Although the residents remain under lockdown, the visitors kept away, and the museums and cafés closed, Paris has not stood completely still. Renovations, transformations, and massive urbanization projects continued despite the pandemic, and many new places are scheduled to open when…well, as soon as they’re allowed! Here’s a taste of what awaits us when Paris finally reopens (and a few places you probably missed in 2020)…
In this article:
- Getting Around
- Changes on the Ground
- Le Retour des Grattes-Ciel: Return of the Sky Scrapers
- Museums & Monuments
- Hybrid Hotels on the Scene
- Hybrid Food Halls
- Have Your Say in How Paris Looks Tomorrow
Takeover of La Petite Reine
Visually, you’ll notice the bike lanes first. And if you don’t, you’ll soon have an angry cyclist running you down! Paris is starting to look more and more like Amsterdam or Copenhagen with all of the new cyclists on the road. The Corona-pistes – the bike lanes rapidly created in 2020 as Parisians were afraid to take the metro or bus – are going to be permanently integrated into the city’s landscape, along with more bike parking and more car-free zones in residential areas, and the Rue de Rivoli has been restricted to public transportation and cyclists, for a stress-free ride from the Marais to the Place de la Concorde. In addition to Vélib’ municipal bike share system (regular and eBike) and free-floating bike share by private companies such as Pony, Lime, or Dot; there are also now monthly or annual “bike rental and maintenance” programs offered through private companies such as Swapfiets or Decathlon. Read more about Paris by Bike
Your Metro Map is Probably Out of Date
The Paris metro system continues to expand! And while most visitors may never venture into the suburbs these new stations reach, it’s always essential to know which direction your metro is headed, and for that you’ll need to know the final station. Three lines are affected in 2021:
- Line 14: Olympiads – Mairie de Saint-Ouen On the northwest corner of Paris, line 14 actually has four new stations past the former Saint-Lazare terminus: Pont Cardinet, Porte de Clichy, Saint-Ouen, and Mairie de Saint-Ouen. Note, because of continuing renovations, line 14 will close on Monday and Tuesday nights at 10pm for all of 2021.
- Line 12: Mairie d’Issy – Mairie d’Aubervilliers On the northeast corner of Paris, line 12 will get two new stations by December 2021 extending past the current Aubervilliers- Front Populaire terminus: Aimé Césaire and Mairie d’Aubervilliers.
- Line 4: Porte de Clignancourt – Bagneux-Lucie Aubrac On the south side of Paris, by the end of 2021 line 4 will add two new stations past the current Mairie de Montrouge terminus: Barbara and Bagneux-Lucie Aubrac. Note: because of the ongoing renovations, all of line 4 will be closed Sunday mornings until noon through the end of 2021, closing and Monday-Friday nights from 10:15pm until April 15th. Read more about Paris Public Transport
Driverless Bus Shuttle
You may have already seen this cute little driverless “navette autonome” shuttle operating between the Château de Vincennes metro station and the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes, which started in 2017. They’re extending the free service in Vincennes to cover eight stops in a 6km loop: Porte Jaune, Lac des Minimes, Tremblay, Sabotiers, Parc Floral, Fort Neuf, Château de Vincennes, and Mairie de Vincennes. As it’s still in “test” mode, it only runs on weekend afternoons for the moment but may have expanded hours after the pandemic. Note that while there’s no driver, there is an RATP agent to welcome passengers and make sure everything runs smoothly.
Assuming all goes well, the service will also be tested in Paris this summer, operating in a loop between three train stations: Gare de Lyon, Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare de Bercy.
Changes on the Ground
Parisian Squares Become More Pedestrian-Friendly
After the Place de La République’s overhaul seven years ago, the Place de la Bastille was the next large Parisian square to become more pedestrian-friendly. Formerly a busy roundabout, today the July Column at its center is connected to the Port de l’Arsenal – which pedestrians can now access directly via the new staircase going beneath the metro station to join the quays – with a large expanse of stone pavers, a sprinkling of (not nearly enough) newly-planted trees and public benches, all surrounded by bike paths.
