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Sailing through the Parisian Canals in your own way

In summer, when the days are longer and the weather in Paris is nice, locals from East Paris crowd the city canals for waterside pétanque, drinks along their bar-terraces or casual Paris picnics dangling their feet over the water. This is an area that we know well and we like to enjoy it from time to time with an apéro’ in hand and some friends.

How about enjoying the Paris Canals by doing something different? Last week, we decided to explore them in a different way and we rented an electric boat at Canal de la Villette. We wanted to navigate Paris slowly, with picnic on-board and rosé : -)

This is possible thanks to Marin d Eau Douce (=river sailor in English), a young company proposing a fleet of 22 electric self-drive boats for 5, 7 or 11 people. These electric canal boats do not require any kind of boating license and they are very easy to use.

 

In 1802, Napoleon 1st ordered the creation of a river network in Paris to supply the city with drinking water and with wood and cereals. The Paris canals cross five departments and represent nearly 130 km of waterways. The main Parisian canals are Canal de l Ourcq, Canal Saint-Martin and Canal Saint-Denis.

 

MARIN D EAU DOUCE – CHECK IN AND BRIEFING

Léa welcomed us at Marin d Eau Douce ’s office, located on the Bassin de la Villette. The check in process was straightforward (more or less like renting a bike) and after 10 minutes we were already on-board. We booked the Scoop, a canal boat for 7 people with a speed of 9 km/h. It was on the Scoop where Léa showed us how to drive a boat and taught us the basic navigation rules and safety measures. Renting a boat without license in Paris could not be easier and 5 minutes after leaving the dock we were navigating Paris in our own way.

Marin d Eau Douce 's electric boats at Bassin de la Villette

 

OUR ITINERARY – BASSIN DE LA VILLETTE

Before leaving the dock we got a brochure with the itinerary and estimated times. Having 2 hours of navigation ahead of us, we were allowed to sail out of the Bassin de la Villette and reach the Canal de l Ourcq up to Centre Nationale de la Danse. On the way, we had to cross a lift bridge and a spinning footbridge so it was important to keep in mind their opening schedules to avoid wasting time.

Unusual things to do in Paris: Bassin de la Villette and Canal de l Ourcq

Photo courtesy of Marin d Eau Douce ©

After some maneuvers to test our navigation skills, we floated up the canal to the first bridge. The boat was clean, silent and very easy to use. It was still “Paris Plages” time so the banks were full of deck chairs, parasols and summer activities for kids. The afternoon was warm but the light was horrible because it had been raining hard earlier in the day. That could only mean less pictures and more rosé which did not sound that bad ; -)

Bassin de la Villette

Paris picnic on-board our canal boat

Related:  Paris Plages

 

BASSIN DE LA VILLETTE – CANAL DE L OURCQ

Canal de l Ourcq is a pleasant waterway with a cool atmosphere and an interesting industrial heritage. We had already visited this area by bike but everything looks cooler from the water. The walls and bridges have new street art and, surprise! , after our last visit a canal bridge turned into a disco-bridge. Oh la la . . .

 

Related:  Biking along Canal de l'Ourcq

We had to wait a little bit to cross the spinning footbridge so we started to uncork the rosé and prepare our on-board picnic in style (after all, we are Parisians!). Every 15 minutes two men block the people traffic and move the footbridge with the help of a little engine. It was funny to see this a couple of times.

After leaving the footbridge behind we navigated through Parc de la Villette with its Géode and Museum of Science and Industry in Paris. We could also see the Great Pantin Flour Mills and the Former Customs House, two buildings with an interesting architecture. Unfortunately, when we reached the trees area, it was time to turn around and go back to the dock.

 

 

MARIN D EAU DOUCE – FINAL THOUGHTS

We had a great time! The canal cruise was pleasant, with some funny anecdotes that we prefer to keep for ourselves ; -) Sometimes we wished our canal boat was faster but maybe this is the speed limit along the Paris canals. Marin d Eau Douce ’s electric boats are a cool and original way to discover a less known area of Paris, away from the hustle and bustle of the Seine and its Bateaux Mouches. We sailed through the Paris canals in our own way, without tourist explanations shouted through a megaphone AND far from the crowds. I loved the sense of freedom at the back of our boat, with the French flag waved in the breeze and my glass of rosé. Marin d Eau Douce ‘s self-drive boats are definitely a great way to explore Paris off the beaten track.

Enjoying Canal de l Ourcq on my electric boat

 

OUR BEST TIPS 

+ Marin d Eau Douce has electric boats for 5, 7 and 11 people. Have in mind that the smallest boats are slower (5 km/h) and it can be a little bit boring. We recommend the Scoop boat, with a speed of 9 km /h.

+ You can rent a canal boat for 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, half day (4 hours) and full day (6 hours). We recommend a minimum of 3 hours. This is because with one hour you can only turn around the Bassin de la Villette and with 2 hours you will miss the best part of Canal de l Ourcq.

