Before New York built the High Line Park on the abandoned industrial tracks through Chelsea, Paris had already transformed the Vincennes railway viaduct into a park in the sky. Called the Promenade Plantée, the Parisian park stretches from the Opera Bastille eastwards through the city for nearly three miles. The viaduct was transformed into a park in 1986, and was the inspiration for the High Line!
The Vincennes railway line was active through Paris from 1859 to 1969, until it was abandoned when the more modern RER train line was built. As Paris grew, buildings were erected around the Vincennes viaduct, overlooking the train line. But since the renovation of the elevated track, the buildings now overlook a more favorable and quiet site, a lush park with seemingly endless pedestrian walkways.
Visitors can enter the park at many stairways along the Promenade, beginning at the Viaduc des Arts near Bastille, which is a row of artisan shops that have taken residence under the arches of the historic viaduct. Gardens line the former tracks from start to finish, transitioning from manicured flower beds, to bamboo forests, to arched trellises capped with climbing ivy. One section even features a rectangular murky pool which stretches down the center of the pathway, which pedestrians can cross over via three bridge walkways. Along the sides, the plant life occasionally cuts away to provide vantage points for admiring the historic and beautiful Parisian architecture.
Many locals enjoy the park daily, taking advantage of the direct route to Bastille without having to bother with the street traffic below. Like New York’s High Line, the Promenade also attracts joggers, area workers on their lunch breaks, and tourists who want to see Paris from 33 feet above street level.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat