The Paris-Vincennes line operated from 1853 to 1969, going through the 12th arrondissement. By 1993, the A line had taken over much of its traffic, the 4.5 km (3 mile) route was abandoned, redesigned and opened to the public. Now known as the Viaduc des Arts, the arches under the former railroad are filled with fascinating art shops, galleries and architectural studios. No vehicles or bicycles are admitted on the elevated portion, so this is a great place to take a leisurely walk in the city, about 30 feet (10 meters) high, almost at the level of the tree tops.
The promenade begins below street level, not far from the Daumesnil métro (it then runs east to within about a block from the Opéra Bastille). Once you get down to the former railroad bed, you see that it also runs to the east, going underneath a major north-south street. The signs indicate that the eastern portion of the promenade is to be shared by pedestrians and bicycles. We headed west, looking forward to being elevated, rather than walking in a 'cut' running below street level.
I had remembered standing at the street below, gazing upward and wondering why in the world a former railroad would simply run into--or possibly even though--an apartment building. But once I was on the elevated walkway, I could finally see how cleverly the new buildings were designed, honouring the right of way to the millimeter.
A sign gives a brief history of the project, the hours it is open to the public, and indicates who may not use the elevated portion.
As the elevated structure crosses roads, you feel as though you are on a balcony with a view.
Along the way, there are numerous signs indicating how far you have have to go before reaching various destinations.
The walk is so nice. We were there when thousands of roses were finishing. The day was hot, but the trees proved cooling shade and breezes were seldom blocked by buildings.
This structure provide places for insects--a type of insect hotel offering various accommodations, hollow reeds, etc. Remember, this is 30 feet in the air, on a stone/brick structure and not on the edge of a woodland.
The water ran for several blocks, almost recalling the old Roman aqueducts, but those utilitarian structures were never this wide nor this beautified with lush vegetation.
Plants need water, and so do the hot visitors. Typical for Paris, we are told the source for the water.
The buildings to the south of the elevated promenade were rather more splendid that those to the north. Art Nouveau (?) figures strangely ornament a structure opposite the large Gare de Lyon (station for trains heading south to Lyon, one of the nation's major railway hubs).
After walking several kilometers, we reached the western end. The new terraced buildings designed to accommodate the new stairs also featured successful plantings.
This is an attraction seldom seen by tourists having but several days in Paris, but the locals clearly enjoy their very special green belt.