Floating Gardens, Giant Chalkboards, and Climbing Walls on Banks of Seine in Paris

August 12, 2013 by

Photo: Mairie de Paris.

Paris is transforming an utterly urban area along the River Seine to a cleaner, greener space. A new Left Bank promenade called the Berges de Seine (Banks of the Seine) was unveiled last month, and is quickly drawing crowds of walkers, cyclists and urbanites seeking a bit of nature.

Photo: Architecture Urbanisme. 

Photo: The Urban Observer 

The approximately 1.5-mile stretch features edible and floating gardens, patches of local plants, entertainment venues and innovative areas for children and adults to play and relax.

Photo: The Urban Observer

Known as Les Berges, the walkway is connected by footbridges to another pedestrian zones on the opposite bank, a 1.2 mile section of the Georges Pompidou highway that has been closed to traffic since last summer.

Photo: Marie de Paris

Photo: Architecture Urbanisme.

Photo: Mairie de Paris

The park’s coup de grace is an 1800-square-meter floating garden, comprised of five separate islands connected by bridges. This manmade archipelago grows a carefully designed combination of semi-aquatic plants and grasses. Likewise, the 400-square-meter garden in City Hall Square features native plants, including shrubs, grasses, vines and willow trees.

Photo: Mairie de Paris

Photo: The Urban Observer

Among Les Berges’ intriguing design touches are shipping containers that have been converted to private cabins called Zzz. Perfect for relaxing or holding private parties, these spaces are surrounded by local plants and can be reserved in advance for up to 90 minutes.

Photo: Mairie de Paris.

Photo: Mairie de Paris.

Photo: Mairie de Paris.

And there are plenty of whimsical activities for kids, including teepees that can be rented out for birthday parties, climbing walls, and a 20 x 3-meter slate chalk board for doodling and drawing. Work-weary parents, meanwhile, can take advantage of cozy reading nooks, comfortable wooden lounge chairs, live music performances and art exhibits.

Photo: Mairie de Paris.

Photo: Mairie de Paris. 

Photo: Architecture Urbanisme.

Photo: Mairie de Paris

Photo: The Urban Observer

A bigger sustainability push is behind Les Berges. The Biodiversity Plan for Paris, developed in 2010, aims to bolster the variety of plants and animals throughout the city. The plan includes citizen workshops at four pilot locations, including the banks of the Seine, where locals will focus on managing riverside species, paying close attention to the impacts of human activity on plants and wildlife.

Photo: Architecture Urbanisme

Photo: The Urban Observer

Currently, 75 percent of France’s population resides in urban environments. Les Berges presents an opportunity to infuse some much needed nature into the Parisian psyche.

Photo: Architecture Urbanisme

Amazingly, the city boasts more than 2,000 species of wild plants and fungi, plus 174 bird species and more than 30 fish species.

Photo: Mairie de Paris

Most locals and visitors overlook this abundance of nature, but thanks to Les Berges, that mentality is likely to change sooner rather than later.


  • Fantastic photos and I too believe those living in the city are starting to focus more on their small patches of green while the suburbs appear to have less color, as gardening is work and not easily delegated to a service company like lawn care.

  • I agree Tina. Paris is doing a remarkable job of encouraging biodiversity and encouraging people to really use the city’s outdoor space.

  • Love how walkable & livable Paris is, and recently felt the same about parts of Boston … New York more challenging as you’ve got to get up high enough to get any natural sunlight indoors, a problem that’s stopping me from spending more time there.

  • The Lazy Gardener

    Really clever urban design. Maybe NYC and environs can follow suit.

  • NYC is doing quite a bit of greening under Mayor Bloomberg. Check out the NYC Parks and Rec website. You will see many cool things in the plans!

  • Rower

    ” shipping containers that have been converted to private cabins called Zzz. Perfect for relaxing or holding private parties, these spaces are surrounded by local plants and can be reserved in advance for up to 90 minutes.”

    What kind of a party can one hold in 90 minutes. Is “private party” French for “quickie”?

  • why_me

    should be a permanent feature – especially the food growing section – to all cities.
    was great to see the public respected the area and left the food growing – a very nice experience – bien fait Paris!

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  • I totally agree! Public food gardens and beautiful ones to be enjoyed by all, it’s a win-win!

  • LOL. I think they meant that the spaces are available for rent for longer private events. 🙂

  • Thanks Catherine. I love this setting and can’t wait to return to Paris to see in person. Road trip? 🙂

  • Agree Tina, Paris and Boston are very walkable. But I find NYC very walkable too. there is so much going on in so many divers neighborhoods that one could be there every day and still find new things. Try walking around Alphabet City, Greenwich Village, and Brooklyn, where the buildings are lower and you may find the experience very different. Enjoy!

  • Hmm, not sure I see it this way. There are so many gorgeous gardens in the suburbs and some fabulous edible ones too. I know many just plant a lawn and leave it to the lawn car folks to keep it mowed and green, but many are foregoing lawns completely and planting front yard vegetable gardens–although some neighbors don’t like things to look “different” and some cities still make it tough, even subjected residents to fines. I say, do what you love where you live!

  • Thanks for the tips & I’ve put Alphabet City & Greenwich Village on the calendar for NYC in November

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  • Donna

    I would LOVE a birthday party in a teepee…;)

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  • Harry Bramhall

    Is that a salt water River? If it is salt water, would it affect the plants growth?

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