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Paris is celebrated for the the sounds of the bohemian chaos of Montmartre, the chic fashion stores, the tastes and smell of the bustling street markets, even the crowded metro, the heel-to-toe busy sidewalks and the lights of the city that never dims.
It is a metropolis of great museums and architecture and never-ending traffic, so visiting and living in Paris can be both wonderful and stressful. As François I said: “Paris n’est pas une ville, c’est un monde” (Paris is not a city, it’s a world). But the world can get too much sometimes!
The good thing is: there are plenty of hidden green spaces, away from the tourist trails, the crowds and the chaos all around Paris, should you wish to hide away for a little while, and breathe. Here are a few favorite spots.
Coulée verte René-Dumont (or Promenade plantée)
Stretching 4.7km on the disused Vincennes railway line, the Coulée verte René-Dumont in the 12th arrondissement is the world’s first elevated walkway. Originally designed and created by landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux as the Promenade Plantée in 1988, Coulée verte René-Dumont was officially inaugurated in 1993.
From walking atop the specialty crafts shops of Viaduc des Arts, in and out between buildings and through tunnels and trenches, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the neighborhood, the greenery of Jardin de Reuilly and the shopping at Allée Vivaldi. Not to mention the fact that the Coulée verte is lined with trees, shrubs, bush plants, making it a great place to escape and enjoy a bit of breathing space in the middle of Paris.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise
There is something very special about old cemeteries, where the tomb stones are a mass of delicate angels and weeping virgins, greened and blacked by the moss and mould of the years. Naturally calm and quiet, cemeteries are some of the best places to go for a little escape of the modern world, and in Paris, there is one particular that cannot be missed.
The Cimetière du Père Lachaise is Paris’ largest cemetery. It is where all the rich and famous of yesteryear rest in peace, and despite receiving more than 3.5 million visitors a year (it’s one of Paris’ tourist stops), there are plenty of quiet corners to be found among its 110 acres of greenery.
While La Villette is not exactly hidden, it is mostly known as a local hangout. A green space that embraces the confluence of Paris’ former canals, the park is home to Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie on one side, and the Cité de la Musique on the other. But don’t let that turn you away from this beautiful corner of the 19th arrondissement. Several gardens of varying themes make little pocket escapes, and the walking paths are lined with sculptures and art works made of former industrial materials, making an entertaining day out.
Not to mention the waterways, which cut through La Villette like a cross. These canals create the illusion of a modern Venice, and can be enjoyed with a leisure boat or simply with a beer in hand from its concrete shores.
As the setting for two of Paris’ major train stations, the 10th has always been a diverse, colorful and bustling district. But even those who thrive in this environment needs somewhere to recharge, and Jardin Villemin is where you’ll find them.
Wedged between Gare de l’Est and Canal Saint-Martin, the green space of Jardin Villemin is a rarity in the 10th. It’s a community hub of children’s playgrounds, communal vegetable garden, and games space for the adults.
However, don’t overlook this garden for its size. Within the small space, there are a wide variety of trees. Chestnut, acacia, plane, oak, birch and different types of maple, as well as cherry, mulberry and apple trees, make it a true oasis in a busy neighborhood.
L’île aux Cygnes
Follow the Seine river westwards, just a little past the Eiffel Tower to your left is the narrow artificial island of L’île aux Cygnes. Created in 1827 to support the construction of Pont de Grenelle, it is a little secret green space where you can definitely find some peace and quiet.
The island lies between Pont de Bir-Hakeim and Pont de Grenelle, and the Allée aux Cygnes, a single tree-lined trail in the centre is specifically for walker and cyclists. From one end is a fantastic view across to the Eiffel Tower, on the other end, you’ll find a replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift back from the American community to commemorate the the centenary of the French Revolution.
The “secret” garden of Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur
In any city, there is always a corner of surprise where it is “you know when you know”, and the inner courtyard of Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur is definitely one of those places. You only know it’s here because someone has told you. And now, you know.
Crammed among the buildings of the facades of buildings of the 3rd district, this public garden is literally hidden from sight. Lined with climbing roses and other flowers, it is especially delightful to visit during the months they are in bloom.
Access from either the rue de Hesse or the rue des Arquebusiers. Cross the small porch and you’ll see it.
Parc Montsouris on the southern end of the city is considered one of Paris’ loveliest public parks, yet it welcomes the least number of tourists. Could they be scared off by the word “mouse” in the name? (The etymology, in fact, has nothing to do with rodents inhabiting the “hill”- but in fact refers to an old windmill.)
Part of Haussmann’s grand urban redevelopment plan, the park was inspired by the design of London public parks. It’s decorated with stone statues and planted with majestic trees; there’s even a small waterfall near the pond. Definitely worth a walk about.
Lead photo credit : Jardin Cathérine Labouré @ Marian Jones