Water's edge: Top spots for summer on the Seine
Boats with bars, parties on piers and a new floating hotel make Paris perfect in the sun. Sarah Marshall recommends some of the top spots in Paris
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 up 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...
WAKE UP ON THE WATER AT OFF 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 architects Gerard Ronzatti-Seine Design, who specialise in floating structures and recently designed a floating hospital at the port of de la Rapee.
Rooms from 160 euros per night; breakfast 19 euros. Visit offparisseine.com
DRINK, DINE AND DANCE AT FLOW
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' (open until the end of September) 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 at surprisingly reasonable prices (around 28 euros for a main). Visit www.flow-paris.com
FORAGE THROUGH THE FLEA MARKET AT LA JAVELLE
Rummage through rails of second hand clothes and vintage handbags in the market section of this Belle Epoque-style guinguette (all-purpose night spot) on the west side of Paris, close to the Port Javel Bas.
Alongside craft stalls selling handmade jewellery and quirky, affordable homeware (anyone for a Perspex rhino bed lamp?), vintage Airstreams and food trucks sell tasty French snacks to diners on deckchairs.
Pick up a plate of cold cheeses, meats and pickles for 15 euros, or grab a thin-crisp pizza for 8 euros.
Drink and dance on a dockside barge where yoga and meditation sessions take place during the day, or relax into the night as accordion players rouse emotions with nostalgic classics on a terrace with strung up fairy lights. Visit www.facebook.com/lajavelleguinguette
STRIKE GOLD AT MONNAIE DE PARIS
In a clever move to safeguard its enviable position on the banks of the Seine in the 6th arrondissement, the last factory in Paris will fling open its doors to the public next year.
For now, it's possible to sneak inside the outer galleries of the French mint, where art exhibitions are held, and to visit Guy Savoy's three Michelin-starred restaurant, which occupies the upper galleries.
Founded in 864 by Emperor Charlemagne, Monnaie de Paris is the oldest institution in Europe, with an intriguing history to tell.
Tantalising exhibits in the new, highly-anticipated and highly-secure museum will include a series of 73 never-before-seen medals depicting profiles of Louis XIV for almost every year of his life.
There'll also be a chance to witness master engravers at work in the factory.
Visit www.monnaiedeparis.fr for more details
CLINK GLASSES ON A RIVER CRUISE WITH O-CHATEAU
Sipping bubbles at sunset is a fine way to wave au revoir to a weekend in Paris. This easygoing river cruise along the Seine is a light-hearted introduction to champagne, with three different tipples to taste during the hour-long journey.
A sommelier is on hand to answer any burning questions, but this is far from a hardcore trawl through grape varieties and types of terroir.
The tour, which costs 55 euros per person, departs daily at 6pm (except Sunday) until the end of September from Vedettes de Paris. Book tickets in advance.www.o-chateau.com/portfolio-item/champagne-sipping-cruise-seine-river
n Sarah Marshall was a guest of Eurostar (www.eurostar.com; 03432 186 186) who operate up to 21 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord, with one-way fares starting from £29.