It once divided a city by wealth and status, and even today visitors to Paris have a favoured bank of the Seine; while sightseers tend to veer a droite, artists and creative types clearly keep a gauche.
Right now, though, the focus of activity is the river itself, dubbed the city’s 21st arrondissement, where buoyant bars bob between bridges and dockside cafes are flooded with life.
A new waterborne hotel is also set to keep the seasonal tourist industry afloat, dispelling the popular myth that Paris shuts shop in August.
Stick close to the water and the French capital quickly becomes a great option for combining culture, fine dining and soaking up urban rays. Here are five ways to spend a summer on the Seine…
Watching waves lap window panes as barges cruise past, has to be one of the more novel ways to rise and shine in Paris. Docked on a section of the river between Charles de Gaulle Bridge and the Austerlitz viaduct, a five-minute walk from the Gare d’Austerlitz train station, this 58-room purpose-built hotel opened at the end of June. On sunny days, local Parisians hang out alongside guests on the open-air terrace and a poser’s lap pool provides a cooling toe dip if temperatures soar. Just make sure you pack teeny-weeny swimwear to fit in with the beautifully cool crowd – or hide your shame behind the hotel’s giant gold inflatable duck.
From 5pm-1am, cocktails and tapas are served, although the hedonism continues after dark with picnicking revellers on the quay, or at several party barges on the opposite bank.
Compact rooms have a subtle nautical theme, with sand dunes rising above beds and light switches disguised as a ship’s control desk. A gentle articulation in the hull simulates a rocking motion, making you really feel like you’re sleeping at sea.
But don’t worry – there’s no chance of sinking. The hotel’s design was masterminded by architect Gerard Ronzatti, who specialise in floating structures and recently designed a floating hospital at the port of de la Rapee.
Sat below the elaborate Pont Alexandre III, with views of the Luxor Obelisk and the Grande Roue de Paris Ferris wheel, the location of this new talk-of-the-town social hub in the 7th arrondissement is unrivalled. Palm plants sway on the open upper deck, where queues for champagne and cocktails wind round the bar until 2am. Downstairs, DJs and live bands perform to a busy dance floor, with much of the party spilling out onto the deckchair-filled ‘Flow Beach’ on a promenade shared with neighbouring low-fi bar Rosa Bonheur.
Day and night, the sophisticated La Table du Flow restaurant, with panoramic views of the 19th century bridge, serves an excellent menu for surprisingly reasonable prices (around 28 euros for a main).