With the excuse of cheap Eurostar tickets, we took the opportunity to enjoy a springtime weekend in Paris. The sun was shining, the blossom out in force and the city sat resplendent beneath clear blue skies. Keen to make the most of the glorious weather we spent 48 hours touring a few outdoor hidden gems – walking for miles and discovering a lesser-known side to the city. Because Paris is always a good idea…
1. La Coulée Verte & Viaduc des Arts
Waking up from a much needed long slumber at the recently opened and really rather lovely COQ Hotel, we tucked into a hearty breakfast of their classic ‘oeuf à la COQ’ (soft boiled egg) before hitting the streets. Despite being set down in the 13th arrondissement, the hotel is well placed to explore with #5 métro line a short walk away that whizzed us up to Bastille in no time. From here we climbed the steps up to La Coulee Verte (1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont) – a 5km long series of tree-lined gardens built on a reclaimed railway viaduct that runs from Bastille through to Bois de Vincennes. The gardens are immaculately tended to and, raised up above the city, offer a different perspective onto the bustling Parisian streets below and into the various buildings that line the viaduct. The arches below are home to Viaduc des Arts (1-129 Avenue Daumesnil) – a row of glass-fronted workshops, galleries, shops and cafes – perfect for a coffee break and a browse.
2. La Petite Ceinture & Charonne
The sun still shining and fuel in the tank, we hopped back on the métro and up to Alexandre Dumas, the nearest stop to one of the better-known entry points to La Petite Ceinture – a disused railway line that runs a loop around the city. Walking the 15 or so minutes up to La Fleche D’Or and dropping down Rue Florian we came to some brightly painted gates and the rather underwhelming looking entrance to the tracks. Stepping out onto an old platform, there was a peacefulness to the place – a woman had pulled up a chair and was basking in the sun on the tracks, whilst a group of friends headed into the dark of the tunnel in the other direction. So different to the more classic beauty of Paris, there was something special about finding ourselves in this quiet spot and something thrilling about wandering down the disused tracks. Whilst it is possible to access the railway at a number of different points across the city, some bits are still in use and not all entry points are technically legal though more and more is being opened to the public and there are a number of plans in place to create more green spaces with small communities starting shared garden spaces (more info here).
Stepping back up to street level, we explored the pretty area of Charonne enjoying its charming villagey feel. Best known for the nearby Père Lachaise Cemetery, the surrounding area is worth a wander with the cobbled street of Rue St Blaise boasting a number of bars and restaurants and artist studios whilst the Marché Charonne back down by Alexandre Dumas metro station (open Wednesdays and Saturdays 7h – 14h30) is a thoroughly local affair. We stopped at the very sweet Méli Mellow on Rue de Bagnolet for lunch, enjoying salads and fresh bread from the oven, a local beer or two and plenty of sunshine.
3. Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Always drawn by the lure of a bargain, after lunch we headed further north to the flea markets at Clignancourt (open Saturday and Sunday 8h – 18h00). Taking the advice of Girls Guide to Paris, we caught the metro to Garibaldi and entered the market via the entrance at the northern end of Rue des Rosiers (there are two entrances with most people going to the one by Porte de Clignancourt). From here we meandered our way through the different sub-markets – from the high-end design pieces at Paul Bert (and the rather wonderful looking Ma Cocotte with its sunny terrace and Philippe Starck designed interior) to the more rough and ready street stalls. More information on the vast array of markets and their individual offerings can be found here.
4. La Musée de la Vie Romantique
Wondering back down past the Sacré Coeur and gasping for a cuppa, we stopped in at the lovely Musée de la Vie Romantique. Enveloping us in it’s peacefulness, we found a table under the shade of a tree in the museum’s leafy garden and recuperated over a cup of Earl Grey and a tarte aux myrtilles surrounded by the sing song French chatter of friends old and young. Set in the home of painter Ary Scheffer entry is free to the permanent collection which features plenty of the artists’ work along with his contemporaries’. If it hadn’t have been such a glorious day, we’d have also made time to stop in at the nearby Gustave Moreau Museum – another wonderful artist’s home.
5. Butte aux Cailles
After a quick turn around at the hotel, we headed back out, walking the 10/15-minutes uphill to the pretty Butte aux Cailles – another villagey area, this time down in the 13ème. There was a great buzz to the place with people spilling out onto the streets from kooky little bars and restaurants. Chez Gladines is popular for its great value and hearty food whilst we plumped for Le Temps de Cerises for it’s sweet setting (though pretty stinky service). After a good fill of steak frites and a carafe of wine, we rolled down the hill and home to bed.
6. Canal Saint-Martin
Sunday brought with it more sunshine but also tired feet – so after a long, lazy lie in we meandered our way up to the river, strolling along the left bank, over and up to Place des Vosges before heading on to Canal Saint-Martin. It’s not new news that this is a sweet spot on a sunny day and people were out in force (both locals and tourists alike). After a lunch of good French salads and a pression or two at Le Petit Carillon, we rolled ourselves onto the quai and dozed there until it was time to head back to Gare du Nord and catch the train home.
Where to stay in Paris
We stayed at COQ Hotel down in the up and coming 13th arrondissement. Whilst there isn’t a huge amount to do in the immediate area, the sweet Butte Aux Cailles is a 15-minute walk away and, with two metro stations less than a 5-minute walk away, it’s well placed to explore further afield. The hotel itself is beautifully stylish – with dark walls, designer light features and interesting artworks old and new. The beds couldn’t be comfier and we loved our monochrome tiled bathroom and lovely Rituals smellies. The communal areas are inviting – with a light-filled and leafy conservatory with a cosier, softly lit snug with fire. A luxe and lovely base for a romantic weekend away.
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Getting to Paris
There are two airports in Paris – Orly in the south of the city with Charles de Gaulle to the north. Eurostar operates between London St Pancras International and Gare du Nord.