The summer is one of the best times to go out and explore the city in all its splendor. Unfortunately, some of the city’s best places for strolling often happen to be packed with Parisians and tourists alike. Here is a specific stroll to enjoy les beaux jours d’été without the crowds… And with some delicious delicacies to keep you fueled along the way!
There are lots of excellent food shops and markets in Paris, in addition to gorgeous parks. This stroll is perfect for the warmer months because it bypasses the summer closure of many of those great gastronomic shops, while evading the larger crowds camped out in the famous green spaces around the city. You’ll also work off any of the surplus calories along the way, or at least some of them. This walk through the 12th arrondissement is ideal for a picnic lunch or, if done in reverse, finishing the day with a glass of wine around the market.
For a pre-lunch start, head to the Marché d’Aligre, one of the only markets with a good number of vendors open in August, to pick up some deletable delights. Once you’ve filled up your picnic basket, walk down to the Promenade Plantée/Coulée Verte (from the market follow rue d’Aligre to rue de Charenton to rue Hector Malot, then continue through the little park up to the promenade). Set on the elevated tracks of the former commuter railway into Paris, the refurbished walkway is now 20 years old, but it only gets better with age. You can hardly sense the buzz of the city amidst the crawling rose bushes, patches of exotic lilies, and towering bamboo.
Marché D’Aligre/Promenade Plantée
Your stroll will lead you to the Jardin de Reuilly. Said to have been built on the former residences of the Merovingians kings, you can enjoy your picnic sprawled out on its plush lawn, surrounded by little alcoves featuring a vegetable garden, roses bushes, stoic statues and even a pond. Or simply wander around the garden and save your picnic for the Bois de Vincennes.
Jardin de Reuilly
Just after the park, the promenade morphs into the Allée Vivaldi. Take this a short distance and you’ll reach rue Brahms (this is, of course, a musically themed area). Turn right and you’ll see the old railway station connected to the Promenade Plantée. Turn left on Avenue Daumesnil and you’ll quickly come to the Place Daumesnil, recognizable by its large fountain. Follow it to the left and take Boulevard de Reuilly for a cool treat at Raimo, the oldest ice cream maker in Paris, dating back to 1947.
Circling back to Place Daumesnil, continue onto the Avenue Daumesnil a few paces and you’ll reach the Église du Saint-Esprit. It might not look all that inviting from the exterior, though stepping inside you’ll be transported to Istanbul with its Neo-Byzantine architecture and dome inspired by the Hagia Sophia.
rue Ernest Lacoste
Continuing on Daumesnil, you’ll hit rue de Picpus. Walking along here, you can see a branch of the elevated railway line that hasn’t been refurbished. Soon after you’ll reach the villa street rue Ernest Lacoste, with several quirky little houses to make you feel like you’ve already arrived in the verdant countryside.
From here you might want to pop into the Museum of the History of Immigration, housed in the beautiful art deco Palais de la Porte Dorée, built for the International Exposition of 1931. If you don’t go in, at least pause a moment to admire the facade.
Lac Daumesnil, Bois de Vincennes
Finally you’ve reached the green paradise of the Bois de Vincennes, where you can enjoy your picnic (if you haven’t already), pick up another ice cream, or take a leisurely paddle on the lake.
- Marché d’Aligre, Place d’Aligre, 75012 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 45 11 71 11
- Jardin de Reuilly, 15 rue Albinoni, 75012 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 76 40 40
- Raimo, 63 Boulevard de Reuilly, 75012 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 43 43 70 17
- Eglise du St-Esprit, 186 Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 44 75 77 50
- Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration, 293 Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 53 59 58 60
- Lily Heise shares more off-the-beaten-tourist-track spots to stroll around for the HiP Paris Blog
- Check out Frommer’s list of historical self-guided Paris walking tours
- Read what Stephanie Rosenbloom discovers while wandering through Paris for the NY Times
Written by Lily Heise for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos by Isabel Miller-Bottome except where noted. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.