Like the Bois de Boulogne, this green area to the east of Paris, bordering the 12th arrondissement, was set out in the 12th century as a royal hunting ground. Although the pastorawoods and gardens, fields and lakes give visitors the impression of being somewhere far from the city, though it takes just 15 minutes to reach its gates from central Paris where Parisians hungry for fresh air and calm flock to this wooded hideaway.
The Bois de Vincennes hosted more than half of the events of the 1900 Summer Olympics, including a handful of sports that have since been dropped from Olympic rosters: cricket, croquet, tug-of-war and balloon racing. Reopened in 2015 after a major renovation, La Cipale is still considered the best cycling course in Île-de-France, and its many supporters are pushing for the track to reclaim its status as the finish line for the Tour de France; as it was between 1968 and 1974.
Closed to cars, except along a few of its wider avenues, and strapped with miles and miles of shaded walking paths, Bois de Vincennes is a walker’s and cyclist’s paradise! 2,500 acres of woodlands are crisscrossed by more than 50 miles of biking and walking paths, through woods, around lakes, and to its many gardens – including the Asian-themed gardens of the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale at the park’s eastern edge, next to the Lac des Minimes. Bike-sharing stations operated by Vélib’, the city’s self-service bicycle rental system, can be found at the Paris side of the park, at the Porte Dorée; in Vincennes near the château; and in the park itself, at the southern end of Lac Daumesnil.
If you have rented your bike in the center of Paris, you can follow the Coulée Verte René-Dumont (also known as the Promenade Plantée) to the entrance of the Bois at Porte Dorée.
The Bois de Vincennes also has more than five miles of streams, and boat rentals are available on both the Lac Daumesnil and the Lac des Minimes.
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