+ Book your electric boat 2-3 weeks in advance, especially on weekends or during the summer months.

+ On longer trips you have the option to stop along the way (there are two mooring points) to enjoy the canal’s banks. You can bring your own picnic and drinks or, if you want to treat yourself well, order a beautiful Paris picnic basket full of fresh products. The company proposes other supplements like pétanque or molkki games.

+ If you want to have a picnic on-board, we recommend to book the removable table to avoid holding your glass all the time. The table is available only for Scoop and Most boats.

+ During your canal cruise, have in mind the bridges’ opening schedules to avoid wasting your time. The lift bridge at the end of Bassin de la Villette opens every hour, at 15 minutes and 45 minutes while the foot bridge at Canal de l Ourcq opens each quarter of hour.

 

MARIN D EAU DOUCE – BASIC INFO

Marin d Eau Douce is located at 37 Quai de la Villette, between the MK2 quai de Seine cinema and the Passerelle de Moselle. They open everyday, from 9.30am to 10pm. You can reach Quai de la Villette by the Paris metro. Metro station Stalingrad (line 5 or line 2), or station Riquet (line 7).

Arrive to the company’s office at least 15 minutes in advance. You need this time to sign the hiring agreement and pay the deposit.

Children are welcome from 6 months of age and life jackets ensure that everyone stays safe.

Best of all, you can check availability & book instantly online on their website.

 

 Are you ready to be the captain of your own boat and explore Paris in a different way?

 

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Looking for unusual things to do in Paris? Sail through Canal de Saint Martin & Canal de l'Ourcq in your own way with Marin d Eau Douce 's boats, no license required! | Paris activities | Paris off the beaten path

Disclaimer: we would like to thank Marin d Eau Douce for providing us the “Scoop” boat to sail Canal de la Villette and Canal de l Ourcq. As always, all opinions remain our own. Cover picture courtesy of Marin d Eau Douce ©

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42 Comments

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    09/12/2017 at 9:56 am

    This is a great summary of my experience with Marin d’Eau Douce! I have lived in Paris for a long time and would not have known about this experience without your blog. Definitely a “Paris off the beaten path” experience if even the locals are just learning about it.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/12/2017 at 10:28 pm

      Cool that you learnt something new thanks to us! Fortunately Paris still has places to be explored and we are having lots of fun . . 😉

  • Reply
    Roxanna
    09/09/2017 at 4:57 am

    Paris looks like such an amazing city, and I have always wanted to go, but when I consider the crowds I have second thoughts. What a cool way to get away from those crowds, and still see some amazing areas! I love the idea of having a picnic enroute too!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/10/2017 at 12:18 pm

      Certainly Paris is a city attiring the crowds. But fortunately for locals there are still places like this one to enjoy 😉

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    09/08/2017 at 4:27 am

    This is a great way to soak in the spirit of Paris and see Paris. It sounds so romantic in keeping with the spirit of Paris too. Your tips are also really handy for people looking for a canal experience, especially about being aware of the schedule of the bridges. Something that people who are new to Paris may not even think of.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/10/2017 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks for reading and your nice comment, Sandy! You should try these boats next time you are in Paris, I am sure you would like it!

  • Reply
    melody pittman
    09/07/2017 at 2:02 am

    I would love driving myself around through the canals. That sounds like the ultimate way to see them. Love the look of the boat, too. Romantic.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/10/2017 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks for reading Melody. I am sure you would like to cruise Paris on these boats

  • Reply
    Valérie
    09/06/2017 at 8:46 pm

    I really had a wonderful experience. It’s really easy to drive the boat.i discover a place in paris i didn’t know in a really unique way. I had a great time.and you can also have a little apero on the boat.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/06/2017 at 9:49 pm

      So cool to hear that, Valérie! Looking forward to enjoy Paris off the beaten path with you and the rest of the team! 🙂

  • Reply
    Corinne
    09/06/2017 at 5:02 pm

    Now, I’m hooked and totally want to do this. How can I get hold of a bridge schedule? thanks,

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/06/2017 at 6:00 pm

      Corinne, it is written on the post. Anyway, the staff will tell you all the info before the cruise 😉

  • Reply
    Paige W
    09/05/2017 at 10:03 pm

    I never thought go there being canals in Paris. We did a river cruise, but his looks like an awesome, much more comprehensive trip! Too fun! When I make to to Paris again, I’ll have to give this a go!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/06/2017 at 6:24 am

      Thanks for reading Paige! I am sure that you will enjoy the Paris canals a lot 🙂

  • Reply
    Claudia
    09/05/2017 at 6:21 pm

    Ooh, this looks right up my alley! I’d love to explore Paris on my own little Marin d Eau Douce boat. We’ve previously done the bateaux mouche but your trip looks so much more intimate and fun!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/10/2017 at 12:16 pm

      Yes, it is less intimate and we appreciated being far from the crowds

  • Reply
    Nuria
    09/05/2017 at 8:42 am

    Good idea for this season. We will include this plan for one of the next weekends with the family. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/05/2017 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks to you for reading, Nuria! Hope you will have a good time sailing the canals . .

