There are two parks in Paris large enough to be considered woods. They are found on opposite sides of the city, with the Bois de Vincennes in the east and the Bois de Boulogne in the western 16th arrondissement. The Bois de Boulogne is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park and has a rich history: Playing host to royal hunts, hot air balloon flights and military occupation alike. The latter much to the natural landscape’s detriment. During the urban renewal campaigns of Napoléon III the Baron Haussmann worked personally on the park, creating a dam and cascade allowing water to flow between the Lac Supérior and the Lac Inférieur.
Nowadays, the park is home to numerous outdoor activities. Here is our list of the top 10 ways to spend your day in the Bois de Boulogne.
10. Jog or walk around the lake
A walk around the Lac Inférieur will take about 45 minutes and allows for a nice view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance at some spots as well as a little cascade flocked by swans. It’s also a popular jogging spot but be prepared for some dusty or uneven terrain.
Paris may not be the most dog park-friendly city yet but certain city parks do allow for a little off-leash fun. Many parts of Bois de Boulogne are perfect for fetch and running free. Watch out though, if your dog’s anything like Daisy here she may need a good rinse off after that inevitable jump into the lake.
8. Have a coffee
A small chalet is situated on the south-east edge of the Lac Inférieur offering coffees, sodas and small snacks. It’s a perfect spot to stop at for refreshments to-go for your walk around the lake.
7. See animals
This one’s for the kids. The Jardin d’Acclimatation has a multitude of activities to keep the little ones engaged. There’s a zoo, puppet theater, games and rides for a full day of fun.Open everyday: From April to September: 10 to 7 From October to March: 10 to 6 Fees: Entrance: 3 euros Separate fees for rides.
6. Ride a pony
This one’s probably also for the kids, but I don’t judge, although with a weight limit of 30 kilos you’re not likely see any average-sized adults on these little ponies.Animaponey No reservations accepted From March until October
5. Watch a tennis match…or play one
Roland Garros, or The French Open, takes place at a stadium on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. The tournament is held every May/June and welcomes a large and enthusiastic public. There is even a museum where hardcore tennis fans can learn more about the much-beloved sport.
Smaller private and public sports clubs can also be found on park grounds.Stadium, museum and boutique access: Entry via Gate B – Mousquetaires at 2, avenue Gordon-Bennett. Stadium hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 to 6. Museum hours: Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 to 6. Métro: Porte d’Auteuil or Michel-Ange Molitor (line 9)
4. Attend a horse race
The Longchamp Racecourse is held at the Longchamp hippodrome on the far end of the Bois and has been hosting races since 1857. Races open to the entire family are organized on Sundays and other events more or less formal run throughout the week. Schedules can be found on the site.
3. Bring a picnic and sunbathe
Grassy lawns in direct sunlight or shaded by leafy trees and tall pines allow you to pick the perfect spot for a picnic. On Sundays you’re sure to find Parisian families sprawled on a knoll sharing wine and cheese and good conversation. If you feel like laying out in your bathing suit this seems to be one of the few places in Paris that actually seems appropriate for public tanning.
Rowboats rentals are available during the warm weather months and make for a nice lazy day on the lake. You know you’ve always dreamed of grabbing a good book, a parasol and a sturdy buddy to row you around a lake with the Eiffel tower in plain view, here’s your chance.Rowboat rentals February 15th until the end of October Monday to Friday: 12 to 5 Weekends: 10 to 6 Price: 10 euros for the first hour plus a refundable security deposit (50 euro check)
The Chalet des Îles is a chic and charming little place on the island of the Lac Inférieur. Only accessible by boat, the restaurant offers traditional French fare and the possibility to explore the island with a snack in hand.Hours: For lunch and dinner from noon to 3 and from 7:30 to 22:30 Winter: Closed Sunday evening and Mondays and Tuesdays Reservations are required, preferably more than 48 hours in advance.
Coming soon: See art!
The Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation commissioned architect Frank Gehry for their $134 million art museum and cultural center in the Bois de Boulogne, set to open later this year.