Parc de Choisy
Nestled discreetly between Place d’Italie and the Quartier Asiatique, Parc de Choisy is a haven of calm in an otherwise lively area. Spacious lawns and tree-lined avenues surrounding the central fountain make a great place for picnics, studying or just relaxing. For the more active, there are ping pong tables and plenty of space for ballgames, although you may have to fight for space with the students from the lycée across the road. Children’s play areas and the Guignol puppet theatre make this a family-friendly venue.
Jardins Abbé-Pierre – Grands-Moulins
These three gardens right in the middle of the new Paris Rive Gauche cater for all ages. The Jardin de l’Avenue de France, with its basketball court and table tennis tables, is great for teenagers, while the Jardin des Ecoles, next to the crèche, has a play area for young children. The larger Jardin Central is a modern tranquil space, filled with flowers, plants and innovative, yet rather pretty, irrigation systems. As soon as exams finish in the university next door, the park is completely overrun with students, while during term time it’s a lovely picnic spot with views of the Seine.
Once a gunpowder factory, a prison for prostitutes and a mental asylum, the largest hospital in Paris also contains one of its most attractive green spaces. Framed by beautiful buildings dating back to the 17th century is a small park with well-manicured lawns and three haunting statues by the sculptor Roger Vène. It’s not forbidden to walk on the grass here, and it’s not uncommon to see children’s sports clubs practicing next to recovering patients. As you would expect, the atmosphere is quiet and subdued: perfect when you need to escape from busy city life.
The largest park in the 13th arrondissement, Parc Kellermann stretches over 13.5 acres between Boulevard Kellermann and the périphérique. Built in 1936 and terraced over two levels, the park combines Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture with more traditional Second Empire landscaping, creating the impression of several parks from different time periods. Dotted with ponds, rivers and fountains, the park is well laid-out and in parts feels more like a formal garden. It’s big enough to jog or run around, and all the stairs are great for a thigh workout.
Square de l’Abbé Georges Hénocque
Not so much a park, but green all the same, the Square de l’Abbé Georges Hénocque is a small open space in the middle of some of Paris’ prettiest streets. Pastel-colored houses line Rue Dieulafoy, and the narrow, cobbled streets of Rue du Docteur Leray and Rue des Peupliers are reminiscent of a French country village. Like spokes of a wheel, these tiny roads meet at the Square de l’Abbé Georges Hénocque, a charming, perfectly round public garden with a small children’s play area and several sunny benches. Nearby Café des Peupliers is a great spot to grab coffee or brunch in a picturesque setting.
Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design
Perhaps the urban alternative to a park, the Cité de la Mode et du Design is one of the highlights of Paris’ up-and-coming neighborhood. While the only green thing about it is the giant crocodile-caterpillar-lizard decorating the outside of the building, it’s a great outdoor space, and certainly an appealing alternative in summer for anyone with hay fever. Make the most of Wanderlust’s spacious ground level terrace for food, a drink or even a free yoga class, or head up to the rooftop any time of day for great views of the south of the city.
And if it’s raining…Le Jardin de la BNF
Combining greenery and trees with shelter and warmth can be difficult, especially in the rain, but France’s National Library has got you covered. The reading rooms are built around a 2.5 acre enclosed ‘garden’ inspired by the forest at Fontainebleau. The walls are all made of glass so you can enjoy the greenery from all floors, although unless you have a valid pass you will only have access to the entrance floor, where there’s a small exhibition on the garden’s flora and fauna. The best thing about this place: being a library, you’ll get all the peace and quiet you need.
By Rachel Mason