The Place de la Concorde is next in line for the pedestrian-friendly treatment, which will hopefully cut down on the Frogger-like experience of trying to cross vast, multi-lane roundabout just to get to the other side. According to the project plan, the number of traffic lanes will be reduced and lawns (and hopefully some shade trees) will be added to surround the existing fountains and Luxor Obelisk with the idea of creating a unified green space between the Champs-Elysées and the Jardin des Tuileries. No word on when the construction will begin, but since it’s supposed to be finished by 2024, they will likely be starting in 2021.
On the same note (but ten times bigger), construction works should begin this year on the “Grand Site Tour Eiffel” to unite the Eiffel Tower and the Place de Trocadéro in one sweeping, uninterrupted car-free “greenway” for relaxing and enjoying close up views of the Eiffel Tower in time for the 2024 Olympics. This will include pedestrianizing the Pont Iéna bridge…much to the chagrin of Parisian drivers. Well, in fact all of these projects pretty much enrage drivers who prefer to speed through Paris without any pesky interruptions. Tant pis.
Even More Green Spaces
In the 17th arrondissement, the Martin Luther King Park (aka Parc Clichy-Batignolles), which first opened in 2014, has been expanded 11,000m² this year to reach its final size of 10 hectares, including an 800m² orchard of newly-planted fruit trees (open to the public by the end of April). This neighborhood also has one of the newly-opened Line 14 metro stations right outside the recently-opened Tribunal de Justice de Paris (a 160-meter tall skyscraper to replace the high courts at the Ile de Cité’s overcrowded Palais de Justice).
You may have missed the opening of a new park right in the Marais in 2020, Le Jardin des Arts et Square Albert Schweitzer. The gardens, which have a small lawn, flower beds, and some giant potted maple trees, are framed by one of the neighborhood’s many historic mansions, now home to the Administrative Tribunal. There’s a small play area, ping pong and fussball tables, and a section behind the Cité Internationale des Arts still under construction (until end of June). You’ll find the entrance right next to the Cité des Arts, at 18, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 4th (just outside Metro Pont-Marie).
Although the historic buildings and statues in Paris are constantly being renovated, it’s noteworthy to mention the beloved 17th-century Medici Fountain in Luxembourg Gardens (6th) is currently drained and undergoing extensive restoration work, so it will look fabulous by the time visitors can return to Paris.
The city’s transformation of the historic Petite Ceinture railway circling Paris into pedestrian paths continued in 2020 with two new sections opened in the 19th arrondissement. Street art (okay, graffiti) and community gardens dot the trails, along with some almost bucolic sections where trees and overgrown greenery cut off the cityscape, and you may even see some “urban wildlife” (a lizard in Paris!) Find the access points on the interactive map here (sorry, only in French).
Many other new green spaces were recently opened, but mostly along the city’s outer arrondissements in neighborhoods dense with public housing, which won’t most likely be of any interest to tourists but will be a nice additional green space for Paris to absorb some of the noise and pollution from the périphérique ring road. These include the Jardin Paul Bourget in the 13th at Porte d’Italie and the Parc Chapelle-Charbon in the 18th between the train tracks from the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est stations.
The iconic pedestrian bridges of the Canal Saint Martin are finally getting a much-needed facelift after years of abuse had taken their toll. The Passerelle des Douanes will be renovated first (by June, supposedly), followed by the Passerelle Bichat and Passerelle de la Grange-aux-Belles by the end of July. In addition to repairing the stairs and making the structures more stable, the bridges will also be repainted light grey, their original color when first built in the 19th century.
Le Retour des Grattes-Ciel: Return of the Sky Scrapers
A few new buildings have also changed the Parisian skyline. While Parisians don’t always like the views OF them (even the Eiffel Tower elicited a lot of residential vitriol in its early years), they certainly love the views they afford over the rest of the city.
The Tours Duo are the tallest example at 180 meters, a set of “tilting” skyscrapers (180 and 122 meters) by architect Jean Nouvel on the very edge of the 13th arrondissement (where a new neighborhood renewal project is hoping to seamlessly connect Ivry-sur-Seine to Paris). In addition to offices and a luxury hotel, there will also be a rooftop restaurant and bar with panoramic views. There are already quite a few tall buildings in the 13th arrondissement, so most people probably won’t even notice this new addition to the city’s skyline.
Closer to the center is the sleek new headquarters of Le Monde (67, avenue Pierre-Mendès-France, 13th), which opened for the newspaper’s 75th anniversary in 2020. You may spot it next to the Gare d’Austerlitz when you’re cruising down the Seine (just past the Jardin des Plantes).
