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© jarl

Perfect Paris péniches

Dive in to Paris’s cool canal culture, featuring floating restaurants, cinemas, bookshops, clubs and more

By Maria Hagan

The quays of the Seine and banks of the canals de l’Ourcq and Saint Martin are adored and regularly visited by Parisians, playing host to many a party, picnic or apéro. In Paris, houseboats – or péniches – function as more than just accommodation: many a water-loving entrepreneur has turned their houseboat into a lovely business or venue. These péniches add charm and originality to shopping and theatre trips, dinner, drinks and even nights out clubbing. 

Our favourite Paris péniches

1. L’Eau et les Rêves

Shopping Bookshops Jaurès
Marine-themed bookshop What do you get when you marry a sailor and a book buyer? A book barge, naturally. Named after a philosophical work by Gaston Bachelard published in 1942, couple project L’Eau et les Rêves launched briefly in April 2014 but was then obliged by the bylaws of the Paris canals to travel for a few months before returning to its habitual mooring on Quai de l’Oise in September. This second, more established opening gives it a chance to make a name for itself, as well it should...
(c) Olivia Rutherford

2. Batofar

Clubs 13e arrondissement
Bar, restaurant and club This lightship of the Parisian night sways every evening till the early hours to the beats of underground hip hop, rock, electro, dancehall, house, minimal, techno, drum’n’bass, jungle and dubstep, and there’s a fantastic view from its bridge. There’s an open kitchen looking over the dining room, where the chef serves up good quality regional dishes like hunk of lamb in a herb crust with a scoop of polenta and parmesan for €18...
Marché sur l'eau
© tourisme93

3. Marché sur l’Eau

Shopping Markets and fairs Jaurès
Floating fruit and vegetable market The Marché sur l’Eau docks Tuesdays and Saturdays at Stalingrad’s Place de la Rotonde and along the quay at Pantin. Run in cooperation with Paris-region growers, all fruits and veggies are organic, seasonal and locally sourced, ferried in directly and sold quayside. Many of Paris’s eco-conscious restaurants buy in bulk – straight off the boat – and private customers have the option of browsing the market themselves or pre-ordering baskets for weekly delivery...

4. Péniche Antipode

Bars and pubs Café bars Jaurès
Café, gig nights and kids' theatre In 2002, the Abricadabra theatre company transformed this boat moored on the Canal de l’Ourcq into a floating café, with shows for youngsters during the day and plays and concerts for adults in the evenings. In this enchanting Peniche (houseboat), kids 3-8 years old are entertained and educated by screenings, mimes, songs, comedies, shadow puppets and more...

5. La Dame de Canton

Bars and pubs 13e arrondissement
Bar, restaurant and dancefloor The former Guingette Pirate is now known as the Dame de Canton, befitting its home in a superb Chinese junk made from exotic wood. In its previous life, it sailed the seven seas, but now in retirement on the banks of the Seine, this delightful Dame is now all about living it up in her golden years...

6. Péniche Anako

Restaurants Jaurès
Café, film screenings and workshops Named after one of the last survivors of a great Amazonian people, this houseboat is dedicated to promoting international cultures and spreading awareness of the dangers that threaten indigenous peoples. Every month, a country, region or people is chosen and celebrated through a series of events that reveal the unique customs and traditions of these societies...

7. Rosa Bonheur sur Seine

Bars and pubs Invalides
Bar, restaurant and table football Following Rosa Bonheur in the heart of the Parc Buttes-Chaumont and En Attendant Rosa on the banks of the Seine, we now have Rosa Bonheur sur Seine: a peniche moored hard by the Pont Alexandre III. The boat, all wood and glass, offers the calming swell of the water and an unbeatable view of the bateaux-mouches sailing by. Equipped with a table football set, bar (sip Pernod at €3 a glass) and kitchen turning out fresh sandwiches with interesting fillings (sea urchin taramasalata, €4.50), it's perfect for a picnic...

8. Café Barge

Clubs 12e arrondissement
Bar, restaurant and music venue Since permanently anchoring itself to the Quai de la Rapée, this former cargo barge has swiftly become the go-to spot for trendy flâneurs looking for somewhere to sip a drink in the shade. It's hardly the only boat-bar in the area, but it's one of the more relaxed, doubling up as a restaurant and sometime music venue. For those for whom four nights of partying during the week isn't enough, Café Barge presents its Sundae parties, held on - you guessed it - Sundays...
La Concrete
© Jacob Khrist

9. Péniche Concrete

Clubs 12e arrondissement
Berlinesque techno clubbing If you want to party through the night and into the day, then head to Concrete. Once every two weeks, the boat is open on Friday and Saturday nights, and on alternate weekends is open from 7am on a Sunday until 2am the next morning. Dress well as the bouncers are a little picky and the usual crowd is dressed to the nines. People go to Concrete for a sensational night of dancing to world-famous techno artists or emerging Parisian DJs...

10. Petit Bain

Music Music venues 13e arrondissement
Restaurant, bar, arts centre and club Not so much a terrace here as an upper deck, this arts centre has been afloat at the foot of the National Library (BNF) since 2010 when it joined the flotilla of cool riverboat venues moored in the 13th. And it’s been giving the Batofar (Paris’s stalwart floating nightclub) a run for its money, with an excellent line-up of concerts and art exhibitions. The coveted terrace doubles as a bar, restaurant and octopus gardener’s paradise, decked out with myriad aquatic plants...

11. Péniche Cinéma

Cinemas Jaurès
Film screenings and restaurant La Péniche Cinéma dropped anchor on the Canal de l’Ourcq in 2008, just across from Le Cabaret Sauvage and La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. The boat’s largest cabin, a projection room with a rollback canvas roof, hosts public screenings of films by little-known directors as well as debates, workshops, and other film-related events. The programming is eclectic and ambitious. From March through August, the boat’s upper deck opens as a restaurant, La Table de Franckie...
Bateau El Alamein
Karine Desbonnes

12. Péniche El Alamein

Bars and pubs Café bars Quartier de la Gare
Bar, restaurant and gig venue Moored next to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) in a modern suburban area, this charming purple péniche is a real breath of fresh air. On the terrace, a café springs up in summer amid the plants – a great place to get a suntan, too. But this boat also has a lot going on inside: a superb event space with an eclectic programme that ranges from jazz to French chanson via rock and theatrical performance. Definitely worth a stopover.

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