The nearly 1,000 hectares of the Bois de Vincennes form the largest public park in Paris. It’s a green lung, a verdant oasis and a haven of peace located between the suburb of Vincennes and the eastern side of the capital.
A little history ...
Situated on the confluence of the Marne and the Seine, the Bois de Vincennes was once part of the ancient forest surrounding Lutetia, a Gallo-Roman settlement. In the Middle Ages, this area was stocked with game and used as a royal hunting preserve. In the nineteenth century a horse racing track was established and the park became a training ground for the military.
The Château de Vincennes
A former royal residence, this impressive castle has two peculiarities. While fortresses are traditionally built on hills or beside rivers, the Château de Vincennes stands in a fairly indefensible position on a limestone plateau, attesting to its original function as a holiday retreat. It also has one of the largest dungeons in Europe.
The racecourse, fort and ammunition factory
Built by King Louis Philippe I in the mid-19th century, the Fort Neuf de Vincennes now serves as a training centre for the Ministry of Defence. The Cartoucherie de Vincennes, where ammunition was once manufactured, is today a theatre. The Hippodrome is the world’s largest harness racing course, hosting prestigious international equestrian competitions.
Lakes and floral parks
Shaped like an English garden, the Bois de Vincennes has four lakes surrounding artificial islands. At the edge of Lake Daumesnil stands a Buddhist temple. The floral garden is a place of relaxation, boasting botanical gardens, play areas and a mini-golf course. The tropical garden was originally a colonial experimental garden for the study of tropical plants.
Sport and leisure
The lakes of the park are an invitation for couples looking to enjoy a romantic boat trip. The park also hosts the National Institute of Sport and Physical Education and welcomes thousands of joggers each day. However, the peak attendance for the Bois de Vincennes can be found during the budding days of spring, when the Foire du Trône, a traditional family fair with a thousand year history, takes place.
Escape to a natural preserve
This huge and picturesque wooded park is home to many animals. For a family day out, the Zoo de Vincennes, with its 180 species, is highly recommended. Talking of animals, don’t miss the Ferme Georges-Ville, a working farm where kids can get close to the animals. Gardeners shouldn’t miss the arboretum, established in 1867.
You can discover the many attractions of the Bois de Vincennes by touring the two circuits, 7 and 11 km, that begin from the castle.
To make the most of this Parisian Eden, the Hotel L’Interlude offers a superb location conveniently close by.
Picture credits: George Seguin