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Beyond Paris Neighborhoods

La Défense Doesn’t Completely Suck

La Défense, the business district to the west of Paris, is a big ol’ ugly place. It’s not that they don’t try: it’s all pedestrianised, but the huge expanses of concrete are depressing. I have to admit I do enjoy the big skyscrapers. Maybe they make me homesick. And if you’re into contemporary art, there are all sorts of weird statues scattered around the business park.

defense arche.jpg
This isn’t a statue; it’s the Grande Arche de La Défense. Looks much bigger up close than from Paris, eh?

In any case, La Défense isn’t the place I’d choose to spend the night out, but I wanted to see the opening of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel (woo hoo!), and I wanted to check out the new UGC Ciné-Cité that opened in May for the world premier of MI3. It replaces the abandoned IMAX Dôme, incorporating the cool mirrored dome into the new cineplex. Friends told me there’d be no one there (a plus at a movie theatre), and that there’s nowhere to eat. That’s totally not true. It may not be full of cute Parisian bistros, but the food court at the Quatre Temps Commercial Centre (the mall adjoining the cinema) is actually quite nice: airy, contemporary, good selection. There was even a juice bar.

Just you try and look at this without the Jetson’s soundtrack starting in your head.


My friend and I were mesmerized by the futuristic Yo! Sush restaurant (click on the link to read my review), so we ended up eating there before the movie since we had time to kill. Despite everyone’s assurances that La Défense is dead, the 8pm showing was already full, so we had to wait until 9:30pm. And since we arrived at 9:29pm (only the French could make conveyor-belt sushi slow), there were only seats in the front left. Unlike some older theatres, they weren’t so close that we got neck cramps, though.

The escalators leading to the spanking new UGC Ciné-Cité La Défense (formerly known as the IMAX Dôme).

So…would I go back? Maybe. The mall is actually huge while still being accessible by Métro (end of Line 1), and the cinema was relatively nice compared to others inside Paris. But best of all, the immense scale of La Défense is a good fix for those of us who live in Paris’s old, winding districts of narrow sidewalks and short buildings. It’s nice to see a bit of concrete sprawl to remind myself why I don’t live in Scottsdale anymore.

The skyscrapers of La Défense.

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