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Exploring the Bois de Boulogne, an Oasis of Green on Paris’ West Side

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Bagatelle 7,9Parc de Bagatelle

The good King Dagobert would hunt bear and wild boar through the forest that is now the 2000-acre Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris. That was over 1000 years ago. Today the air is filled with laughter instead of hunting arrows, but the woods are still alive with adventure and excitement, thanks to Napoleon III who returned from exile in London full of ideas for English gardens in Paris. He commissioned his city planner, the Baron Haussmann, to create more green space near Paris’ rapidly expanding west end, insisting on a stream with lakes like his cherished Hyde Park.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Jardin d'Acclimatation-11Jardin d’Acclimitation

He insisted on the water elements to provide a bit of fresh air. Today they serve as an idyllic spot for a peaceful afternoon watching swans glide by, rowing boats, or dining at the remote, romantic Chalet des Iles, an island accessible only by boat.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles-17HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles-1Le Chalet des Iles

The Bois offers a range of dining options, from fast food at one of the numerous snack stands, to the two palaces of haute cuisine: the Michelin-starred La Grande Cascade and the Relais & Chateau Le Pré-Catelan. For people with more moderate tastes but also an appreciation for good food, there are additional options available at many of the attractions, as well as the quaintly rustic l’Auberge du Bonheur.

 HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, La Grande Cascade 6, 15HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles 29, 5HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles-6HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles-14La Grande Cascade/Le Chalet des Iles

Young visitors (including the Obama girls in 2009) drag their parents to the Jardin d’Acclimatation amusement park with its mini roller coaster, workshops, fun-house mirrors, camel rides, puppet theater, playground and petting zoo. Visits are not free, and prices vary by activity.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Jardin d'Acclimatation-3HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Jardin d'Acclimatation-17HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Jardin d'acclimatation 5, 13Jardin d’Acclimatation

Just outside the park gates Paris Cycles rents child- and adult-size bikes for an hour, or the entire day, letting visitors enjoy a particularly popular Sunday activity: exploring the park when its roads are closed to traffic and the streets are overtaken by cyclists, runners, skateboarders and rollerbladers.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, La Grande Cascade-5HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, La Grande Cascade 20, 19La Grande Cascade

There are hidden spots where devoted pétanque players join for some very serious play, and open fields that welcome pick-up soccer games.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Divers-3Bois de Boulogne

More passive sports fans can visit the iconic clay courts at the French Open’s Roland Garros Stadium. Visitors can go behind the scenes to learn more about the sport and its history in France at the surprisingly intriguing Tennis Museum. Horse fans can take in steeple-chase competitions at the Auteuil Racecourse, or some serious thoroughbred racing at the world-renowned Longchamp Racecourse that hosts the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. And professional soccer and rugby matches are held at the adjacent Parc des Princes Stadium.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Divers-5HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles-31HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles 11, 10Bois de Boulogne/Le Chalet des Iles

There are stunning botanical gardens to visit in the 19th century Auteuil Greenhouses at the southern end of the park. Visitors must pay an entrance fee to discover the remarkable rose gardens that feature temporary displays around the neo-classical Château de Bagatelle.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Parc de Bagatelle-2HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Bagatelle 11, 18Parc de Bagatelle

Louis Vuitton has commissioned international architect Frank Gehry to design a breathtaking new home for their avant-garde arts foundation. The building is rumored to focus on the interplay between light and air, and is set to open before November 1, 2014.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Parc de Bagatelle-12Parc de Bagatelle

In addition to the regularly scheduled, annual sporting events and a few 5-10k races, there are a number of popular concerts and music festivals at the Bois. Solidays, held on the Longchamp track, is dedicated to fighting AIDS and draws all types (including Bill Gates), while We Love Green, in the Bagatelle gardens, focuses on the environment with performances by various DJs and international stars, like Lorde.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Chalet des Iles-32Le Chalet des Iles

A note on safety: in the evenings, the Bois attracts prostitutes. Visitors are most comfortable if they leave the grounds before nightfall, taking a taxi home from restaurants. Children should avoid playing in the bushes.

HiP Paris Blog, Boulogne, Palmyre Roigt, Divers 2, 4Bois de Boulogne
  • Le Chalet des Iles – lac inférieur du Bois de Boulogne, Porte de la Muette, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 88 04 69
  • La Grande Cascade – Bois de Boulogne, Allée de Longchamp, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 45 27 33 51
  • Relais & Chateau le Pré-Catelan – Bois de Boulogne, Route de Suresnes, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 44 14 41 14
  • Auberge du Bonheur – Allée de Longchamp, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 24 10 17
  • Jardin d’Acclimatation – Bois de Boulogne, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 67 90 85
  • Paris Cycles – rond-point du Jardin d’Acclimatation, 75116 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 53 92 82 82
  • Rolland Garros Stadium – Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 43 48 00
  • Musée de la Federation Francaise de Tennis – 2 Avenue Gordon Bennet, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 43 48 48
  • Longchamp Racecourse – 2 Routes des Tribunes, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 44 30 75 00
  • Le Parc des Princes – 24 rue Commandant Guilbaud, 75016 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 43 71 71

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Written by Sylvia Sabes for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Palmyre Roigt. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

 

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Written by Sylvia Sabes

Sylvia SabesSylvia is thrilled to be a French citizen, living in Paris where she writes ad copy for brands like Cartier, Hermès and L'Oréal while raising two teens and learning to share life with a Frenchman. You can read more of her adventures in Paris and across the globe on her website, Only In Paris.

Website: Only In Paris

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