Best Outdoor Activities in Paris

When the Weather's Nice, Parisians Head Outdoors for Fun and Recreation

When you see that bit of sunshine overhead as you peek out your hotel window first thing in the morning, yes it is cause to celebrate. Weather patterns in Paris can be somewhat unpredictable, with clear skies as early as March, and gray and rain as late as August, so when you are blessed with a day of sunshine and clear skies, by all means, take full advantage of it and head outdoors. If you are on somewhat of a time budget, a brisk, or leisurely, stroll through your nearest garden will get the circulation going. And the way that Paris is laid out, there is always a garden, often even a fairly large garden, close by no matter what part of the city you are staying in. Some of the good walking gardens are the Tuileries, Parc Monceau, Jardin de Luxembourg and Champ de Mars. If you’ve got a whole day ahead of you then be sure to choose from any of these whole day outdoor excursions : Bois de Vincennes, where there is the Parc Floral, the Château de Vincennes and a small lake for rowing you and your kids around in a rental row boat; Bois de Boulogne, through which it is delightful to walk and often even more enjoyable to ride a bicycle (Velib’) through ; Promenade Planté, an elevated pedestrian and bicycle path that leads from the Bastille all the way to Vincennes, and offers the peculiar sensation of walking along the Paris rooftops.


5éme Arrondissement

Considered France's principle botanical garden, the Jardin des Plantes was established in the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIII. What began as an herb garden now includes different species from all over the world. Travelers even visited countries around the globe and brought back seeds to enhance the Paris collection. Among the specimens are an American sequoia and a laricio pine from Corsica. The garden also contains Paris's oldest tree, an acacia brought back from America in the early 1600s. In the 17th c. much focus was put into planting species with therapeutic properties and in the 18th c. it was a place of botanical/natural medicinal research. Also on the site are the Ménagerie zoo and the natural history museum. METRO: Place Monge or Gare d'Austerlitz

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: This museum covers nearly 70 acres and is France's principle botanical garden.

Paige's expert tip: These gardens have been open for public viewing for 400 years and counting. There are at least 390 different species of flowers, both simple and those that have been achieved through man's cross-breeding.

Read more about Jardin des Plantes →

16ème Arrondissement

When it was created in 1860 it really was a zoological park. Today there are many other attractions - like the Exploradome, merry-go-rounds and puppet shows - especially for kids, but you can still see some of the tamer animals, such as deer, roaming freely around the grounds. Other animals that are still kept on the grounds are monkeys, bears, sheep and lions. Originally there were also members of some indigenous Indian tribes, such as the Hottentots and the Lapones who were kept on the grounds for the curiosity and amusement of the artistocrats and the affluent bourgeoisie who once visited the grounds in a bygone era. Needless to say, they are long gone. Today, along with the amusement park attractions, there are workshops held for children and adults centering around the jardin's botanical heritage and here you will learn about the secrets to making tea or perfume as a tribute to Empress Eugenie's "garden of experiences." To participate in the workshops, you must reserve in advance.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Children will delight to see some of the tamer animals, such as deer, roaming freely around the grounds.

Paige's expert tip: From Porte Maillot, catch the little train, Le Petit Train, that takes you along the forested route through the Bois de Boulogne woods and right to the entry of the Jardin d'Acclimatation.

Read more about Jardin d'Acclimatation →

7th Arondissement - Eiffel Tower

First built in 1780, the parc du Champ-de-Mars is a large green space that stretches from the Eiiffel Tower all the way down to the Ecole Militaire to the southeast. It is a favored place for leisurely strolls, rain or shine. It is also one of the best places in the city to stretch out a picnic blanket and dawdle the afternoon hours away over a shared baguette, some French cheese and other treats. The freely accessed public space frequently hosts national and international events such as fireworks for Bastille Day, White Yoga Day and even at the turn of the last century, was the site of the Universal Exposition. It also hosted the reception and a gigantic banquet for the marriage of the Duc d'Orléans in 1837.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Measuring in at 24.5 hectares (60.5 acres), a reduction from its original 42 hectares (103.7 acres), this is still the largest green space in Paris.

