In 1969, Paris’s Vincennes railway line was discontinued and the old tracks were suddenly rendered useless. No longer would the route, which wound through the 12th arrondissement, hear the cry of whistles or the chattering of passengers.
It left Paris with an eyesore, a little gray line on its map like a scar that wouldn’t fade. So in the 90s, the city decided to paint it green.
The Promenade Plantée, also known as the Coulée Verte, has turned the old railway line into a narrow three-mile garden similar to the High Line in New York City. It starts near the Bastille on a raised platform, literally cleaves apartment buildings, and descends below street level (with a roof of green foliage) near Nation. If you complete the walk, you’ll end up steps away from the Bois de Vincennes, a huge garden on Paris’s eastern edge.
If you think Paris is too urban or too dirty, an afternoon on the Promenade Plantée is like a trip to the countryside. The raised, western edge gives you bird’s eye views of the city and beautiful Parisian rooftops against fluffy white clouds.
The Promenade Plantée actually passes through buildings.
In the middle, you head over a bridge and through the wide Avenue Vivaldi and a strange underpass that’s been decorated with waterfalls.
The lower, eastern edge reminds me of the woods in my suburban hometown: dark and moist, with rays of sunlight streaming through the trees. On the eastern entrance, the sign reads: “This space is for walking. Jogging is tolerated as long as it doesn’t disturb the walkers.”
Somehow, this park seems to be unknown except by locals (and some Germans). Even a few French people I asked didn’t know about it.
I spent my last morning walk on the Promenade Plantée, soaking up the combination of city and nature. This is the way I want to remember Paris: peaceful, beautiful, and one of a kind.