Enjoying the Outdoors in Paris

It’s almost springtime in Paris – the birds are singing, love is (of course) in the air, the outdoor markets are bustling, and the sidewalk bistros are home to day-long people watchers/newspaper readers/coffee sippers. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting this enchanted city during the spring time, there’s plenty of things to do in the fresh French air. Here’s some of our favorites:

Le Vergers de Champlain

Of course you can always stop by one of the local markets to pick up some fresh produce, but why do that when you can pick your own? The Vergers de Champlain is only 23 km south of Paris, and is always rotating about 40 different fruits and vegetables between seasons. Come here and pick your own fresh apples, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers and much more!

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Sometimes parks are just parks, but this isn’t one of those times. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is often missed, but this 19th arrondissement park shouldn’t be missed. It’s on the site of a former gypsum and limestone quarry, full of winding paths, waterfalls, temples, and cliffs, and is a little piece of heaven right in the middle of the busy city. Perfect place for a midday stroll.

Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise

Talk a walk with the dead in the Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise celebrity cemetery. You can even view the famous (and unfortunately graffitid) grave of the late Jim Morrison. Despite the grave subject, it’s truly a beautiful cemetery.

Place des Vosges

La place des Vosges, dans le IVe arrondissement de Paris.

Here lies the city’s first planned square, built in 1612 by Louis XII, it’s symmetrically laid out, including carriageways. Its style is also a bit different than what you are used to seeing in Paris, red brick and stone and steeply pitched slate roofs.

La Coulee verte

A long time ago, steam engines used to blow through here, but no more as of 1969. Now the area is full of glass shops, translucent apartments, tree lined cycling paths, and beautiful gardens. You can even catch some fantastic artwork decorating the outside of the police station, cirque 1930’s. Pack a picnic to eat in the Jardin de Reuilly and take a stroll through this unique part of Paris.

The Gardens of Paris

Among the many beauties Paris has to offer are well crafted and gorgeous gardens scattered throughout the city. Take a tour with your significant other through the romantic Luxembourg Gardens, or stroll through the famous royal Versailles park, take a gander at the Tuileries Gardens while on your trip to the Louvre, among others. These gardens offer a breath of fresh air amongst the hustle and bustle of busy Paris.

Right outside the Louvre lies the Tuileries Gardens. Beautiful, well groomed, and bursting with color during spring time.

The Luxembourg Gardens are often crowded, as they are a Parisian favorite, however they are absolutely worth seeing - especially in front of the backdrop of Luxembourg Palace

Versailles Park is a sight to behold. Perhaps one of the most well layed out and extraordinary gardens Paris has to offer.

The stunning roses at the Bois de Boulogne garden are reason enough to visit

The Bois de Vincennes gardens have a wonderful French countryside sort of feel

Attractions Map of Paris

Because Paris has so much to see and do, it’s always nice to get a birds eye view of what’s there and make your touring plan. Below is a map displaying some of Paris’ main attractions and must-see’s that may help. (You can click on the map to see the full image)

Parc Monceau: An English Garden in Paris

Charming Parc Monceau draws parents, children, lovers and artists

The millions of tourists pouring into this city will almost immediately make a pilgrimage up Avenue des Champs-Elysees, squeezing through crowds while gawking at the showrooms of some of the most expensive luxury goods stores in the world. No one leaves before having their photo taken in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

Few know they can easily escape the crowds, expenses such as $20 glasses of beer, and stifling Paris summertime heat by taking a detour to one of the most beautiful, tranquil and unique parks in Paris.

Parc Monceau, a short stroll straight down Avenue Hoche from the Arc, has for centuries drawn parents with young children, strumming musicians, lovers young and old, and artists ranging from Claude Monet to the makers of the 2006 film, Paris, Je T’aime.

The park’s genesis dates back to 1769 when Louis Philippe II, the Duke of Chartres and later the Duke of Orleans, bought a plot of land to create an English-style park.

An anglophile, he wanted Britishstyle winding pathways and randomly placed gardens and monuments. Among the monuments he installed that are still standing is a small pyramid, which my son is fond of climbing, and a breathtakingly beautiful pond partly encircled by Corinthian columns.

Things didn’t quite work out for Louis Philippe, a cousin of King Louis XVI. Despite his known sympathies for the French Revolution, he was executed by guillotine in 1793.

But his park blossomed after the city purchased the land in 1860 and then sold some of the land surrounding the park to create space for luxury apartments.

Napoleon III’s brilliant civic planner, Baron Georges-Eugene Haussman, preserved and enhanced the rest of the park for the use of the public.

Parc Monceau isn’t short of important historical moments. In 1797, Andre-Jacques Garnerin made the world’s first silk parachute jump, leaping from a hot-air balloon to the park, where a cheering crowd greeted him.

In 1870, it was one of the grim public areas where authorities took the so-called communards, anarchists and communists who briefly seized control of Paris, for execution during La semaine sanglante — “The Bloody Week.”

Today the park, even on relatively frigid (for Paris) days, is populated by joggers, strollers and parents bringing their kids to the playground, the swings, a roller blade/scooter oval, and the small carousel. At lunchtime, the population soars as Parisiens flood in to have their lunches, leaving garbage cans spilling over with packaging.

And on sunny weekends, Parc Monceau often resembles a summer folk festival, with families picnicking on the grass, lovers cooing on the benches, and kids trying to play soccer or climb trees while avoiding whistle-blowing security guards shouting: “C’est interdit!” — It’s forbidden!

There are more than 40 parks in Paris: the two woodland parks book-ending the city, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, as well as smaller parks and gardens such as my colleague Keith Spicer’s favourite, the spectacular Jardin du Luxembourg, which faces one of Paris’s most magnificent structures, the Palais du Luxembourg that houses France’s Senate.

You shouldn’t come to Paris, especially in the warmer months, without spending some time drawing a few deep breaths inside these wondrous combinations of natural and man-made beauty. And Parc Monceau has to be high on your list.