Since it opened in 2009, New York natives and tourists alike have flocked to the High Line in Chelsea, an elevated railway elegantly converted into an urban park that winds its way in between the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan along the edge of the Hudson.
What most of them don’t realise, however, is that the original High Line is right here in Paris and has been a favourite place to escape the bustle of city life since 1993! It’s also a lot longer, stretching three miles from Bastille in the city centre right out to the suburbs.
The park replaced a railway which ran into central Paris until the 1960s, with a terminus at the place de la Bastille. Trains stopped running in 1969, and the station itself was demolished to make room for the Opera Bastille.
Thirty Feet High
The thin strip of greenery soars some thirty feet above street level as it leaves place de la Bastille and criss-crosses a number of parks on its way out of the city. Access is via stairs, and in some locations, elevator. Even when it runs parallel to some of the city’s busiest streets, the promenade plantée is a surprising oasis of calm.
Some sections duck briefly under cover as the park passes between buildings, but others offer expansive views across the entire city. The original railway continued into the suburbs and beyond for another forty miles, but the promenade plantée ends at the bois de Vincennes, a huge green space on the edge of the city that covers an area three times the size of Central Park (another way that Paris beats New York!) It’s also a magnet for sunbathers in warm weather, and joggers are there all year round.
Upscale Shopping Under The Arches
If you don’t have a head for heights, the first section of the promenade plantée is still worth a visit. Built on a viaduct, the empty arches underneath the tracks have been converted into the ‘viaduc des Arts’, a community of specialist arts and crafts stores. All along the avenue Daumesnil, you’ll find an eclectic mixture of designers and craftsmen nestled under the park above.