Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world, and for good reason. Rich in history, art, architecture, culture, food, and with so many sights to see, Paris has something for everyone. Like any big city, one of the most common complaints about Paris (other than rude waiters!) is the noise and pollution, which is at its worst in high season. But there’s another side of Paris, on the eastern reaches of the city, where you can escape the droves of tourists and instead enjoy acres of woods and natural beauty – Bois de Vincennes.
Bois de Vincennes is the largest park in Paris, and at three times the size of New York’s Central Park, it accounts for nearly 10% of the city’s size. The park is easily reachable by metro (lines 1 and 8), but there are so many sights to see within the city center, that Bois de Vincennes slips under the radar of most tourists. This makes it a great getaway – a place to take a deep, fresh breath of air, relax and recharge your batteries when visiting Paris.
Parisians love to walk, and Bois de Vincennes may be the best place in the city for it. With nearly 20 miles of pedestrian roads and trails (including more than 10 miles of bike trails), you can spend hours on end wandering the woods on foot, bike, or even boat. The park is a perfect place for a day of leisure – take a camera, a good book, and a picnic lunch to experience the city as the locals do.
The best way to reach Bois de Vincennes is on metro line 1, at the Château de Vincennes stop (the end of the line). As you exit the metro station, you’ll come across a huge medieval fortress – Château de Vincennes, the largest royal castle in France – certainly worth a visit. Outside the castle, you can also rent a bike at the Vélib’s stand (Paris’ city-wide hourly bike rental service) for a quicker way to explore the woods. Other attractions in the Bois de Vincennes include a floral garden (Parc Floral de Paris), four lakes, and the largest zoo in Paris (closed for renovations until 2014).