In 1994, a defunct suburban railway on Paris' right bank and stretching from Bastille to Bercy was converted into an acclaimed shopping, arts and crafts center known as the Viaduc des Arts. Built in a distinctive rose-colored brick, the former viaduct now houses several artisanal shops and workshops under its 64 graceful vaulted arches. Here, curious strollers can peruse everything from delicate porcelain paintings, handcrafted pieces in wood and glass, art galleries, clothing from small and arty designers, antique shops and much more.
The complex is also dotted with a number of pleasant cafes and restaurants.
The Promenade Plantée: A Green Belt Above the Viaduc Complex
A lush above-ground promenade known to locals as the Promenade Plantée or Coulée Verte (literally, "green stream") was built atop the defunct railway. Taking a stroll at the Viaduc des Arts and Promenade Plantée will give you a guaranteed breather from the urban grind, and allow you to experience a lesser-known part of the city. For those interested in artisan craftwork, it's also a way to get acquainted with some of the city's finest artisans, many of whom are practicing arts that are fast-disappearing (paper restoration, handmade flute-making, etc.)
Location, Access and Opening Hours:
The Viaduc and the Promenade are nestled in the heart of the area known to locals as the Gare de Lyon/Bercy neighborhood, a calm, a peaceful yet not uninteresting stretch of East Paris. It's also located at the edge of the vibrant Bastille neighborhood, with highlights including the ultra-contemporary, recently re-designed Opera Bastille, and the old-world charms of the Rue de Charonne, featuring quaint and stylish boutiques, hip sidewalk cafes, and nightlife galore.
Address: Access the Viaduc des Arts and Promenade from the beginning of Avenue Daumesnil (tip: the closest metro is Bastille, 12th arrondissement
You can access the Promenade from staircases at various points along Avenue Daumnesil.
Opening Hours: The Promenade Plantée is open from sunrise to sundown (times vary according to the time of year). Shops and boutiques on the Viaduc des Arts have varying hours-- check ahead by visiting the official website.
Recommended Shops at the Viaduc
Some favorite places to shop and enjoy a bite, coffee, or evening glass of wine in the complex include some of the following:
Handmade and artisanal perfumes for women and men.
Address: 129 Avenue Daumesnil
Lily Alcaraz & Lea Berlier
Textile designers specialized in artisanal weaving techniques.
Address: 23 Avenue Daumesnil
This workshop, whose name is inspired by Togo, specializes in gorgeous, custom-made mosaic decorations in sumptuous colors and patterns.
Address: Also at 23 Avenue Daumesnil
A designer of textiles, jewelry, and "haute couture" accessories.
Address: 1 Avenue Daumesnil
Atelier Dupont des Arts
A workshop specializing in fine hand-made guitars and other musical instruments.
Address: 3 Avenue Daumesnil
Recommended Spots For a Bite or a Drink:
This cafe-restaurant offers a good place to perch inside or out and enjoy a cold or hot drink, or typical French brasserie fare.
Address: 75 avenues Daumesnil
Le Viaduc Café
This is another very pleasant cafe-restaurant with a heated outdoor terrace overlooking the Viaduc and its artisanal shops. The fare here, pricier than at the Arrosoir, is a bit more "fusion" and continental in style. Vegetarian options are available.
Address: 43 avenues Daumesnil
Exploring The Promenade Plantée: A Verdant Retreat
Once you've explored the boutiques, workshops, and cafes of the Viaduc des Arts, take one of the staircases up to the Promenade. Stretching from the Place de la Bastille near the modern operahouse to the Jardin de Reuilly, this one-kilometer stroll is always a pleasant way to spend the morning or afternoon. For an even longer walk, you can continue along the same path to the enormous park known as the Bois de Vincennes, at the eastern border of Paris.
Dozens of varieties of trees, plants, and shrubs are planted along the "green stream", including cherry, linden, hazelnut, and bamboo. The stroll also affords views of interesting Parisian buildings, including some architectural details you can't see from ground-level (friezes, statuary, stained glass etc.)
During the summer, you can pack a picnic and choose a stretch of green lawn at the Jardin de Reuilly. We recommend starting the walk near the Opera Bastille and strolling along the Promenade for around a mile to the "pelouses" lawns at the Reuilly garden.
Read here about how to pack and enjoy the perfect French-style picnic in Paris, stocking up on bread, fruit and other staples from excellent nearby shops and bakeries.