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Walking on the rails: la Petite Ceinture Paris (the full guide!)

La Petite Ceinture Paris | Paris Like a Local | Paris Travel Inspiration | Paris Bucket List | Paris Walks | Paris Outdoors
La Petite Ceinture Paris | Paris Like a Local | Paris Travel Inspiration | Paris Bucket List | Paris Walks | Paris Outdoors

La Petite Ceinture Paris is one of the Paris best kept secrets. If you like to explore Paris off the beaten track and the romance of abandonment, la Petite Ceinture Paris is for you.

 

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

La Petite Ceinture Paris (the Little Belt of Paris) was a 32 km railroad line that circled Paris, developed during 1852-1869. Originally built to transport material goods from depot yards to the core of Paris, la Petite Ceinture became since 1862 also a service for passengers. At the height of its activity, there were steam trains charging in each direction six times per hour.

Petite Ceinture Paris

La Petite Ceinture’s decline started with the construction of the Parisian Metro in 1900. As a result, the passenger service stopped in 1934, when the metro reached its maturity. At the end of the 70’s, with the disappearance of the slaughterhouses of Vaugirard, the cattle station of La Villette and the relocation of the Citroën factories, the freight traffic fell drastically and La Petite Ceinture stopped operating.

 

ACCESS PETITE CEINTURE PARIS

Today only four short sections are converted into green spaces and opened to the public in Paris 12, Paris 13, Paris 15 and Paris 16. Armed with good shoes, tons of curiosity and a sense of adventure we are going to explore these public spaces and much more: we are going walk on the rails and discover the backyards of the City of Lights.

Plan Petite Ceinture Paris | Petite Ceinture Map

Unfortunately it is not possible to travel all along la Petite Ceinture (PC) without any interruption. This is because some kilometres in the west are reused by RER trains and some tunnels are sealed. To do the tour presented below we are going to combine bike rides with short or long walks on the rails.

RELATED:  Paris by Bike: Paris cycling guide

 

PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 12 (PC 12)

Petite Ceinture Paris access: 21 rue Rottembourg, 75012 Paris; M. Michel Bizot, L 8; Velib station #12.010

This short section (200 metres) was developed to accommodate a shared garden and a nature trail (sentier nature). Along the nature trail we can discover the city’s biological diversity: grassland, coppice and afforestation.

The Petite Ceinture Paris 12 is linked to the Coulée Verte Paris. If you are around don’t miss the opportunity to explore this cool green walk !

Petite Ceinture Paris

RELATED:  La Coulée Verte, Paris' green walk

PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 13 (PC 13)

Petite Ceinture Paris access: 60 rue Damesme, 75013 Paris; M. Maison Blanche, L 7; Velib station #13.110

This section, located between the parks Charles-Trenet et Moulin-de-la-Pointeopen, opened only in January 2016 so the Petite Ceinture Paris 13 is a very new sight for Parisians. Along 500 metres, the old railway line is the common thread of an unusual landscape formed by flora and fauna typical of industrial wastelands. In addition, there is a chill-out area with grassland and some chaise-longues that should host some performances or events in the near future.

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PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 15 (PC 15)

Petite Ceinture Paris access: in front of 99 rue Olivier de Serres, 75015 Paris; M. Porte de Versailles, L12 ; Velib station #15.111

In Paris 15th Arrondissement la Petite Ceinture served the Citroën factories (Parc André Citroën today) and the slaughterhouses of Vaugirard (Parc Georges Brassens). On this leg, the old railway track was never deferred. In addition, the development carried out by the City Council consisted in keeping the historic installations while preserving the flora and fauna (more than 220 species of plants and animals) installed spontaneously on the site.

Along the 1,3 km walk along la Petite Ceinture Paris 15 we can see an old abandoned station, a couple of wooden chalets and some train signs. As you can see on the pictures, la Petite Ceinture is also a playground for graffiti artists. Any flat surface is completely covered with colorful paintings. Finally, some information panels located here and there help us to appreciate the existent flora better: grassland, coppice, wastelands and afforestation.

If you can only do one part of La Petite Ceinture, we suggest you to choose La Petite Ceinture Paris 15.

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PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 16 (PC 16)

Petite Ceinture Paris access: 36 boulevard de Beauséjour, 75016 Paris; M. Ranelagh, L9 ; Velib station #16.021

This 1,2 km section links Porte d’Auteuil to La Muette. Deferred in 1993 and completely abandoned, it was quickly colonized by a wild nature which makes a formidable “ecological corridor” for plants and animals.

