As a metropolitan, cosmopolitan city, Paris doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a runner’s paradise. Like many other capital cities, it is full of people, pollution, busy roads and urban buildings – things which make it a vibrant place to live, but not always to immerse oneself in nature. However, the reality of the matter is that, whether you are looking for a quick morning jog, want to train to run long distance or even partake in ‘running tourism,’ a term coined (by myself) to encompass the new role running has in travel, Paris has something for you. Which is why, arriving in the French capital amidst a national lockdown, I was keen to experiment with routes across the city and compile a list of my favourite spots to walk, jog, run or even rollerblade!
Bois de Boulogne
To the west of Paris, right next to the 16th arrondissement, you’ll find the expansive Bois de Boulogne, a forest with two gorgeous lakes right at the centre. Boasting some 35 miles of trails, look no further for any running desires. Since I live 5 minutes away, my favourite (and most practised!) jog circles both lakes, totalling roughly 5km. On the weekend, you can even stop at some of the little café stalls for a chocolat chaud or crepes. From the stunning views across the lake to the thick, shady woodland areas, there’s no surprises for guessing why the path surrounding the lakes on a Saturday morning is reminiscent of a world far pre-Covid…
Champ de Mars
A breath of fresh air in the centre of Paris is the Champ de Mars, famously known for framing the Eiffel Tower. When I first moved here, my apartment was merely a few hundred metres away, meaning I could easily visit the park every day, even within my 1km allotted radius for exercise. As such, I could (legally!) jog up and down the gorgeous, lined pathways as much as I liked! For interval training, use the straight pathway on the side bordering the 7th arrondissement, and for a nice and flat 5km route, roughly 2 laps of the entire park, including the Eiffel Tower, should take you to the distance you want. Don’t forget to pause and look up in awe at one of the world’s most iconic landmarks!
Not always on the radar of tourists, Parc Monceau boasts one of Paris’ most beautiful green spaces, hidden just outside of the city centre. In the heart of the 8th arrondissement, you will find this small but beautiful park. Built in 1778 by the cousin of King Louis XIV, the Duke of Chartres, it consists of an eclectic mix of historical statues. From a miniature Egyptian pyramid, to a statue of Guy de Maupassant and a Roman Colonnade, it really does capture an ancient, mysterious, and grandiose air. Whilst the perimeter of the park is around 1km, you can always extend your distance by adding in a detour to the Arc de Triomphe, a kilometre away if you go directly up Avenue Hoche, a quintessentially Parisian boulevard. Personal recommendation – the kiosk in the middle of the park has some of the most underrated crepes in all of Paris!
La Seine – the Tourist Route
Ever since I got into running, I’ve found that one of my favourite ways to see a new city is to go for a jog through its centre. It is a wonderful way to see the city in its true colours. Paris, I’ve found, is particularly beautiful early in the morning, where you can see commuters on their way to the boulangerie to pick up a breakfast croissant. On a Saturday morning, the banks of the Seine are packed. The banks are very well adapted to walkers and runners alike, being particularly flat and pedestrianised. Whilst you can run along this river for miles, far beyond the borders of Paris, it’s also a fabulous way to see the city centre. To really see all the sights and get a feel for the geography of the city, start your route at the metro station Bir Hakeim and run up the Rive Gauche, the left bank of the Seine, all the way up to Notre Dame Cathedral, taking any detours you like to circle the various monuments on your way. You can stop there and check out the street bookstalls by the iconic cathedral, or cross over and run back to create a picturesque 10km route. This route takes you through some of Paris’ tourist landmarks – from the Eiffel Tower, through most of Paris’ famous bridges as well as the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, you really get to see so much of the city this way.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
A little less well-known, this beyond gorgeous park, situated in the 19th arrondissement and near the Canal Saint-Martin (also very aesthetic but usually far too packed for convenient running!), makes for a great hill-training session. In Paris, where most areas are relatively flat, the intense hills and scenery here provide not only exquisite views, but also some vigorous training for anyone looking to get those glutes really working!
So there you have it – a (semi) comprehensive list of the best places to run in Paris. But don’t worry, these routes work even if you don’t fancy jogging breathlessly across the city – they are just as beautiful and scenic if you’re looking for a walk, sightseeing trip or to sit on a park bench with a pain au chocolat and a café, soaking up the scenes around you.