I heard about the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture (French for „little belt railway“) a couple of days before I went on my trip to Paris.
This railway from 1852 was a circular connection between the main railway stops and ran within the fortified walls of the city. Abandoned in 1934, the remaining station and tracks are now being developed into cafés, running tracks or simply decorated with Street art.
For the next three days, I made my friend Lydi (you might remember her from our trip to Helsinki or to Beijing) explore these tracks all over the city of Paris with me.
1. Petite Ceinture du 15e
This overpass section of the tracks was transformed into a walkway / jogging path / park.
It's a great place to go for a quiet walk right within the city and to look at modern and classic Parisian architecture.
To get there, you can take the Metro to Porte de Versailles and walk down Rue Vaurigard until you reach an overpass (which already is the Petite Ceinture).
2. Charonne Voyageur
This part of the tracks and the tunnel have been left in their original state, apart from the Street Art covering most walls.
Someone has even planted a garden there!
Another great place for a walk and I'm still curious what's at the end of the tunnel, since Lydi didn't let me go there.
To get there, you can cross the Père Lachaise cemetery, which is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen (and you can spot some celebrities' graves there, like Edith Piaf's or Jim Morrison's).
From the exit at Rue de Magnolet it's just a short walk to Rue Florian. There, you'll find a black gate, which you can simply push to open, climb up some stairs and you'll arrive at the tracks. There are some friendly squatters living there, who didn't seem to mind us walking through their backyard.
If you feel like doing something less grungy afterwards, there is a nice design hotel called Mama Shelter Paris overlooking the tracks, where we had a drink afterwards.
3. Parc Monsourris (maybe skip it)
This is the one that you'll probably find first looking for Petite Ceinture online. Although it looks great in the pictures, the access has been made pretty difficult by now.
There are several fences and I decided not to climb all of them.
Although the tunnel looked cool from the distance, I wasn't sure it was worth risking falling right into it.
Despite not really seeing the tracks at Parc Monsourris, I loved exploring the other two parts of the Petite Ceinture.
The one in the 15th arrondissement, which was transformed into a public place and today is used by kids learning how to ride a bike, couples taking a walk and hundreds of joggers every day. It is a great example of how city planning can work without destroying what was built in the past.
While Charonne Voyageur, although not officially open to public, is used by Street Artists, kids listening to French Hip Hop and Hipsters walking their dogs.
As there are still many sections of the tracks for me to explore, I'll have to come back to Paris soon.
Have you guys been at the Petite Ceinture and maybe explored some other parts or made it to the tunnel at Montsourris? Please let us know in the comments section!
Where to stay in Paris
High End: Mama Shelter Paris
Mama Shelter is the perfect spot to start exploring the Petite Ceinture, as it's literally overlooking Charonne Voyageur. Also, they do great Cocktails.
Medium: HiPark la Vilette
Lydi and I stayed in a small design apartment in la Vilette. It's right next to the philharmonic and close to St. Martin, which is one of my favourite areas in Paris. Also, we loved having a fully equipped apartment and didn't have to go out for every meal.
Budget: Les Piaules
This small design hostel is just adorable. That's where I'll stay on my next trip to Paris.
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