La Promenade Plantée: a not exactly hidden gem
Given that it’s a roughly 4.5 kilometer, mostly elevated garden path, calling La Promenade Plantée a hidden gem doesn’t sound quite right. Nor does calling it Paris’s Highline, because the park, officially known as the Coulée Verte René-Dumont (or Coulée Verte, for short), predates New York’s Highline and in fact inspired it.
Paris had reclaimed a nineteenth-century viaduct, transforming it into a lovely tree-lined path in the early 1990s. La Promenade Plantée runs from the Place de Bastille to the Jadin de Reuilly along the old viaduct, before continuing through old tunnels and ending at the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondisement. The park incorporates some of wild growth that had taken over when the viaduct fell into disuse with more landscaped plantings, making it one of the most unique parks in Paris.
This is one of my favorite spots in Paris
Nevertheless, La Promenade Plantée doesn’t make a lot of must-do lists for Paris visitors. It does mine. Along with a trip to Marché d’Aligre on a Sunday morning for supplies for a picnic along Canal Saint-Martin or La Seine (we’ll get to that another day), this garden path is a way to experience Paris the way Parisians do. It seems to be something that mostly locals, as in Right bank locals, enjoy, along with a few people like me.
A first morning in Paris
The first morning of my second trip to Paris, I had to do a little work (I’d been traveling for a bit). I’d comforted myself with a scrumptious croissant from the boulangerie on the corner and a brief supply run to the Monoprix (I love going to regular grocery stores in other countries) in the morning. A cool, early October day, it was sweater weather in Paris, and I couldn’t wait to get out in it in earnest. Back at my funky old apartment on a side street in Paris’s 11th arrondisment, I tended to a few work tasks and did my laundry.
Setting out to explore
A few hours later, proposals addressed, and inbox triaged, I packed work back away and set out for a long walk. Lucky me, I was in the best city in the world for walking, and I was not far at all from La Promenade Plantée. I’d wanted to check it out ever since I’d seen Before Sunset, one of my favorite movies, many years before. In it, Jesse and Celine stroll along the path before heading to La Pure Café. I love the Before trilogy (I rode the Ferris Wheel at the Prater in Vienna, too. And, when I find myself in Greece, I may seek out those sights as well).
A walk through “real Paris,” leading to La Promenade Plantée
Heading out from my apartment, I walked Avenue Ledru Rollin, a busy, shop-filled street, toward Bastille. This isn’t pretty Paris; the buildings have a touch of dinge on them, and the smudgy shop windows hawk haphazard wares. I’d chosen to stay in the 11e, not just because it was more affordable, but also because it was where there were more Parisians than tourists like me (note that the 11e is rather hip, and home to world-famous restaurants like Septime, and cafés that show up in movies like Le Pure. But it’s hip in that way that artists and others can afford to live there, or at least could when I was there). Walking did not feel like performance here, which relaxed me, as did the cooler day.
Up the stairs, to La Promenade Plantée
I continued until I reached the stairs to La Promenade Plantée, where Avenue Ledru Rollin intersects with Avenue Daumesnil. The park has several access points up to the path; you can find them along Avenue Daumesnil. I climbed the stairs, and the pace immediately changed. On a weekday early afternoon, not many people were on the tree-lined path above the busy avenue below.
While I could still hear the traffic below, it was quieter, calmer. I sat on a bench for a few minutes, taking it in. And also to discretely check to see that my socks were properly situated. The blisters I’d gotten Barcelona that had helped inspire an experiment in slower travel for a weekend had mostly healed, but I wanted to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again (it did not).
La Promenade Plantée
Taking in the relaxing path
And then I strolled, slowly getting a very different view of Paris, a better one of the Haussmann architecture that can be hard to see looking straight up, and of trees barely starting to turn on the streets below. After over a week in Barcelona, and a hectic travel day, my senses had again overloaded. My leisurely stroll among the trees cleared my mind.
Here and there, I passed people quietly enjoying their own calm moments in the city. Every now and again, I’d take advantage of a bench, and sit in the dappled sunlight. In these moments solo travel gives its greatest rewards.
And, a glass of wine at an iconic café
Restored, I did some sightseeing for the remainder of the afternoon, before heading back to my neighborhood and enjoying a glass of wine at Le Pure Café, doing proper homage to Before Sunset. A late dinner later, my first day in Paris was complete.
Showing La Promenade Plantée to friends
Showing off my find to friends
The next day I met up with friends, including one who had lived in the 5e years. She’d never heard of La Promenade Plantée, and so I got to show her a lovely little spot in Paris when we headed back over to the Right bank after an evening at hers. We went further down the path this time, once again enjoying a bit of a respite after a late night of wine, fromage, and conversation.
Another type of Parisian magic.
Have you ever been to La Promenade Plantée? What did you think? I’d also love ot hear about your favorite under-the-radar spots in Paris. Let me know in the comments!