You’ll also be able to see the newly-transformed Tour Morland on the Quai Henri IV (4th), which should be opened to the public by the end of the year if they stay on schedule (see more in the Hybrid Hotel section below).
The much-maligned Montparnasse Tower and surround Maine-Montparnasse complex will finally be getting its own massive, multi-year transformation, which should be starting by the end of 2021. According to the architectural firm that won the bid, it will be taller, greener, brighter and house shops on the ground floor. We just hope they won’t touch the Jardin Atlantique on the rooftop of the Gare de Montparnasse, one of the city’s best-kept-secrets!
Although not really a skyscraper — especially next to the tallest monument in Paris — it will be hard to miss the Temporary Grand Palais being constructed on the Champ de Mars between the Ecole Militaire and the Eiffel Tower. When it’s finally opened this summer, it will be used to host events and expositions while the actual Grand Palais closes for a four-year makeover.
The controversial Tour Triangle at Porte de Versailles in the 15th is behind schedule; if they don’t begin construction this year they may have to wait until after the 2024 Olympics to break ground. If you’re really into taller-is-better architectural feats, you’ll need to cross the périphérique to the suburbs of La Défense, where a half dozen towering skyscrapers will join the concrete-jungle-of-a-business-district over the next five-ten years.
Museums & Monuments
Although usually of more interest to visitors than the locals, after months of closures during the pandemic and years of closure for renovations, there’s a lot for everyone to be excited about when it comes to Paris’s museums and monuments in 2021.
New Museum & Monument Openings
A new museum dedicated to mathematics, the Maison Poincaré, is scheduled to open this fall in the laboratory of the 1926 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Jean Perrin (on the grounds of the Sorbonne’s Institut Henri Poincaré in the 5th arrondissement).
The Collection Pinault-Paris, set in the former Bourse de Commerce at Les Halles, is a new contemporary art museum opening this month by François Pinault, featuring “thematic hangings of works in the Pinault Collection, monographic exhibitions devoted to major artists, commissions, cartes blanches, and in situ installations.”
The Musée de l’Art Ludique, showcasing “influential figurative artists along with contemporary artists in comics, mangas, cinema, animation and videogames from across the world” will open this year in the Gare St-Lazare (9th arrondissement) after an initial run for a few years in the Docks en Seine – Cité de la Mode complex at Quai d’Austerlitz (13th). Their latest “off-site” exhibit celebrated the 25th anniversary of DreamWorks Animation.
The 18th-century Hôtel de la Marine on the Place de la Concorde will open to the public for the first time this year after the departure of the French Naval Ministry in 2015. Its reception halls and apartments will be completely restored with period furnishings, and there will be a Jean-François Piège restaurant and an Alain Ducasse tearoom. And, oddly, a Qatari prince somehow got a 20-year lease on a large section of the palace to display his personal collection of over 6000 jewels and works of art dating from antiquity to modern times. I guess we’ll have to just see this one…
Museum & Monument Re-Openings
The Maison de Victor Hugo at the Place des Vosges (Marais) was supposed to open in November after a major renovation including the creation of a garden courtyard. It will be open in 2021 as soon as the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, with two temporary expositions: Auguste Biard, the Traveling Painter and The Drawings of Victor Hugo.
The Carnavalet – History of Paris Museum – will finally be reopening in spring 2021 after undergoing several years of renovations to rearrange and present the collections in a more meaningful way. The first temporary exhibition — Henri Cartier Bresson, Revoir Paris — is sure to draw crowds.
Another on of my favorite Marais museums, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, is also supposed to reopen after two years of renovations this spring, with a new tearoom.
The Musée de la Cinémathèque (Cinema Museum) at Bercy Park in the 12th arrondissement will reopen this summer after renovations and a new name – the Musée Méliès – after the pioneering French cinematographer George Méliès. “The museum will allow you to go back to the origins of cinema and embark on a magical journey where magic, wonder and science fiction mingle. From the first faked films to the most recent special effects, it is a journey through the history of cinema.”
The Musée des égouts de Paris (Sewers Museum) is scheduled to reopen this year after renovations, but no firm date yet.
