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Secret parks in Paris

Tired of the Tuileries? Find hidden corners of greenery in and around Paris

© sylvain collet

If parks are the lungs of a city, Paris suffers from chronic breathing difficulties. The sprawling, semi-wild public parks that decorate cities like London and Berlin simply don't exist here; the closest the city can offer – the Bois de Vincennes and Boulogne – are so criss-crossed with roads and footpaths that any semblance of the countryside is lost. The city excels at grand manicured gardens in which the French can indulge their passion for geometric designs, but the best of these – the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Tuileries – tend to get inundated with sun-starved locals and snap-happy tourists as soon as the weather turns to anything better than 'drizzling'. With this in mind, we've hunted out six alternative green spaces in which peace and quiet are still in abundant supply. From two-acre rock gardens to a 30km-long stretch of overgrown railway, these represent the best and greenest of Paris's hidden wildlife. Pack your picnic and enjoy.

Got a favourite secret Paris park you want to share? Let us know in the comments box below.

Jardin Naturel

Directly adjoining the Père-Lachaise, the Jardin Naturel shares the cemetery’s tranquil ambience, with none of the morbidity. It’s sizeable for a Parisian neighbourhood park, and its marriage of playground and concealed location ensures that your company will consist mostly of local families and the occasional dog-walker. It also boasts an especially rich biodiversity for the city, with a focus on the wild flora of Île-de-France...

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Père-Lachaise

Jardin Alpin

Nestling at the heart of the left bank’s Jardin des Plantes is this lush tribute to mountain flora. Around two thousand different species are arranged according to continent of provenance, surviving thanks to the microclimate created by the surrounding trees and the shallow valley in which the garden is situated. This also ensures that it remains somewhat hidden, overlooked by the families and joggers who populate the neighbouring gardens...

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5e arrondissement
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Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins

The spectacular, ten-acre jardin alone makes a visit to the Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins in Boulogne-Billancourt worthwhile: Each section is modelled on a garden from around the world – rocky Vosgienne forest, Japanese village gardens, contemporary Japanese gardens and English and French gardens – and makes for a wonderful, lazy afternoon away from the hubbub of central Paris. On Tuesdays and Sundays between April and September (except July and August)...

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Paris et sa banlieue

Le Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent

Behind the Sacré-Coeur, just next to Montmartre’s vineyard, this garden is part of a very old piece of fallow land that was slowly reclaimed by nature. The trees, plants and flowers are self-sown, and created their own little meadow before the City of Paris decided to turn it in to an official biodiversity enclave in 1987. It’s only local flora and fauna, but it’s in fine fettle, especially as the garden is only open to the public once or twice a month in order to leave the vegetation in peace...

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Montmartre
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Jardin de la Nouvelle France

In stark contrast to the promise of its name, the Champs-Elysées can be hell on earth for pedestrians. Those who’ve come to see the Arc de Triomphe, only to be swallowed up by the unnavigable mess of traffic and window shoppers, may be surprised to discover that the avenue was still surrounded by parkland as recently as a century ago. Patches of landscaped greenery still flank it on either side, of which the clandestine Jardin de la Nouvelle France (formerly Jardin de la Vallée Suisse) is doubtless the prettiest corner...

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Champs-Elysées

La Petite Ceinture

A kind of illicit pedestrian counterpart to the boulevard périphérique, the Petite Ceinture is one of Paris’s least well-guarded secrets, in both senses. Essentially a disused railway that loops around the city like a ‘little belt’, the route has lain derelict since the last commercial train rattled along its tracks last decade. As the council vacillates over its future function, groups of urbex enthusiasts armed with torches explore its grimy industrial charms. Save for three short stretches in the 12th, 15th and 16th arrondissements that have been opened to the public...

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20e arrondissement
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