Cities around the world are making good use of disused space and filling it with nature. Paris’s Promenade Plantée is the world’s first elevated park, built on the former Vincennes railway line.
Stretching 2.9 miles, Promenade Plantée runs from just east of the Place de la Bastille through the 12th arrondissement to the Peripherique highway. The elevated park features an array of trees, plants and shrubs including roses, lavender, bamboo, ivy, vines, wisteria, as well as cherry, maple, hazelnut and lime trees – making this narrow pathway a delightful corridor to embrace nature in within a city that consists of less than 10% parkland.
New York’s The High Line maybe considered the most renowned of elevated parks, but it was in fact inspired by Promenade Plantée. Construction of Promenade Plantée started in 1988 and the first part of the route opened a year later, in 1989. The whole route was completed in 1994. The promenade now runs from the Bastille Opera to the entrance of the Bois de Vincennes park in the southeastern corner of Paris.
The brainchild of architect Philippe Mathieux and landscape architect Jacques Vergely, Promenade Plantée transformed the disused Vincennes railway line, which ran for almost 100 years until it was decommissioned in 1969.
The pedestrian-friendly path runs mainly above street level, starting just south of the Opéra Bastille, with steps leading up from Avenue Daumesnil above the Viaduc des Arts. Here the red-brick vaulted archways underneath the old railway tracks have been restored and renovated. The 64 arches now house shops and art galleries.
Promenade Plantée’s raised route has both enclosed sections as it passes between modern buildings, and open sections that offer good views of the city. Along the 2.9mile stretch, visitors can often see areas of wild vegetation followed by more modern landscaped areas. The elevated park also connects to the water element with two narrow ponds, and is also home to a few rose arbors.
The nature walk – which crosses tunnels, trenches, and long bridges – offers visitors spectacular views of Parisian architecture and streets around the 12th arrondissement. A wonderful way to admire Paris’s lesser known sights, so to speak, Promenade Plantée is one of Paris’s best kept green secrets. Amazingly many Parisians do not even know that the Promenade exists. Not for long, no doubt, as Parisians in search of a connection to nature and mindful living become consciously aware of its presence.