The Albert-Kahn Museum in Boulogne (eastern suburb of Paris) will reopen this year after renovations including a new 2,300m² building, a museum of prints, a 120-seat auditorium, and opening of a Japanese tearoom and restaurant. The gardens have already reopened for visits.
And since you most likely missed it unless you were in Paris between lockdowns in 2020:
The Musée Cernushi – the Paris Museum of Asian Arts near the Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement – reopened in March after its permanent collections were completely reconfigured.
The Archeological Crypt of the Ile de la Cité, which closed after the Notre Dame fire in April 2019, reopened in September with a new exhibition in homage to the cathedral: Notre-Dame de Paris – From Victor Hugo to Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
The Palais Galliera – formerly known as the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris (Paris Museum of Fashion), 16th arrondissement – reopened in October 2020 after doubling its exhibition space, with a retrospective show Gabrielle Chanel, Manifest de Mode, which you can see online.
Museum and Monument Closures
On the flip side of the coin, the Grand Palais and Palais de la Découverte will be closing this year for massive renovations through 2024 (in time to host Olympic fencing and taekwondo competitions). During the renovations, a temporary Grand Palais “éphémère” – scheduled to open this summer on the Champ de Mars next to the Ecole Militaire – will host the prestigious exhibitions and events with a capacity for 9000 visitors.
Closure of the Observatoire Panoramique de la Tour Montparnasse through 2024 as the entire office tower – the tallest in Paris – undergoes massive renovations to reopen in time for the Paris Olympics. In the meantime, as soon as the pandemic lockdown is over, you can check out the views from the rooftop bar of the Pullman Montparnasse new flagship hotel next door.
To follow regular updates: Latest Paris Museum & Monument News
Hybrid Hotels on the Scene
Perhaps in response to the growing demand for Airbnb (although Paris City Hall has been given the court’s green light to crack down on them), hotels are trying to attract more locals with their hybrid offerings.
The Tour Morland in the 4th arrondissement used to house prefecture administrative offices but is being completely transformed to host a 5-star hotel with pool, a youth hostel, a fresh food market, a bar, a panoramic restaurant and an Art Lab (scheduled to open late 2021). The most interesting aspect of the project (especially from a local’s point of view) is the “opening” of the ground floor beneath arched pillars so pedestrians can now pass from the Boulevard Morland (and Metro Sully-Morland) directly to the Quai Henri IV and steps leading down to the banks of the Seine.
Villa M is a unique project tied to the neighboring Louis Pasteur Institute and the Necker Hospital in the 15th district close to Montparnasse, that will bring together healthcare professionals, researchers, and startups working on innovative health and wellness projects in one “community space” (designed by Philippe Starck) that will also have a comfortable hotel, a healthy cuisine restaurant, a boxing and fitness club and a preventative health center, all open to the general public by mid-2021. 24-30 Boulevard Pasteur, 15th.
The Hotel Paradiso just opened up this month near Place de la Nation on the east side of Paris within the MK2 Nation cineplex and – again, when we’re clear of the pandemic – a café and rooftop bar. They’ve opened during the pandemic with the unique offering of seeing current films on a big screen in your hotel room, and have a number of private viewing rooms for those not sleeping at the hotel. It’s the first of its kind in Paris, but probably not the last as there’s a rumor a similar model will open on the Champs Elysées.
In case you missed it, Chouchou Hôtel & Bar Guinguette is a fun new “lifestyle” space as much for Parisians as it is for visitors opened last September by the same owners as the Off Paris floating hotel on the Seine. Located in the 9th between Opéra Garnier and Galeries Lafayette, the hotel has a ground floor food market open to the public 7am-10pm featuring a gourmet oyster bar and deli counter specializing in locally-sourced products, and a spacious bar area with free Wifi and a stage for live music and entertainment Thursday-Sunday nights. Oh, and it’s a luxury hotel and spa, too.
Hybrid Food Halls
What’s Paris without its food? After La Félicita at Station F and Ground Control at Gare de Lyon, the hybrid food hall concept has been taking off, especially among younger Parisians who don’t mind fetching their food on a tray.
