In summer, when the days are longer, and the weather is good, locals from East Paris crowd the city canals for waterside pétanque, drinks along their bar-terraces, or casual picnics dangling their feet over the water. We know this area well, and we like to enjoy it from time to time with our friends.
Cruises through the Canal de la Villette are always popular but for something different, head to Bassin de la Villette and jump on an electric self-drive boat to navigate Paris slowly, with picnic on-board and rosé wine : -)
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 boating license, and they are easy to use.
GOOD TO KNOW: In 1802, Napoleon 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.
Paris Canal Cruise by Marin d’Eau Douce
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, an electric boat for 7 people with a speed of 9 km/h.
It was on the Scoop itself where Léa showed us how to drive the boat and taught us the basic navigation rules through the canals of Paris and main safety measures. Renting a boat without a license in Paris couldn’t be easier, and 5 minutes after leaving the dock, we were navigating Paris in our own way.
Our Itinerary: Bassin de la Villette – Canal de l’Ourcq
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.
After some maneuvers to test our navigation skills, we sailed slowly down the canal to the first bridge. The boat was clean, silent, and very easy to use. It was still Paris Plages time, so the canal banks were full of deck chairs, parasols, and summer activities for kids and adults.
Exploring Canal de l’Ourcq
After leaving the Bassin de la Villette, this Paris canal cruise sails through 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 . . .
We had to wait a little bit to cross the spinning footbridge, so we started to uncork the rosé wine and prepare our onboard picnic. 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. We could also see the Great Pantin Flour Mills and the Former Customs House, two buildings with interesting architecture. Unfortunately, before arriving at the Parc Bergère, it was time to turn around and go back to the dock.
Canal Cruise in Paris with 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 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 lesser-known area of Paris, away from the hustle and bustle of the Seine River cruises. I loved the sense of freedom at the back of our boat, with the French flag waving in the breeze and my glass of rosé wine. Marin d Eau Douce’s self-drive boats are definitely a great way to visit Paris differently.
Marin d’Eau Douce in Paris – Information & Tips
Marin d Eau Douce is located at 37 Quai de la Villette in Paris 19, between the MK2 Quai de Seine cinema and the Passerelle de Moselle. They open every day, from 10 am to 10 pm. You can reach Quai de la Villette by the Paris metro – station Stalingrad (line 5 or line 2), or station Riquet (line 7).
Arrive at 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.
» Marin d Eau Douce has electric boats for 5, 7, and 11 people. Keep in mind that the smallest boats are slower (5 km/h) and 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 order a beautiful Paris picnic basket full of fresh products. The company proposes other supplements like renting pétanque or molkki games.
» If you want to have a picnic on-board, we recommend booking 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. At the end of Bassin de la Villette, the lift bridge opens every hour, at 15 minutes and 45 minutes, while the footbridge at Canal de l Ourcq opens each quarter of an hour.
Are you ready to be the captain of your own boat and explore Paris in a different way?
Click here for more Paris attractions