Paris was in many ways an obvious choice of location for the University of Chicago's Center in Europe. The 13th arrondissement, however, was less so. Many no doubt had imagined Chicago's European presence as a converted 18th-century hôtel particulier in the heart of the Latin Quarter or in one of Paris's many "postcard" neighborhoods. Few thought Chicago would set up shop in Paris Rive Gauche, a part of the 13th that as recently as ten years ago was little more than a sea of abandoned warehouses.
And yet Chicago and the 13th have much in common: both urbanized at about the same time, both survived their respective tragedies of 1871 (the Great Chicago Fire and the Commune of Paris), both grew to become centers of agricultural trade, both have an ethnically diverse population, and both are as well known for their great institutions of research and higher learning as for their working-class grit.
So it was a very "Chicago" decision to build in the newly developed pôle universitaire, just steps from the National Library and across the street from the University of Paris VII-Denis Diderot—with a half dozen other research institutions within walking distance. This was a chance for Chicago to build from the ground up, to create a Center that could enhance and facilitate the pursuit of its unique academic mission, and to become part of the rich intellectual and cultural vitality of the neighborhood.
Now lined with fashionable restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, Bercy Village once bustled with activity as the largest wine and spirits trade center in the world.
Parc de Bercy
The Parc de Bercy is a great place to spend a few hours with a book, enjoy a picnic or burn a few calories.
The largest Chinatown in continental Europe, boasting over 150 restaurants, is just a short walk from the Center in Paris.
Butte aux Cailles
Saved from modernity by its past life as a stone quarry, a walk down the streets of Butte aux Cailles is the best place to go if you want to imagine yourself as a character in a Zola novel.
Manufacture des Gobelins
A modern museum of beautiful handmade tapestries and carpets, the Manufacture des Gobelins is also a fully functioning atelier where you can watch the artisans practice their craft as if the industrial revolution never occurred.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), François Mitterrand
In much the same way that Parisians in the early 90s either loved or hated the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, Parisians today either love or hate the new BNF François Mitterrand. Consider spending a few hours at the BNF François Mitterrand; then formulate your own opinions
Rive Gauche Revival [pdf]
“The new Docks en Seine is the latest chapter in the renaissance of eastern Paris – the biggest urban renewal project since Baron Haussmann reshaped the city.”