which is small in comparison to his later work such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  The local limestone façade ensures the building fits with the surrounding Parisian architecture but the dramatic curves and planes show it to be distinctly Gehry.

Cinematheque Francaise




Plane trees BercyThe majestic plane trees that originally gave their summer shade to the wine depot have been conserved.  The fallen leaves were dancing in the wind on the blustery day I visited.


A row of fastigiate hornbeams separate La Grande Prairie from the Parterres section of the park.  Their leaves glow a brilliant orange in the low winter sunlight.

Omnisports BercyAnother row of hornbeams line the western boundary.  Just beyond one can see the sloping grass facades of the Palais Omnisports Paris.

To the south, on the dyke that protects Paris from the river Seine, a monumental stair-like fountain, designed by the sculptor Gérard Singer leads the promeneur to the latest pedestrian bridge, the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir.

Fountain BercyFrom the top of the fountain looking north to the Cinémateque Française.  The fountain is switched off for winter.

P1040269The Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir leads over the river Seine to the Bibliothéque National de France and is accessible to both cyclists and pedestrians.


As on all the Paris bridges, lovers leave a padlock and presumably throw the keys into the water.  This bridge is not yet as weighed down by padlocks as the Pont des Arts. 


The elegant wave-form of the bridge can be best seen from the left bank of the river.  The split levels are a practical way of combining access from the roads on both sides and from the higher level of the dyke to the Bibliothéque platform opposite.

P1040248Across the water, at the foot of the Bibliothéque National, the Allée Arthur Rimbaud provides a green space along the river.  Designed by Landscape Architect Jaqueline Osty and opened in 1997, the split-level promenade successfully separates the busy road from the quay-side.  The naturalistic use of shrubs and grasses are a signature of the designer.



The use of willows and grasses give this promenade a river-side feel, totally in keeping with its location.  It’s a lovely example of using the ‘genus loci’ or the ‘genie of a place’ as inspiration.


Baccharis halimifolia 1 This rather spectacular shrub has also been used by Osty in her other projects.  It is Baccharis halimifolia.

Baccharis halimifolia 2The white flowers of the plant become fuzzy seed-heads which fly away in clouds of cotton wool.  The leaves are smooth edges or slightly toothed.  A native of Florida, it was introduced to France in the 17th century and is particularly happy beside the sea or by water.  The airborne seeds are so successful that it can be invasive.

P1040243Looking back towards the BNF.  The many green plastic bins are an unfortunate blot on the landscape but are perhaps and indicator of success;  I imagine this to be an excellent picnic spot for office workers in summer.

P1040244 The view across the Seine to the Palais Omnisports Paris.


Practical Information

The Parc de Bercy is in the 12th arrondissement and can be reached on the driver-less and super-speedy metro line 14.  For the western end of the park use the metro stop Bercy on the same line.   For the pedestrian passerelle de Simone de Beauvoir  and the Allée Arthur Rimbaud in the 13th arrondissement, the nearest stops are Bibliotéque François Mitterand on the line 14 or Quai de la Gare on line 6.

The Allée Arthur Rimbaud is also the access spot for the Piscine Josephine Baker, a swimming pool on a barge on the Seine with a roof that is opened up to the sunshine in summer.

2 responses to “From the Parc de Bercy to the Allée Arthur Rimbaud, Paris

  1. Frank Gehry originally designed the building that is the Cinémathèque to be the new American Centre. He called the building “the shy ballerina”. It does look like a dancer bowing in her tutu with her back to the street.

    Good news – I have noticed that the city is beginning to replace the ugly bright green trash bins with a much more subtle grey/taupe one that will blend in with the stone of many buildings.

    Reading about a sunny winter day on a rainy grey one ….

  2. Hi Virginia,
    Thanks for your comment on the Gehry building, I love the idea of the building as a bowing ballerina! I’ve noticed the new bins, luckily someone at the Marie realised how ugly they were. The new ones are a big improvement.


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