Paris has some of Europe’s most beautiful parks but for something different search out the Promenade Plantée. It’s a magical, green stroll 10 metres above the street, which begins at the Bastille and winds through the 12th arrondissement for three miles, coming out before the Bois de Vincennes.
When a long-abandoned mid-19th century viaduct was converted into the world’s first elevated park walkway in 1993, most locals thought it a waste of money. Parisians needed time to take a project like this to heart, but now the Promenade is a cherished landmark.
The starting point is the crossroads at rue de Lyon and avenue Daumesnil, with staircases and lifts along the route, perfect to nip down and check out the Viaduc des Arts: 45 brick archways transformed into artisan showrooms that range from violin-makers to glass blowers, jewellers to furniture and tapestry restorers. Most people down at street level don’t even realise the walkway exists just above their heads, and the city panorama across Parisian rooftops can be spectacular.
At one point a modern building splits in two with the walkway inbetween, while a long, wobbly cable footbridge stretches across the Jardin de Reuilly. Then the elevated section heads to street level – becoming accessible to bikers, rollerbladers and skateboarders, too; a tree-lined corridor passes through old railway tunnels before ending at another park, the Jardin Charles Peguy. This is right by the disused train tracks of what was known as La Petite Ceinture and plans are afoot to extend the Promenade Plantée along the old rail line in the future.