This walk is especially pleasant in summer time and probably the most interesting one for nature lovers. Take the time to read the information panels about the incredible diversity of this ecosystem: grassland, wetland, limestone slopes, afforestation.

While la Petite Ceinture Paris 16 is a beautiful section to see, I never had the feeling of exploring la Petite Ceinture when walking through this section because there are no rails or original installations left. It just looked like a small beautiful forest to me.

Petite Ceinture Paris

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PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 16 TO PARIS 18

Back to our bicycles we leave Paris 16 direction to Paris 18. On the way, we can see another section of La Petite Ceinture, along rue Navier (Paris 17). On this street there is an abandoned Paris railway station but also in-ground platforms bounded by solid poles and a couple of tunnels. Here everything is covered by obscure graffiti. The ensemble is phantasmagorical and a little bit disturbing. We did not find an entry point to go down to the rails but I am not sure I would like to explore this part closer!

Petite Ceinture Paris

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PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 18: LUNCH TIME AT LA RECYCLERIE

We reach Porte de Clignancourt (Paris 18) at lunch time. Here we find the old train Station of Ornano which after years of abandon was converted into a very cool community space but without loosing the “old train station” feeling. La REcyclerie Paris (83 boulevard Ornano) is a kind of canteen /restaurant but it is also a urban farm, a cultural space and a “do it yourself” reparation workshop. You can find more information about la REcyclerie Paris on our page Yummy Paris.  For the moment, we are only interested in their food and we order their generous brunch (there is also a vegetarian option).

One of the station’s old platforms belongs to la REcyclerie Paris. This is where we can find the urban farm, a small garden and a terrace. On the opposite platform there is a shared garden managed by a local association. Unfortunately the access to the rail tracks in this section is opened only in few occasions, usually related to Nature festivals or events.

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PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 18  TO PARIS 19

Unofficial access: rue André Danjon; M. Ourcq, L5 ; Velib station #19.016

The fence along rue André Danjon can be opened or climbed on some points. This is not an official section and we are not supposed to be here. But this part is super cool!  Furthermore, in this section we are truly exploring Paris’ backyards, walking on the rails and enjoying some street art and a little bit of nature. We can even walk above the Canal de la Villette and enjoy this area from another point of view.

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PETITE CEINTURE PARIS 19 TO PARIS 12

Unofficial access: Parc des Buttes Chaumont; M. Botzaris, L7 bis; Velib station #19.025

Inside Parc des Buttes Chaumont, right after the bridge which crosses the rails (on the left side), there is a little path going downhill. You can reach the rails through a hole on the fence which follows this path.

This is the most adventurous section. Same, this is not a public section but the rails that we can see from the park are so tempting! Along this section there are three long tunnels to cross so take a pair of good shoes and a torch.

The first metres of this section are very cool. After some hesitation, we decide to walk into the tunnel. The air is strange inside so if you have breathing problems avoid going further. We don’t suggest going alone either.

When we exit the first tunnel (1.2 km) we are in Paris 20. There is a cool area with some urban furniture and street art. I am happy that a group of teenagers are walking not far from us because the tunnel was scary. Some metres further we enter the second tunnel (1.3 km) which goes below Père Lachaise Cemetery!

After the second tunnel there is another old train station, above on the street level. Today La Gare de Charonne (1867-1934) is a modern concert hall called La Flèche d’Or (102 bis rue de Bagnolet). You can see how it looks from the rails on the slideshow below.

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The railway line crosses all Paris 20. The last abandoned train station in this district has some cool graffiti around. As you can see on the pictures we are not alone. Curious locals, street artists and vagabonds are frequent in this area.

Finally we are back to Paris 12, where we started. We exit la Petite Ceinture at Villa du Bel Air, happy to have completed the tour.

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OUR SUGGESTIONS: CLICK FOR MORE INFO ↓

Petite Ceinture Paris

La Petite Ceinture (FR)

Petite Ceinture Paris

Les Secrets des Trains (FR)

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Agness of aTukTuk
    05/04/2017 at 7:44 pm

    Paris is so romanesque and it has so much to offer! Loved the aspects you included!