Paige's expert tip: The Champ de Mars is the favored spot for picnics and afternoons spent with a book stretched out on a blanket under the sunshine and the towering Tour Eiffel. It is open both day and night so star-gazing is also a popular pastime here.

Read more about Champ de Mars →

12th Arrondissement - Nation

Get a kick out of walking along an old viaduct and train line that is elevated to the level of the building rooftops you pass. Only pedestrians and bicycles are allowed on this ancient pathway that spans 4.7 km (just about 2 miles) lined with hazelnut and lime trees connecting the Bastlle with the Bois de Vincennes (Porte Dor�e). When the train line ran, its end station was where the Op�ra de la Bastille now stands today. This tree-lined, wide pathway has you walking across numerous foot bridges and past several spacious green spaces where you can stop and picnic or just relax with a book, or both. This is one of those gorgeous outdoor activities that not a lot of tourists think to do. It's a fun walk or bike ride in either direction, going to or from the Bastlle/ Bois de Vincennes.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Walking along a rose-filled, tree planted elevated greenway as you gaze at the traffic below and Haussmanian building rooftops at eye level is unparalleled.

Paige's expert tip: At one part of the pathway near the Bastille, you are walking above the Viaduc des Arts, a series of crafts-oriented Made In France workshops that showcases artisanal items. These items are all for sale and can make thoughtful souvenirs and gifts.

Read more about La Promenade Plantée →

12éme Arrondissement

The Bois de Vincennes, Paris's largest park, was originally fenced off as royal hunting grounds. Today, scattered among its trees and lawns are peaceful lakes, bird reserves, a farm and even a castle completed in 1370 under the reign of Charles V. In past years, the castle has served as city fortress, barracks and prison. The Parc Floral botanical garden is a delight throughout the year, thanks to its hundreds of species of rainbow-hued flowers, and a place of entertainment with its children's playground and outdoor classical and jazz concerts in summer that offer the perfect excuse to spend an afternoon outdoors picnicking with family and friends. METRO: Porte Dorée or Chateau de Vincennes

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: At the tip of the eastern side of the city, this green space planted with plenty of shade-trees makes for a pleasant dose of tranquility.

Paige's expert tip: The little lake here in the Bois offers skiff rentals that are just the perfect size for two adults or an adult and a couple of kids. Rowing around the small lake offers a refreshing excursion on a hot summer day.

Read more about Bois de Vincennes →

8éme Arrondissement

In the late 18th century, Parc Monceau was created on the Monceau plain for the Duke of Chartres. It was filled with water features, statues and architectural elements from many other cultures, including a recreated pagoda and Roman temple. Visitors can take time to admire a windmill, a pyramid or simply wander through medieval ruins. The park became public domain after the French Revolution. In recent years it has become the default jogging track for well-heeled Parisians who live in the surrounding uppercrust neighborhoods of the 8th, 16th and 17th arrondissements. In the mornings and evenings the perimeter path turns into a jogging track and workout zone. METRO: Monceau

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: A gorgeous park not at all far from the Champs-Elysées. And here you are allowed to sit on the grass in the warmer seasons.

Paige's expert tip: Looking for a place to jog/work out other than the cobble-stoned paths along the Seine ? This is where you'll find the beautiful people of Paris' classiest neighborhoods jogging in their designer workout wear. Dogs are also allowed, on leash, here.