  • Reply
    Eve Kay
    09/04/2017 at 6:17 pm

    Riding on a small boat to explore Paris sounds like a wonderful idea. Good to escape the crowd, although it probably won’t stay that way much longer after your post 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/04/2017 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks for reading, Eve. Well, Marin d’Eau Douce would be happy to hear that! 😉

  • Reply
    Michelle W
    09/04/2017 at 12:57 am

    An electric river boat? Wine? Sounds like the perfect and unique way to explore the city! I love the idea and can only hope it catches on in other cities!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/04/2017 at 5:43 pm

      It IS! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply
    Damien McGuigan
    09/03/2017 at 3:41 pm

    Paris is pretty much the only large city that I actually like. I would imagine being on the water is a nice escape from the crowded streets too!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/03/2017 at 7:44 pm

      Indeed! 🙂

  • Reply
    Danijela WorldGlimpses
    09/03/2017 at 3:38 pm

    This sure sounds like something I would do! 😀 I just love waterfronts, I’ve enjoyed les bateaux mouches in Paris as well. And what a good idea to have those electric canal boats for a limited crowd of people! Looks like a perfect afternoon with a glass of rose. 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/03/2017 at 7:44 pm

      Actually these little electric boats are only for you, your family or friends. How cool is that? 🙂

  • Reply
    Kavey Favelle
    09/03/2017 at 7:54 am

    It’s such a great idea to see the city from the water, a different and more peaceful perspective.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/03/2017 at 8:32 am

      Yes, everything looks cooler from the water and we liked especially to be far from the crowds 🙂

  • Reply
    Eric Gamble
    09/03/2017 at 5:51 am

    This sounds like a great adventure to have on a weekend or if you’re on holiday to come in during the week where you can still people watch from the canal but not have to deal with the tourist traffic. I think if I was renting the electric boats I would want to do at least the three hours because that seems like it would be enough time to have a fun picnic, and still see all the cool graffiti art around the Canal de l Ourcq. I know you guys brought a bottle of Rose the boat, but is it legal to drink on a boat there?

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/03/2017 at 8:34 am

      Eric only the boat driver is NOT ALLOWED to drink alcohol. We were having fun with the rosé and he was having fun driving the boat so it was a win-win for everybody 😉

  • Reply
    amit
    09/02/2017 at 10:12 pm

    This was such a refreshing post on Paris. Most of the post’s on Paris cover the same places. My brother goes to Paris a lot and has done a few canal trips. I would love to spend the day exploring the city this way, So relaxing 😀

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/02/2017 at 10:31 pm

      Yes, it is a relaxing but also funny way to spend your day in Paris, you should try! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kate Brissette
    09/02/2017 at 10:05 pm

    I love the idea of slowing making my way through the canals to see Paris in a different way. And the fact that you can bring along a bottle of wine?! Even better! What a lovely idea!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/02/2017 at 10:30 pm

      YES! You can have the picnic and drinks on-board or stop at the park for a little bit of shade. Marin d’Eau Douce has two mooring points close to the main sights 🙂

  • Reply
    Tom
    09/02/2017 at 8:36 pm

    I LOVE this! I only visited Paris once in my life years ago and I actually didn’t like the City that much. I think it was mainly because I was still a child and couldn’t appreciate it. Now when I see things like this canal cruise I really want to go back to Paris and give it a second Chance. I love that you can even book a removable table 😀

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/02/2017 at 10:29 pm

      Glad that you liked it! If you ever come to Paris now you know where to go . . 😉

  • Reply
    Jenn and Ed Coleman
    09/02/2017 at 7:12 pm

    Three hours seems like a good minimum time. So much of historic Paris can be seen from the river without the crowds and bustle. This seems like a perfect way to explore the city.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/02/2017 at 10:28 pm

      Yes, 3 hours is what we recommend because the trees area and the park are far 😉

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    09/02/2017 at 5:49 pm

    I wish I had known you could do this when I was in Paris! I don’t know how well I would fare at the wheel, but I’m sure it’s pretty easy. And a lot easier on the feet than walking:)

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/02/2017 at 10:27 pm

      It is suuuuuuuuuuuper easy. I can tell you because I was driving the boat myself for a while! 🙂

  • Reply
    Wandering Wheatleys
    09/02/2017 at 4:12 pm

    Wow, this looks like the perfect way to see Paris! (especially with a few bottles of Rose on board! We have rented boats all over the world – from Canada to Croatia, and it is always so lovely to have you own transportation on the water. This activity is definitely on the list next time we’re in the City of Love. Thanks for writing!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      09/02/2017 at 10:26 pm

      You are welcome! These are small electrical boats but it is a really cool way to explore Paris 🙂

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