The grass is greener in Paris
Text: Kate Harvey | Photos: Paris Convention And Visitors Bureau
The French capital is unlike most concrete jungles – and for centuries, parks and gardens have featured heavily in Parisian life. That is why Paris remains ever the trendsetting city, and continues to envisage an eco-friendlier future. By maximising both its green spaces and urban trails, this is now a place that truly lives and breathes.
Spring has almost sprung, which means it’s about time to rediscover the natural delights of the French capital. “When we talk about Paris we think mainly of monuments and culture – but it is also one of the greenest cities in Europe,” says Corinne Menegaux, general director of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. Great efforts have been made in recent years to make the city greener, and as of 2020, Paris has more than 450 hectares of green space: including parks, gardens, and numerous ‘vegetal’ buildings and rooftops scattered throughout. A trip to Paris is now a trip back to nature.
Explore the ‘lungs’ of Paris
The Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes, nicknamed the green lungs of the capital, are crucial features of the Paris eco-scape. With lakes, theatres, floral parks, zoos, farms, cycle paths, running trails, velodromes, and racetracks; there’s plenty for just about anyone to enjoy. The recent transformation of the Paris Zoological Park in the Bois de Vincennes has catapulted it into the 21st century. Organised by biozone, it is the first of its kind, and a must-see for any nature enthusiast.
The Jardin des Plantes is also a wonderful spot to unearth Paris’ biodiversity. The ‘Tree Tales’ tour showcases trees from around the world, recorded over centuries by passionate travellers. Boasting 11 gardens from rosaries to alpine gardens, it is also home to the largest herbarium in the world.
Live like a Parisian
Each district, or arrondissement of Paris has its own identity, residents and unique local businesses. This is why the Visitors Bureau has been developing the city’s themed urban walks for pedestrians to discover lesser known districts.
Nature is at the centre of the walk through the 12th Arrondissement, thanks to 35 hectares of parks and gardens; the 13th is a corner of street art and innovation, and the 14th invites visitors to soak up the Parisian rhythm through its architectural and artistic flair.
“The urban walks allow visitors to discover a more authentic Paris, and live like a local. We encourage all tourists, whether French or foreign, to step off the beaten track,” explains Menegaux. Paris can be discovered in a thousand and one ways, without necessarily seeing the essential.
Pedal along miles of cycle lanes
And what better way to discover the ‘city of love’, than in the open air? There is little more romantic than gazing at the sights from behind your handlebars. Paris comprises over 1,000 kilometres of cycling routes, making it possible to while away the weekend with a more mindful form of transport. “The bicycle is becoming an essential way of getting around, both for locals and visitors. It is possible to rent a bike through Paris à Vélo, or Holland Bikes tours and rentals, which offer three-hour guided tours to discover the most famous sights,” says Corinne Menegaux.
Sleep soundly, and sustainably
An eco-responsible trip to Paris doesn’t need to stop at the gates of its leafy parks. From solar powered energy, to aviaries on the roof – a number of hotels are striving to be more sustainable. “Establishments such as the Hôtel de la Porte Dorée and Paris Marriott Champs Élysées Hotel, as well as the Mandarin Oriental, are all mobilising to reduce their environmental impact.
Not forgetting the Hotel Sofitel Le Scribe Paris Opéra, which, as part of the Sofitel Planet 21 programme, is committed to various recycling and water conservation programmes to reduce its carbon footprint. Even the Novotel Paris Porte de Versailles is doing its bit for the planet, actively reducing food waste, among other schemes: “They’re using vegetable peels to make sauce bases or homemade broths in the hotel kitchen,” reveals Menegaux.
Food that feels good
Parisian gastronomy continues to make headlines, but this time with organic and responsible produce on the menu. Take the time to visit the traditional Brasserie Sacré Frenchy just a short distance from the Centre Pompidou, where they are serving up fresh French products. Visitors can expect organic meat from Landes, artisan bread, and even organic wine from Paris itself.
Alternatively, there’s the gourmet restaurant ANONA, which uses no gas or plastic, but instead homemade produce from the Ile-de-France region. Even the furniture is made locally. So, what are you waiting for? Offset your trip to Paris and plan the eco-responsible city break of a lifetime.
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