A Visit to Bercy Village
Often when traveling there is a tendency to stick to the more frequented locations of a city, because many enough have gone before you and left a paper trail for managing your expectations.
Paris is interesting because on top of its list of guaranteed points of interest (Montmartre, the Bastille, Le Marais etc) it also has an even longer list of alternate districts worth as much of your time as the former.
A good example of one of these is locations is the lesser known Bercy Village. The Bercy district is found in the 12th arrondissement, right on the bank of the Seine where the 12th and 13th cross borders.
I won’t be surprised if, for most of you, this is your first time hearing about Bercy all together. The 12th is a Parisian zone that can sometimes be a bit neglected on the tourist radar due to the overshadowing popularity of the neighboring 11th and 13th.
For this reason, venturing to the 12th becomes a bit of a break from the tourism chaos that these surrounding districts carry. A short walk south or north toward the Seine River (depending on which way you’re coming from) and you’re suddenly in a seemingly untouched part of Paris.
Bercy is home to a few notable attractions that create consistent foot traffic within the zone. The Cour Saint-Emilion, however, is definitely its main event and reason enough for even locals to make the journey into the 12th.
In short, Bercy Village is best described as a cluster of entertainment based businesses built upon preserved city land. It is a historic location as well as an active arts and entertainment hub in the Parisian day-to-day.
The Neighborhood in Bercy Village
The neighborhood of Bercy itself is usually described by passers by as “tranquil and serene”. It is both of these things while simultaneously being a prominent entertainment district in all of Paris.
Bercy is filled with restaurants and shops that provide an eclectic range of things to do on a day or night out. Amongst the streets there are also a few lush park areas where visitors can settle in for a few hours between exploring the zone.
In the grander scheme of Paris, Bercy Village is incredibly small and best explored by foot . In the grander scheme of Paris, Bercy is also a fairly new district on the map — if was technically only founded just recently in 2001.
As far as history goes, Bercy was originally the location of the largest wine market in the entire world. It held this title for over a century.
There are 42 storehouses in Bercy that are officially registered as historic monuments on the French supplementary list. These storehouses are all that remain from the storage areas from the winery years.
The shift from ancient Bercy to what it is today is somewhat of an urban renewal project at the hand of the city of Paris. Sometimes the word “faux” is used when describing this French village but more and more locals are opting to defend this neighborhood as nothing but authentic.
The reason for the debate regarding whether the district is truly faux or not comes in due to the fact that its existence was, for the most part, one hundred percent curated by the city of Paris.
Back in 1990, Paris staged an architectural competition for the redevelopment of the Bercy land. The architectural firm that won was a company called Valode & Pistre.
Their vision for the space is what you find in Bercy Village today; restoration and recycled use of the streets and warehouses.
One thing Valode & Pistre were sure about was that there would be no modern development in the sense of construction of shopping malls. They wanted the district to be known for shopping, but in a way that could be done outdoors on the original Bercy streets.
The end result is Bercy Village in all its glory. A great place to spend a few hours and bask in some impressive Parisian urban development.
How to get into Bercy Village:
Metro : Station Cour Saint-Émilion (Line 14)
Bus : Terroirs de France (lines 24, 109 et 111) – Dijon-Lachambaudie (line 64)
Cour Saint-Emilion in Bercy Village
As mentioned, one of the main focuses during the inception of Bercy Village was for shopping facilities that didn’t require an enclosed mall space.
The Cour Saint-Emilion is probably the main attraction of Bercy Village. This is where, in 2001, Bercy Village began to make a name for itself as a Parisian shopping hub.
The original cobblestone streets from the 19th century wine markets now pave the way for an enticing range of boutiques and cafes. This is an open air space that is also alive with plant life, so you really get the full sensation of outdoor shopping.
The stores are built into the 42 storehouses that I mentioned earlier; the ones that are now considered historic monuments of Paris. They were where the wine sellers used to store their produce to keep the markets stocked back in the day.
Shopping is not all there is to do on Cour Saint-Emilion. Between the stores there are also wonderful cafes and restaurants to stop for a refuel throughout the day.
My favorite place to stop by (particularly on a sunny day) is Partie de Campagne. It’s toward the top of Cour Saint-Emilion, further from the Seine. It’s a casual yet vibey little bistro that focuses on using top grade ingredients at all times.
There’s something for everyone to eat here, whether you’re into veggies or steaks. Don’t leave without trying their chocolate brownie either!
With regards to the rest of the shops on the Cour Saint-Emilion — expect to find the usual range in genres you would any regular shopping mall. From fashion to footwear, cosmetics to kitchen decor, pet care to supermarkets — Cour Saint-Emilion has got it all.