  • Reply
    Kevin Wagar
    03/29/2017 at 2:51 pm

    Fantastic walkthrough of an area of Paris I would have never thought of discovering. Beautiful photos and descriptions as well!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/01/2017 at 8:14 am

      Thanks Kevin ! 🙂

  • Reply
    Cheryl Anderson
    03/21/2017 at 4:11 pm

    Hello,
    What a unique post! I love that you included the history behind the area as well as books to get more information. We love getting the local perspective when we travel, I think no trip is complete without a mix of both touristy and off the beaten path local options. I also think it is great you included restaurant info. We also enjoy out of use historic areas that have been converted to green space. You have a wonderful blog, We are looking forward to following along with you. Hopefully we will make it to Paris soon so we can put your info to good use! Happy Travels,
    Cheryl – Adventuredawgs.com

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/21/2017 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment Cheryl! Glad that you like the blog, there is much love on it! Hope you will find some inspiration and all the info that you need for your next trip to Paris, I am sure you will have a great time 🙂

  • Reply
    melody pittman
    03/21/2017 at 2:19 pm

    What an extremely interesting place. Certainly a colorful place for exploring. I love the picture with the arch and blue clearing, how fabulous for photos. By the way, Imust ask what you use to make the photos change? I love it! Never seen that before in a blog post.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/21/2017 at 11:03 pm

      Yes, quirky place to explore plus very interesting with all the history which is behind! To answer your question related to the slideshow I sent you an email, hope it helps! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jenna
    03/21/2017 at 10:43 am

    I love this idea! Unique walks like this are always so much fun. I wouldn’t mind stopping at La REcyclerie for lunch too–looks like a great find. I will definitely have to add this walk onto our itinerary the next time we are in Paris!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/21/2017 at 11:05 pm

      Oh that REcyclerie’s brunch was reaaaaaaaaaaally good. There is also a dessert and unlimited coffee and tea included in the price 🙂

  • Reply
    Lieurene Tran
    03/21/2017 at 1:00 am

    It looks so cool to see how the community built things around the abandoned tracks. It’s truly amazing especially given the history there. I would like to go down and see the abandoned train stations. I like exploring abandoned places but it can be quite scary and you have to be careful not to get caught “trespassing”. Overall, its really neat to see this in Paris.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/13/2017 at 8:43 pm

      Only those tunnels shown on the pictures were a little bit scary. Thanks for your nice comment, Liurene 🙂

  • Reply
    Drew
    03/19/2017 at 5:27 pm

    Great look at a little history of Paris. I love that cities are making something out of old, unused rail tracks, like the High Line in NYC. I wish more places would have the forethought to smartly repurpose open land like that.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/19/2017 at 11:12 pm

      Well, there is still to much work to do at la Petite Ceinture! Hopefully more kilometres will be opened to the public in the near future 🙂

  • Reply
    Angela @ Dang Travelers
    03/19/2017 at 2:16 pm

    Definitely sounds like an off the beaten path way of exploring the area! What an exciting twist on travel, love it!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/19/2017 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks Angela! 🙂

  • Reply
    Brianna
    03/19/2017 at 2:05 pm

    This is a great suggestion for people wanting to do something out of the ordinary when visiting Paris. I liked the 16 part and the 18 to 19 part. Is is pretty safe to walk in these areas? What about in the evening time?

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/19/2017 at 11:26 pm

      I would say YES but I also recommend not to walk alone and only during daylight. Actually #16, which is a public section, closes at 6.pm 🙂

  • Reply
    Punita Malhotra
    03/19/2017 at 1:48 pm

    This is a fascinating post. I think knowing factoids like these is a great way to travel deeper. Must keep it in mind for when we visit Paris the fourth time. 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/13/2017 at 8:44 pm

      I am sure that you would like La Petite Ceinture, Punita 🙂

  • Reply
    Jo
    03/18/2017 at 10:02 pm

    What a wonderful way of exploring Paris, a really unique suggestion.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/18/2017 at 11:19 pm

      Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelly
    03/18/2017 at 8:56 pm

    I lived in Paris for a short while and never knew about this. It looks like a fun adventure. Will have to try next time!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/18/2017 at 11:19 pm

      Yes, it was fun and adventurous 🙂

  • Reply
    Tracey
    03/18/2017 at 8:05 pm

    What a cool and unique look at Paris! Thanks so much for sharing this truly interesting point of view. My family loves to check out lesser known attractions in the places we travel. Visiting some of the sections of La Petite Ceinture de Paris will be a priority for us when we visit Paris.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/18/2017 at 11:20 pm

      Glad that you liked it! Don’t hesitate to ask if you need more information 🙂

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