Summer in Paris is officially in full swing. The beaches are open, the outdoor cinema is back, and thankfully, the weather hasn’t tried to cook us all again. Yet. But the weather has been gorgeous, so now that confinement is over, people are heading back outdoors. I am one of them, because even after years of living in Paris, there are still so many places I have yet to explore. Therefore, in an effort to start checking them off my list, last week I put on a mask and headed for Bastille. It was time to experience something that has been on my to do list for years: the Promenade Plantée.
The Promenade Plantée is a walkway through east Paris that dates all the way back 1859. Back then, it was a train line that connected the Bastille neighbourhood to the suburb of Verneuil-l’Étang. As the trains passed through the 12th arrondissement, they were elevated onto viaducts for the final approach to the Bastille. This line ceased operations in 1969 as a result of the newly opened RER A suburban line, but thankfully, the tracks were not demolished at that time.
Instead, they sat abandoned until the 1980s, when the arcades underneath the viaducts were renovated to house restaurants and boutiques. In 1993, the pathway on top of the viaducts was officially inaugurated as the Promenade Plantée, and it has been a popular pedestrian destination ever since. Today, the route stretches just under 5km, connecting Opera Bastille with the Bois de Vincennes. It is also a stunningly beautiful walk through the east of Paris. So much so that I actually returned twice in one week to experience it again.
The west entrance can be found at the intersection of Rue de Lyon and Avenue Daumesnil. Just look for the stairwells leading up to the top of the viaducts. From there, you pass through several green archways with lush vegetation on either side. I know I can be prone to hyperbole when talking about Paris, but in this case, it truly did feel like walking into a fairy tale. It was hard to believe that a green space that beautiful could exist in such a large and bustling city.
After walking along the viaducts for about 2km, the path crosses through the Jardin de Reuilly. This is the approximate halfway point of the route, with the second half taking you both over bridges and through tunnels. Please note that cyclists are allowed in this section, so be sure to follow the signs and keep to the pedestrian side of the path. This half is equally as beautiful, and by the time you reach the end, it’s over too quickly and you’ll want to do the whole thing over again. Or maybe that’s just me.
The Promenade Plantée was the first elevated pedestrian parkway in the world when it opened back in 1993. It has since served as the inspiration for both the High Line in New York City, and the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, but personally, I love the original. It’s definitely one of the hidden gems of the 12th arrondissement, and I can’t wait to return for another beautiful walk.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.