Douze Garde (Bien) Manger is a gourmet food market that opened today in the former Caserne Reuilly, 12th. I wouldn’t cross town to shop here, but if you’re in the ‘hood you can do your market shopping for the usuals (bakery, butcher, fruit/veggies, cheese shop, fishmonger, deli, etc) or – when pandemic rules are over – grab a bite or a coffee to enjoy at the tables sûr place. There will also eventually be a restaurant on the top floor. Open Wed-Fri 10am-6pm (bakery open from 7:45am) and weekends from 8:30am until 6pm Saturday and 4pm Sunday. 2 Passage Emma Calvé, 12th (just off Rue de Reuilly). Don’t miss La Maison du Zéro Déchet next door!
Kilometre 25 is scheduled to open in June under the “25th kilomter of the périphérique” in the 19th arrondissement next to the Canal de l’Ourcq. It’s identical to the Ground Control concept but on the northeast side of Paris, featuring food trucks, yoga workshops, a marché des créateurs, record shop, live events, DJ sets, and the beloved French “conferences-debats”. The “open air” aspect to the location might ensure its post-pandemic success, but I’m curious how it will fare once the winter arrives.
There’s already plenty of hype for the “late 2022” opening of the Grande Halle Gourmande, a massive 5000m² former train depot filled with food stands, an organic food market, and live event space at the Docks de St Ouen, just west of the famous Marché aux Puces (and near the recently-opened line 14 metro station). The goal is supposedly to “promote French gastronomy and Francilien savoir-faire”. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s actually something worth crossing the périph’ to visit or if it’s simply the same stuff you can already find in Paris.
The warp speed drive to turn Paris into one gigantic luxury shopping mall continues! I’m not going to go through the list of all the new (mostly chain) shops being hyped in the Paris press (a new Nike store is “news”, really?), and I mention the unique, locally-owned boutiques I discover – which rarely have the budget needed to generate Instagram hype – in the monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter. If anyone has recommendations for these, do go ahead and post them in the comments.
If you’re wondering when La Samaritaine will reopen, that questions is the same as “when will France reopen?” Even before department stores had to close earlier this year as the Covid cases starting climbing again, postponed its “highly anticipated reopening” until the well-heeled tourists are allowed back in, which only confirms what the locals already suspected: it’s no longer a place the average Parisian can afford to shop. I’ll be among the many looking forward to admiring the Art Nouveau décor interior once again, although it seems the views we used to enjoy over the Seine will now be reserved for the five-star hotel guests. I hope I’m wrong about that. In any case, we’ve waited 15 years, what’s another few months’ wait?
The much-needed renovations of the city’s six main train stations are receiving mixed reactions from Parisians. “Clean, safe and comfortable” are what most commuters have been asking for (I would especially like to find warm places to wait for trains in the winter and platforms completely shielded from the elements, so you don’t have to walk through snow-slush-rain when arriving at the station in the last car). Everyone enjoys the new seating areas with USB charging stations and free Wifi, access to clean restrooms and some nice options for food and other shops while waiting for the trains. But many of the stations are being transformed into veritable shopping malls. A group of prestigious architects published an open letter in Le Monde denouncing the plans for Gare du Nord – the busiest train station in Europe – that would force commuters and travelers to cross a huge shopping zone to reach the platforms, like the perfume-choked duty-free shopping zones at the airport.
You already feel this effect at the Gare St-Lazare if you arrive by metro, where – unless I still haven’t found the shortcut – you have to traverse two floors of a shopping mall to get to the train station entrance, stressfully shoving your way through the crowds of leisurely shoppers if you don’t want to miss your train. On the plus side, eating options keep getting better, whether you’re snacking or have time to sit down for a meal (well, post-pandemic, bien sûr)…if only they’d open a bit earlier than the first morning departures so we could get our coffee and croissant before boarding the 6am train.
In any case, visitors will find all of the stations in different phases of renovations along with the inherent inconveniences they entail, so allow for extra time to find your way around…or last-minute shopping! 😉
Have Your Say in How Paris Looks Tomorrow
If you live in Paris, you have a say in how the Mairie de Paris chooses the aesthetics of the city’s urban architecture, integrating everything from planters and benches to trash containers and the color of the Wallace Fountains. Stay classic? Go contemporary? You have until June 30th to respond to the “Manifesto for a New Parisian Aesthetic”
For those of you who can follow the French, check out this video of First Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Grégoire responding to some of the criticisms about the current state of the city’s streets (and his questions for residents):