Paris has some famous and beloved parks. The Jardin des Plantes, The Tuileries, and the Jardin du Luxembourg are all famous green spaces that Parisians and visitors love. However, there’s a little-known park that is just as wonderful as any of these – the Promenade Plantée. It’s elevated up to 10 metres above the city, and an underrated sight in Paris. Just like New York City’s celebrated High Line, the Promenade Plantée is a great way to take in the centre of the city, from a quiet leafy green vantage point.
The Promenade Plantée was built over a disused section of elevated train track, running for 4.7km from near the Opéra Bastille all the way to the Bois de Vincennes. The train tracks are long gone, and instead, there are beautiful green gardens, archways, pools and fountains that stretch across its entire length.
Building the Promenade Plantée
The old Vincennes railway line used to link Bastille to Verneuil-l’Étang via Vincennes, but after 110 years in operation, the railway line was abandoned in 1969. Sections of the line were incorporated into the RER A, leaving a huge section of empty railway line. Of course, this was valuable real estate, and it wasn’t long until plans were drawn up.
Renovations of the entire line began in the 1980’s, beginning with the destruction of Bastille station to make the Opéra Bastille. The gorgeous Viaduc des Arts section was renovated in 1989. Next was the Promenade Plantée project, led by architects Jacaues Vergely and Philippe Mathieux, leading to its opening in 1993.
The Parisian populace didn’t warm to the project right away, considering it a waste of taxpayer money. Today, it’s beloved by Parisians as a place to escape the noise of the city. It was the first walkway of its kind in the world, followed by the first stage of New York City’s High Line in 2009, and Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail.
Walking the Promenade Plantée
The walkway has several different names, also known as the Coulée Verte, or Coulée verte René-Dumont. To start, go to rue de Lyon and Avenue Daumesnil, where stairs and lifts help people up above tree level to the promenade. There are plenty of other entry and exit points along the way, so you’re not committed to walking the entire route.
Viaduc des Arts
At the very beginning of the walkway is one of the Promenade Plantées most interesting and beautiful features, the Viaduc des Arts. The walkway is held up high by a series of very pretty red and white brick archways – 45 in total. Some are open to let roads pass underneath, but many more have been converted into workshops and shopfronts. Overhead, the walkway boasts gardens and still, quiet ponds.
The viaduct shops are art, design and fashion themed, and of great quality. There are potters, perfumes, printing and photography; homewares and kitchenwares and windows and frames; fashion and shoes and chocolates and leather and bicycles and violins. There’s even mosaics and laser etching, and much more. You could spend an entire day (and a month’s salary) just browsing past these amazing workshops.
Features of the walkway
Once the detour of the Viaduc des Arts is complete, and you’re back up on the promenade again, it’s a very pleasant walk. The sounds of the city seem to die away, and the bright green trees mostly obscure the city facades. The gardens feel lush and well-maintained, with plenty of metal archways the make the walk feel close and cozy.
There are sections where the promenade passes straight through a tunnel in a building, and another where it appears that the building has been sliced in half to accomodate the walkway. One highlight is when the walkway expands into an open place, hosting a huge sundial that appears just before Reuilly.
The Jardin de Reuilly
At the Jardin de Reuilly, a long, shaky footbridge arcs over a wide green space full of sunbaking Parisians. The garden used to be an old freight station, converted into a peaceful green space. This is a great place to get off and relax with a picnic. This point concludes the main high-line version of the Promenade Plantée.
At this point, the walk splits into two choices; the Allée Vivaldi moves down to street level for pedestrians, whilst also offering a separate path for cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders down the other road.
The Tunnels of the Promenade Plantée
The walk continues into a sunken walkway, which is entirely different experience than the 10-metre high walk from the first section. Now, there is a wall of foliage on one side, giving the impression of being very low down compared to the buildings. Next, there are two old railway tunnels, which aren’t particularly attractive to look at. Nevertheless, you’ll be completely surrounded by greenery during this stage of the walk.
The sights continue past the tunnels at Jardin Charles Péguy, with water features, a children’s playground for the little ones, and some ping-pong tables to try your hand at. At the other end of the jardin, there begins the Petite Ceinture, a separate green walkway that lets you see more of the green side of Paris.
The Promenade Plantée is a hidden gem in the heart of the big city of Paris, a green space that many visitors don’t seem to know about. It offers amazing views of the city from up high, while surrounded by gardens, plants and water features. There are some very cool sights to take in, some photo opportunities, and a great place to pack a picnic for. It’s perfect for anyone who enjoys experiencing a city on foot, as well as offering green spaces to chill out and enjoy nature in the sun.