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It seems everyone’s heard of New York City’s High Line Park, but did you know that Paris is home to the original elevated park?
La Coulée Verte, also called La Promenade Plantée, is a nearly 3-mile-long path along an abandoned railway track taking you from Bastille out to the nearby suburb of Vincennes. Opened in 1993, Paris’s linear park served as the inspiration for New York’s High Line, which wasn’t inaugurated until 2009.
The track starts just behind the Opéra Bastille, up on top of the Viaduc des Arts. A discreet staircase on the corner of the red brick archways leads up to this atypical Parisian park.
This is one of my favorite places in Paris to go for a walk in spring, or whenever visitors come to town for that matter. Strolling through beautiful gardens on top of the Viaduc des Arts, the elevation offers glimpses of the city that you just can’t get from the ground.
One of the sights you’d surely miss from street level comes near the beginning of La Coulée Verte—the 13 gigantic stone men on the roof of the police station of the 12th Arrondissement. Although it has an art deco air, the artworks were inspired by Michelangelo and only date back to the 1980s. You’d never know these surprising statues existed from down on the pavement of Avenue Daumesnil.
As you head east, the path takes you between buildings, past the small Jardin de Reuilly – Paul-Pernin, through tunnels, and on to neighborhoods not often explored. Then you have a choice to make: turn back and maybe hit the shops and cafés of the Viaduc des Arts—I recommend the terrace of L’Arrosoir—, or continue on and out of Paris.
I nearly always choose to continue on. I leave the trail and cross under the péripherique, wandering through the neighborhood of Saint Mandé to reach the Bois de Vincennes. I walk around its lakes, up to the Château de Vincennes, and on to the convenient Metro Line 1 station to return to Paris.
An amble along the length the Coulée Verte makes for a good hour’s walk, combining usually unseen parts of Paris with bucolic panoramas, and even a medieval fort! What more could you want from a good walk?