A large public park in the west of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne is an oasis of greenery in the heart of France’s capital city. To access its network of 15 kilometres of cycle paths, start from the Arc de Triomphe. From here, cycle along avenue de la Grande Armée to Porte Maillot, one of the entrances to the 850-hectare park.
A former hunting ground, the landscaped park includes lakes, waterfalls, islands, beautiful pavilions and woodland paths. The Bois de Boulogne encompasses Bagatelle Park, the Auteuil Garden and Glasshouses and the Pré Catelan as well as the Jardin d’Acclimatation, offering a real breath of fresh air for all the family.
If you want to use the Paris bike-share service, you’ll find a dozen Vélib’ docking points along this route, mainly located on the roads running alongside the park.
1/ The Jardin d’Acclimatation amusement park
Once you reach Porte Maillot, follow the tracks of the emblematic Little Train which will lead you to the Jardin d’Acclimatation.
This famous Parisian amusement park has been a family attraction since 1860, when it was opened by Napoleon III and the empress Eugénie as a zoological garden, revolutionary for its time. Artistic and literary figures including Hector Berlioz, Alexandre Dumas and Théophile Gauthier attended the inauguration to admire the kangaroos, antelopes, leopards and giraffes.
There are still animals here today, though of a slightly less exotic nature. Visit the great aviary, the apiary, or the Saint-Hilaire farm, or take the kids for a pony ride. The amusement park features 40 permanent fairground rides and numerous attractions, including duck fishing, dart shooting, trampolines, a 3D aquatic roller-coaster and the enchanted river ride. Open all year round, the Jardin d’Acclimatation offers an unforgettable fun day out for all the family.
Bike hire (a range of sizes) is available near the Jardin d’Acclimatation.
Jardin d’Acclimatation - Bois de Boulogne, Paris 16th
More info on the Jardin d’Acclimatation
2/ The Louis Vuitton Foundation
A stone’s throw from the Jardin d’Acclimatation is a cultural venue on a different level – the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Opened in 2014, this is a mecca for art lovers. Highly original temporary exhibitions feature renowned artists (including Cindy Sherman, Charlotte Perriand and Jean-Michel Basquiat) or showcase works from iconic collections (the Shchukin, Courtauld and Morozov collections).
The Foundation is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Canadian American architect Frank Gehry’s bold design is an extraordinary and poetic structure, made of 19,000 Ductal® panels. He even invented a curved glass to cover the 3,600 panels that form the twelve sails of the building described as a ‘vessel that symbolises France’s cultural vocation’. Round off your visit by taking a stroll on the Foundation’s roof terraces – an opportunity to take a closer look at the architecture of this amazing building or just relax and enjoy the panoramic views, of La Défense business district for example.
Louis Vuitton Foundation - 8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Paris 16th
More info on the Louis Vuitton Foundation
3/ Bagatelle Park, château and rose garden
Follow the Bois de Boulogne cycle route past the Mare Saint James (Saint James’ Lake) and the Le Tir sports club. Continue along route de la Longue-Queue leading to Bagatelle Park, one of the four sites that make up the Paris botanical gardens.
In 1775, queen Marie-Antoinette bet her brother-in-law the Count of Artois, owner of the then derelict Bagatelle estate, that he wouldn’t be able to renovate it in 100 days. The count rose to the challenge and in fact won the bet, since it took only 64 days – and no fewer than 900 workers! – to restore the estate to its former splendour. This feat earned Bagatelle the nickname Artois’ folly.
Now stretching over 25 hectares, Bagatelle Park – with its little bridges, grottoes, waterfalls, Chinese pagoda, peacocks and lush vegetation – is the place to go for a relaxing, contemplative stroll. Its world-famous rose garden is one of the oldest in France and home to more than 1,200 varieties. In June each year a ‘new roses’ competition rewards three new varieties selected for their beauty and fragrance.
Bagatelle Park - Jardin botanique de Paris - Route de Sèvres à Neuilly, Paris 16th
More info on the Bagatelle Park
More info on the château de Bagatelle
4/ The Goodplanet Foundation- Domaine de Longchamp
Located between Bagatelle and the Longchamp Racecourse, the Goodplanet Foundation is housed in the Domaine de Longchamp. This is the site of a former abbey founded in the 13th century by Isabella of France.
The Goodplanet Foundation, dedicated to ecology and solidarity, was set up by photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It’s a natural extension of his artistic work and commitment to environmental protection. The site is a favourite with families – it’s a lovely place and entrance is free (closed from January to March). The venue proposes exhibitions, children’s workshops, film screenings, yoga classes, talks and concerts.
Each weekend the Goodplanet Foundation organizes events on a specific environmental, social or inclusive topic.
And just nearby, behind the Bagatelle polo club and the open area known as the plaine de jeux, is Paris’s one and only campsite, with its cottages, wooden trailers, wood and canvas tents, shop and restaurant.
Goodplanet Foundation- Domaine de Longchamp - 1 carrefour de Longchamp, Paris 16th
More info in the Goodplanet Foundation- Domaine de Longchamp
Head for the Longchamp Racecourse and be prepared to be surprised!