At the very end of the Cour Saint-Emilion, just before the Seine, is the entrance to the Bercy movie cinema. It is an impressive structure that holds 18 individual movie theaters in a single space. You’ll be able to catch all of the latest film releases here, both local and international.
Nightlife in Bercy Village
Being the entertainment district that it is, there is as much to do in Bercy Village when the sun goes down as there is when it’s up.
In the immediate area you’ll find a variety of places to enjoy a drink or two with friends. There are cocktail bars if those are your preference, otherwise pubs are the popular attraction in Bercy. Check out Frog at Bercy Village, it is the largest English pub in all of Paris.
If you’re looking to do more than just kick back over a glass of wine, Bercy Village is also widely known as having some great live music spots. T Pour 2 Café is right on the Cour Saint-Emilion and often has live artists by night.
Also on the Cour Saint-Emilion; every Thursday during the summer months there are live outdoor concerts for patrons of the mall to enjoy as the day of shopping comes to an end.
The entertainment doesn’t disappear in winter time. Instead of the live concerts, Bercy Village transforms the Cour Saint-Emilion into a Christmas wonderland. Multiple installations and light structures are erected in the space, making the street one of the most enchanting places to stroll through in Paris.
Parc de Bercy
If you’re facing the Cour Saint-Emilion from the Seine, you’ll find another point of interest just slightly to the left. Bercy Park is a public space that forms part of the urban development that took place in Bercy before 2001.
Bercy Park was the former vegetable gardens of the Bercy district when the wine merchants ruled the land. The space is vast and green — in summer and spring there are gorgeous flowers in bloom.
The tranquility of the park also comes largely from the little lake near the front entrance, and the bird life that it brings.
Bercy Park is a great place to take a picnic or some takeaways from any of the nearby restaurants. The park itself is wide enough to block out any noise or vision of the main city life going on on the exterior — so you can really relax.
At the very back end of Bercy Park is another big attraction of the district. AccorHotels Arena is a well known Parisian complex that hosts everything from big sporting events to international music performances. Enrique Iglesias and U2 are amongst the high-profile names to have performed here.
The arena is an interesting structure to look at as the walls and roof are made of grass — so it sort of blends in with the rest of Bercy Park in this pyramid-like way.
Musée des Arts Forains in Bercy Village
53 Avenue des Terroirs de France
Now this is my favorite reason to visit Bercy Village! Inside the Pavillons de Bercy is the Musée des Arts Forains.
This is not your typical art or history museum. The space holds a collection of 19th-century fairground equipment and structures that are no longer in use. It is the largest collection of fairground and show objets in all of Europe.
The collector, Jean Paul Favand, and the museum were awarded the label of living heritage. This is to commemorate the role that the space plays in preserving a stranger side of French history for the public to enjoy.
The museum is a bit of daydream. I love coming here just to get lost in space and time for a few hours. Multimedia has been incorporated in order to bring the pieces back to life. It’s the perfect balance between the historic objects and modern technology to create a specific ambiance.
The price of admission also gets you a few tickets to use inside the space on some of the rides and activities that are still in use.
On the same Pavilion property is another area called The Théâtre de Verdure. This is an outdoor space with some more beautiful Bercy gardens to explore either before or after your visit to the museum.
Bercy Village may be small, but there is much to do and see. If time is of the essence then a guided walking tour is a great way to get you though the main attractions in a timeous manner.
Museum admission: €11.50 (booking in advance is essential)
Cinémathèque Française in Bercy Village
51 Rue de Bercy
A visit to Bercy Village wouldn’t be complete without this final attraction. The Cinémathèque Française is a French organization that holds one of the most inclusive collections of film related documents and objects on the planet.
You can just tell that everyone who is part of this organization is incredibly passionate about all things cinema! From optical boxes, to cinematography devices, to the head of Mrs Bates in ‘Psycho’ by Alfred Hitchcock — yes… the original.
In celebration of cinema around the world, the Cinémathèque Française does daily screenings of films that have come and gone throughout the ages.
I love that Bercy Village has this to offer as well as the more modern movie cinema complex over on the Cour Saint-Emilion. The best of both cinema worlds within walking distance of one another.
Its probably safe to conclude Bercy Village as somewhat of a Parisian hidden gem. A trove of entertainment treasures wedged between two very touristic arrondissements.
Because of the nature of the neighborhood, Bercy Village is good just about any day of the week — and just about any time of day. Most of the restaurants only begin to close their doors around 2am, which is considerably later than most other dining establishments in Paris. They are also open year round, come rain or shine.
I’ll see you in the village!
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