Although New York City's conversion of an unused elevated train line into a people friendly walkway known as the "High Line" has attracted much more global attention, Paris is home of the original High Line, the Coulée verte René-Dumont (Green Course) which also is referred to as the Promenade Plantée (Planted Promenade). The Promenade Plantée was launched in stages starting in 1988, whereas the first segment of NYC's High Line was inaugurated more than 20 years later in 2009.
Among travelgasm.com selections for our "7 Things Tourists Don't Do in Paris, but You Should," Promenade Plantée is a bit of a stretch, as tour bus routes routinely clip the Viaduc des Arts end of Promenade Plantée in Bastille, and it does typically show up in the top 75 or so attractions on the big tourist advisory sites, but it rarely, if ever, appears on lists of major tourist attractions in Paris.
Furthermore, based on walking its full length several times at different times of day, the number of obvious tourists drops to around zero long before it reaches its roughly 4 km (2.5 mile) conclusion. If you're physically able and have the time to do so, we would encourage you to walk well beyond its starting point at Bastille.
It's such a pleasant journey over, under, and through neighborhoods, parks, and wooded areas via gangways, paths, bridges, and tunnels that it doesn't feel like a long walk at all. There are elevators for accessibility in some places and even reasonably clean, and free, toilets at various points along the way. Bikes are permitted starting at the ground level Tunnel de Reuilly portion, as well. If you get started late in the day, be sure to review the official opening hours before setting out, because it closes as early as 5 PM in the winter and as late as 9:30 PM in the summer with significant variations by season as well as segment.
Promenade Plantée terminates with a spiral staircase at the definitely unpleasant Boulevard Périphérique expressway, so we would suggest skipping the last bit in favor of a detour into the leafy Quartier Picpus for a meal.
A couple of well-regarded restaurants with affordable plat du jour (plate of the day) options near metro stations in Picpus include Au Bois Doree and Au Tramway. Or if you still would like to spend some time outside, you always could buy a picnic lunch at the convenient Franprix grocery store and the award-winning Vandermeersch bakery and head to the gigantic Bois de Vincennes park next door. The Lac Daumesnil (lake) in the park is a nice option and it's not far away.
Paris also has a second High Line conversion as part of the La Petite Ceinture (Little Belt) railway that was built starting in 1852 and partially decommissioned in the 1960s. There is a small branch of this rail line converted into a trail — formally the La Petite Ceinture 12e — off part of the Promenade Plantée, but there is a larger converted section down in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, as well.
This second Parisian High Line, opened in 2013 — and formally the La Petite Ceinture 15e or Un Promenade Déroutante (Puzzling Promenade) — is less manicured and not as beautiful as the Promenade Plantée. If nothing else, the rails largely still are in place, so it's more as if a simple trail has been added adjacent to the rails rather than a true rails-to-trails conversion. We only felt compelled to walk its full roughly 1.6 km (1 mile) length once between Balard station and the cozy Georges-Brassens park, but if you really like elevated walkways, you might like to go take a look at it, as well. It's definitely off the tourist trail with barely a mention on the big tourist advisory sites and among reviews on the world's search engine — even in French — at the time we first wrote this piece. We had to go as far as to contact a native French speaking friend for advice on how to best translate its name into English.
Below, we've mapped out our recommended route along the Promenade Plantée that conveniently ties the walk together between two metro stations so you can walk one direction and return by metro back into the city.
How to Get Here: Take Metro Line 1, 5, or 8 to Bastille for Promenade Plantée. Take Exit 4 (Viaduc des arts Promenade plantée). If you would like to follow our suggested walk, it is convenient to head back toward Bastille on Line 8 from either Michel Bizot or Porte Dorée stations. Alternately, Bel-Air station on Line 6 also is close by and could be a logical alternative departure point depending on your next destination. If you would like to visit Un Promenade Déroutante, the closest metro station is Balard on Line 8. Take Exit 3 (R. Balard) as it is immediately across a small street from a convenient entry point to the promenade.
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