5/ The Longchamp Racecourse
Located in the south-west section of the Bois de Boulogne, the Longchamp Racecourse is a legendary and historic venue. Paris’s first racecourse, it was commissioned by Napoleon III in 1857 and remains one of the most famous racecourses in the world. The world-famous Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is an annual event. But it’s also a place where families can enjoy a day out – there are plenty of fun activities, including pony rides, a merry-go-round and horserace simulators.
An uninterrupted 3.6-km cycling ring surrounds the racecourse. The Longchamp Ring is a favourite training venue with keen cyclists, but it’s also accessible to novices.
Longchamp Racecourse - 2 route des Tribunes, Paris 16th
More info on the Longchamp Racecourse
Continue along allée de l’Espérance towards the south-east section of the Bois de Boulogne where you’ll find the Auteuil Garden and Glasshouses, the Roland Garros stadium and the Auteuil Racecourse.
6/ The Auteuil Garden and Glasshouses and the Roland Garros stadium
Located in the south-east section of the Bois de Boulogne, the seven hectares of the Auteuil Garden lie between the tennis courts of the Roland Garros stadium and the Auteuil Racecourse. Like Bagatelle Park, the Auteuil Garden is one of the four sites that make up the Paris botanical gardens. Designed by Jean-Camille Formigé in 1898, this garden features nearly 6,000 plants displayed in a series of thematic collections. Don’t miss the beautiful turquoise metal-framed glasshouses.
As part of the modernisation of the Roland Garros stadium, one hectare of the garden was given over to the new Simonne Mathieu tennis court and the contemporary glasshouses, designed by Marc Mimram. The glasshouses feature habitats representative of four continents: South America, Africa, South-East Asia and Australia.
Auteuil Garden and Glasshouses - 3 avenue de la Porte d'Auteuil, Paris 16th
More info on the Auteuil Garden and Glasshouses
Roland Garros stadium - 2 avenue Gordon Bennett, Paris 16th
Now head towards the Jardin des Poètes, to the north of the Auteuil Garden, and find your way to Porte d’Auteuil. From here, follow allée des Fortifications which runs alongside the Auteuil Racecourse.
7/ The Auteuil Racecourse and the Auteuil Lawns Park
The Auteuil Racecourse stretches over 33 hectares – 18 of which are lawns. The racecourse is Paris’s main steeplechase venue, hosting some of the best-known and most spectacular events in this discipline, such as the Grand Steeple Chase and the Grande Course Haies d’Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle).
Right in the centre of the racecourse is the new Auteuil Lawns Park, designed by landscape architect Michel Pena. Designed for walking and exercising, it also offers a close-up look at the racetrack and obstacles. The park is only open to the public on days when there are no races. A highly original walk, offering a different perspective of the Auteuil Racecourse.
Auteuil Racecourse - Route des Lacs, Paris 16th
More info on the Auteuil Racecourse
More info on the Auteuil Lawns Park
8/ The Bois de Boulogne’s two lakes
The area around the Lower Lake and the Upper Lake is a favourite with joggers, walkers and families. The lakes are connected by a 10-metre wide mini-waterfall. The Upper Lake is fed by the Ourcq canal. The Lower Lake, the larger of the two, has two islands which you can explore. For a total change of scene, why not take a boat out on the lake. If you’re lucky, you might spot a heron!
Boat hire: every day, weather permitting, from mid-March to the end of October. By the Lower Lake, near the junction of route de La Muette in Neuilly and route de Suresnes.
Bike hire: at the junction of route de la Muette in Neuilly and the path that runs around the Lower Lake.
9/ The Pré Catelan and the Shakespeare Garden
The Pré Catelan is located inside the Bois de Boulogne, between the Lower Lake and Bagatelle Park. This large garden is named after Théophile Catelan, the Bois de Boulogne’s hunting master under Louis XIV. Since 1952, it has been home to the Shakespeare Garden, with its open-air theatre that can seat an audience of 300.
Pré Catelan Garden - Route de Suresnes, Paris 16th
More info on the Pré Catelan Garden
Shakespeare Garden - Route de la Reine Marguerite - Paris 16th
More info on the Shakespeare Garden
10/ Rue Mallet-Stevens
If you are interested in architecture, round off your ride by exploring a fascinating street some 500 metres from the Bois de Boulogne – rue Mallet-Stevens in the 16th arrondissement. Exit the park at Porte d’Auteuil and take boulevard de Montmorency towards Ranelagh Garden. Rue Mallet-Stevens, named after the architect who designed it, could be described as an architectural manifesto. The 77-metre cul-de-sac features five remarkable private houses, built in the Streamline Moderne style, featuring the architect’s signature clean lines. It’s a free open-air museum!
You can return to the Arc de Triomphe along avenue Foch, to the right of Porte Dauphine. This chic Parisian avenue has been home, among others, to the Rothschild family, Maria Callas, Françoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc, Prince and Marcel Pagnol.