If you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of Paris, head out of the city for a day to one of the grandiose which sit to the east and west of the urban periphery. At Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to picnic, stroll and daydream. The parks are also great places to visit on bike, especially if navigating Paris traffic atop a two-wheeler isn’t your cup of tea. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, these spots are sure to offer a relaxing and enjoyable day.
Bois de Boulogne
Situated just west of the city, this park is double the size of New York’s Central Park and is host to a plethora of activities for adults and children. Check out the zoo or theme park, canoe on the lake, visit the waterfall and flower gardens, ride horseback or simply pick a spot in the grass to have a picnic. It’s also a great place to rollerblade, skateboard or go for a run. If you’re on a bike, download a map of the park before you go so you can take full advantage of the many trails here. There are several lakes within the park, many of which are largely unvisited – namely the Lac Mare Saint James in the north and the Etang des Reservoirs in the south with the nearby Grande Cascade waterfall. While in the southern end of the park, check out the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden and follow the paved path to the magnificent Jardin Shakespeare. Here, as you might have guessed, a local company stages Shakespeare in the park each summer. A few of the performances are in the Bard’s own tongue!
Bois de Vincennes
Just slightly larger than its western counterpart, this park on the eastern edge of the city counts a hippodrome, floral garden, lake and the medieval Vincennes Castle, complete with stunning fortifications, within its borders. Take the kids on a boat or pony ride, or have lunch at one of the park’s seven restaurants. Walk or run along the paths accompanying the park’s four lakes or get lost on the web of wooded trails. The park is also a nice place to visit by bike, and there is an extensive system of dirt trails, which will take you along canals, dense forest and the castle. If you’re looking for a relaxing cycle, the eastern section of the park offers an especially tranquil ambiance. More serious cyclists may not appreciate the park’s never-ending flat terrain, but the four-mile bicycle track near the castle is a great way to test your stamina. The park’s bike trails are often poorly marked, promising a few frustrating battles with your map, but it’s still the best way to visit this expansive and lush locale.