The western section of Greater Paris has many beautiful parks and gardens that nature-lovers will enjoy visiting. One such is the Jardin d'Acclimatation (16th). Created in the 19th century, this 19-hectare park on the edges of the Bois de Boulogne was the forerunner of the French amusement park. It is the ideal spot for a family outing, with a number of attractions, many of which have a kind of old-fashioned charm, like the Rivière enchantée (enchanted river) and the Petit train (toy train). A place with timeless appeal!
Deep inside the Bois de Boulogne, the Parc de Bagatelle (16th) is definitely not to be missed. Built in the 18th century, it has a wonderfully romantic atmosphere, with man-made waterfalls, grottoes and little bridges. Only a short distance from here, the Pré Catelan park has pleasant tree-lined paths where you can admire century-old trees such as a 200-year-old copper beech and a sequoia tree planted in 1872. The enchanting Jardin Shakespeare (16th) is also hidden away here. This lovely collection of themed gardens uses plants and flowers that recreate the settings of some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.
A trip to the magnificent Domaine National de Saint-Cloud is a good way to revisit some significant moments in French history while exploring a beautiful park. Created in the 16th century and transformed by Marie-Antoinette in the 17th century, these formal French gardens once housed a chateau—the summer residence of the royal family in the 19th century, though nothing remains of it today. The park is a lovely place to relax in a sylvan setting. Then of course there is the Palace of Versailles, that gem of French heritage, where you can wander at will through the Sun King’s verdant domain.
Another park to visit along the Seine is the Parc Départemental de l'Ile-Saint-Germain. Located on an island on the Seine, this 20-hectare expanse of green is home to the famous ‘Tour aux figures’, a monumental piece of sculpture by Jean Dubuffet. The park also has a number of themed gardens, including a lavender garden evoking a Mediterranean atmosphere, and one planted with cornfield flowers, conjuring up visions of a wildflower meadow. There is an extraordinarily diverse collection of plants in the park.
The Parc Départemental des Chanteraines, an 82-hectare green lung, extends from Gennevilliers to Villeneuve-la-Garenne. It is a pleasant place to relax or take a walk, with two large ponds, a natural reserve, and large expanses of lawn. There are plenty of activities for adults and children alike.
Created in the 1980s, the Parc Départemental de l’Ile-Saint-Denis is another lovely place to stroll around, explore and enjoy leisure activities. This 23-hectare elongated park with undulating terrain offers some pretty views of the river surrounding it, and holds a diversity of flora and fauna (mammals, insects and around 50 bird species). The community centre in the park organizes a variety of activities all year round.
A verdant setting with a romantic atmosphere is to be found at the magnificent rose garden at the Parc de Bagatelle (16th), one of the largest and oldest parks in France. There are no fewer than 10,000 rose bushes to be admired here!
To see exotic plants from around the world, head to the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil (16th). Built in 1898, it has several greenhouses filled with tropical plants and palm trees, and an orangery.
A walk in the woods
There is no better place to be right in the midst of nature than the Bois de Boulogne. Formerly the hunting grounds of the kings of France, it is now the biggest green space in western Paris, spreading over an area of 850 hectares dotted with walking trails, 28 km of bridleways and 15 km of paths for cycle tourists.
Unusual green spaces
Looking for something a little different? Then head to the Petite Ceinture. This nature trail bang in the middle of the city takes you along a 32-km-long stretch of railway line looping around Paris. The track having fallen into disuse, some stretches of it have been opened up to walkers. There are several different access entrances: one in the 15th arrondissement, one in the 13th and one in the 12th. The vegetation has been left to run wild, so you will spot many flowers and possibly some wildlife too.
Then there is the Jardin Bellini, a sprawling 7,410 m² garden covering the entire rooftop of La Seine Musicale, the new arts complex on the Ile Seguin. The planting echoes the vegetation found growing on the banks of the Seine. A large flight of steps behind the building leads up to the garden.
A trip to the racecourses is another way to get some fresh air. The Auteuil and Longchamp racecourses offer a winning combo of thrills and relaxation: you can watch an exciting horse race in a tranquil and verdant setting.
The western section of Greater Paris is dotted with verdant areas that are genuine slices of countryside in the city – like the villages of Passy and Auteuil, green havens in the very heart of the 16th arrondissement.
Along the water
It’s also possible to hike along the banks of Seine, from Paris all the way to Villeneuve-la-Garenne or Île Saint-Denis. The riverbanks are a prime spot for leisure seekers: everything from water-based activities to walking and cycling, not to mention a host of bars and restaurants. Then you can explore all the different islands: Ile Saint-Germain featuring the Dubuffet sculpture ‘Tour aux Figures’; Ile Seguin, home to the new Seine Musicale arts complex; Ile de Puteaux, easily reached from La Défense, with all its sports facilities; Ile de la Jatte, where you can follow in the footsteps of the Impressionnists, and of course Ile Saint-Denis.
Many notable cultural venues well worth visiting also dot the banks of Paris’s iconic river: the Sèvres Ceramics Museum, the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, the Albert Kahn museum and gardens, the Museum of the 1930s in Boulogne-Billancourt, the Bois de Boulogne, La Défense, with its striking contemporary architecture, the Parc Départemental des Chanteraines, and the Port of Gennevilliers.