So you’re ready to start running in Paris? Fantastic! Ready to bid farewell to the treadmill and head out into the fresh air? Bravo! Paris is a wonderful city for running. Wonderful, that is, so long as you know where to go. Because negotiating the ever-present cobblestones can be tricky at best, and ankle and knee shredding at worst. Thankfully, Paris is home to many other wonderful options for a cobblestone-free run, including routes along the famed River Seine, through the city’s many public gardens, or even around the Champ de Mars if you want the Eiffel Tower as a running buddy. Or, you could head to my personal favorite running destination, the Bois de Vincennes, located on the east side of the city. This is where you’ll find me several times a week, huffing and puffing my way through its myriad of trails and paths.
The Bois de Vincennes exists because of the Château de Vincennes, located on the north side of the park. This building began life as a royal hunting lodge for Louis VII in the 12th century, and the park was initially used as the King’s royal hunting grounds. Today, these grounds have become the largest public park in Paris, spanning just under 1,000 hectares, and it is a wonderful place to escape the hustle and bustle of a big city.
It’s also the perfect place for running, because not only does it have an abundance of trails (you could easily run a half marathon within its borders without ever having to repeat a route), but it also offers a wide variety of terrain to suit your running needs. Whether you prefer gravel, dirt, or pavement, this park has you covered, and the only traffic you have to watch out for are the many cyclists that populate its routes.
So, where are the best running trails? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. When I go out for a short run, I usually head straight for Lac Daumesnil on the west side of the park (Metro Line 8, stop Porte Dorée). One lap around the lake is a simple 2 km run, but if you include a quick lap of the two small islands in the middle of the lake, this will bring you up to around 3 km. Mix up your laps to create any combination of distances you want; and enjoy the view, because whether the sun is shining or the lake is frozen over, the scenery on display is simply beautiful. Just be on the look out for the peacocks that inhabit the inner islands. They don’t take too kindly to having their tail feathers stepped on.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, cross over the road on the east side of the lake and explore the vast network of trails that comprise the main park. There’s plenty to choose from; and if you get lost, just look for the towering Château de Vincennes in the distance to reorient yourself.
So the next time you’re looking for a great place to run, head over to the Bois de Vincennes. On any given day the park is filled with runners, all ready to motivate and encourage you on your run. And an added bonus: many of Paris’ running races are located within this park, so when you’re ready to brave one of those, you’ll already feel right at home.
If you have a favorite jogging route, please share it with us. In the meantime, who’s ready to hit the trails?