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La Petite Ceinture

Train tracks on Paris's Petite Ceinture

La Petite Ceinture

Where to Walk Along the Train Tracks in Paris

101 Rue Olivier de Serres, 75015 Paris

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La Petite Ceinture, or Little Belt, was the brainchild of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann, who together razed much of France’s capital to create the Paris we know today with its grand boulevards, butter-hued buildings, tree-lined avenues, and open spaces. 

The idea was not only to have a means of carrying goods all around Paris without having to cross the busy city, but also to connect the outlying suburbs with major train stations in central Paris. This circular railway running within the old city walls was supposed to have stations in all the outlying villages and at cross points with the main lines coming out of Paris, making connections easier for people and for cargo.

In December 1851, upon Napoleon III taking office, the first section of this intramural rail track circling Paris was granted. At its peak, the Petite Ceinture carried up to 90,000 passengers a day on its six trains per hour, circumnavigating the city in just an hour and a half. Then came the metro in 1900 and then the car, and bit by bit, the Petite Ceinture became redundant and forgotten.

Paris trail along old railroad tracks
The paths run along the railroad tracks which once used for La Petite Ceinture railway.

Today, many parts of the abandoned railway have been destroyed or taken over by the RER. While some of the train tracks have quite literally gone to seed and been taken back by nature, other places along the rails have been done up and opened to the public as green spaces where people can walk, wild flowers can grow, and bees can buzz freely.

One such spot is in the 15th Arrondissement. Start by Place Balard, walk along the path, high above the surrounding streets, past the former station Vaugirard, and saunter on as far as the often over-looked but lovely Parc George Brassens, with its vineyard, art, and a fabulous second-hand book market every weekend. Although it’s not a long stretch of the Petite Ceinture, it’s enough to give you a taste and have you searching out the others.

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Métro Ⓜ
  • 101 Rue Olivier de Serres
  • 75015 Paris
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