Read more about Parc Monceau →

7ème Arrondissement

This museum, set in the Hotel Biron, is a tribute to one of the world's finest sculptors. Thanks to Rodin's own donations, the facility offers a wealth of objects, including terra cotta, bronze and marble creations. Plaster and wax studies are available as well, along with his sketches, drawings, engravings, and his own collected art. Among the items on display are "The Kiss" and the sculpture that brought Rodin much fame, The Thinker. The museum is now re-opened after 3 years (2012 - 2015) of renovations on the main building, Hotel Biron, which is an early 18th c. building. The gardens are an idyllic draw unto themselves. They were also the setting for the scene where former First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, played her role for Woody Allen's film, Midnight in Paris. A café in the gardens offers refreshments.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: This is a museum that offers as much viewing outdoors as indoors. It's a pleasing blend for all in your party, whatever the weather.

Paige's expert tip: Just one euro gets you entrance to these magnificent gardens, a gorgeous place to quietly sit and read a book. It is also favored by art students who bring their sketch pads for some still-life practice.

Read more about Musee Rodin →

L'Arc de Triomphe

This symbol of French victory was commissioned by Napoleon and completed in 1836. Adorned with sculpture and the names of military successes, the enormous arch features a small museum and rooftop viewing platform. At its base is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The arch was inaugurated by the French King Louis-Philippe in 1836, dedicated to the Revolutionary Army and the Army of the Empire. Jean-François Chalgrin, the architect, is said to have been inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. The arch sits at the center of place Charles de Gaulle (formerly place d'Etoile), a square that branches off into twelve avenues. It also offers great views southeast down the Champs-Elysées to the Louvre and northwest towards La Défense. Pedestrian access is most safely gained via the pedestrian tunnel from the north side of the Champs-Elysées. METRO: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: This rooftop view is completely uncovered and leaves nothing between yourself and the sky. It's a refreshing way to take in these panoramic city views.

Paige's expert tip: Visitors are allowed into the monument until 10:30 pm during winter hours and 11pm in summer hours. It's worth visiting at night since the views from up top over the whole city are rivaled only by those from the Eiffel Tower. Last entry 45 minutes prior to closing.

Read more about L'Arc de Triomphe →

1er Arrondissement

Stretching between the Louvre and place de la Concorde, this garden originally dates to 1564, when Catherine de Medici had it constructed as a reminder of her home in Italy. Historically, it marked one of the first times that Paris displayed beauty and elegance outdoors rather than only inside. It took its present layout by Andr– Le Nôtre during the reign of Louis XIV. Boasting gravel paths, avenues of lovely trees and numerous sculptures, both historic and modern, the garden is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon, or to come for lunch when visiting the Louvre as there are several outdoor caf–s and restaurants. In summer there is a big funfair.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Locals come mostly to just sit on the benches and read a book, chat with a friend or, of course, sail the small boats.

Paige's expert tip: The large central fountain just past the Place de la Concorde entrance is where children and their parents congregate to sail the little wooden boats across in spring, summer and fall. You can now easily purchase these boats at the newly spiffed up H–tel de Ville tourist office.

Read more about Jardin des Tuileries →

7th Arondissement - Eiffel Tower
Les Berges de Seine
Photo courtesy of

Summer of 2014 was the first season people really got to enjoy this daring urban planning escapade undertaken by the city of Paris. What once was a freeway where speeding cars raced along the river embankment, is now a completely pedestrian zone. Moreover, to encourage its citizenry's and visiting guests'usage of the area dozens of fun and entertaining distractions have been installed along the embankment from the Eiffel Tower all the way to the Assemblée Nationale. There are water fountains that freely spout potable flat and sparkling water; there are lounge chairs on barges with generous greenery surrounding them; there are art installations; underneath a bridge is a disco mirror with dance music blaring; there is a big chalk wall where you can write whatever you feel. And more. Go and discover it all for yourself. If you have kids to bring along, all the better.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Created only very recently out of what was once an automobile thoroughway, this pedestrian-only zone is now one of the best outdoor attractions in Paris.

Paige's expert tip: The best time to enjoy this long stretch of riverfront recreation is during the hot summer months. But any time of year it is welcoming and the Zzzz cabanas can be reserved for free use for gatherings of friends also throughout the year.

Read more about Les Berges de Seine →


Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige