The great outdoors in urban Paris
The smart Jardin des Tuileries in the centre of Paris is perfect for a stroll or a picnic. (Kim Laidlaw Adrey)
When it’s hot in Paris, it can be refreshing to escape the city’s polluted streets and sticky metro with a walk in one of the capital’s beautiful green spots, stopping along the way for a picnic or a spot of sunbathing.
Paris’ parks are perfectly suited to a civilised stroll. The regal and perfectly manicured Jardin des Tuileries, attached to the Louvre, provides a large expanse of greenery complete with topiary, sculptures and fountains, right in the centre of the capital. Or channel your inner Left Bank flâneur (idler) and go for a wander -- or a spot of tennis -- at the Jardin de Luxembourg. For something slightly less conventional but still very aristocratic, stroll among a Dutch windmill, a Chinese pagoda and a gothic castle -- all of which can be found in Parc Monceau, which was constructed by the eccentric Duc de Chartres as his private garden in the 18th Century. For something equally extraordinary, wander through Buttes Chaumont, a 25-hectare park in the 19th arrondissement built in the last years of Napoleon’s reign that includes waterfalls, caves, a suspension bridge and a neo-classical temple with spectacular views over Paris.
For a waterside stroll there are the banks of the Seine -- and a particularly good spot for a quintessentially Parisian picnic is at the eastern tip of the Ile St Louis, a natural island in the Seine. For a hipper setting, wander along the bobo (bourgeois bohemian) paradise of the Canal St Martin, a shop- and cafe-lined canal in the trendy 10th arrondissement, which packs out with picnickers and revellers as soon as the sun shines (and well into the night, too). Follow the canal northwards as it becomes Canal l’Ourcq where you can play pétanque on the quayside or have a drink on one of the moored boats. Keep on following the canal and you’ll reach Parc de la Villette, a modernist park featuring a science museum, a night club, an art gallery and all kinds of fun activities -- including an open air cinema festival in July and August.
For a contemporary backdrop to your stroll, check out the Promenade Plantée, a planted walkway that crosses the 12th arrondissement and was built along a disused railway track. At several metres above street level, you can wander among cherry trees, roses and willows -- and leave the city quite literally beneath you.
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes unlockparis.blogspot.com.