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La Petite Ceinture Paris’ Abandoned Railway


2021 France Travel Update


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05/22/21

Paris’ Abandoned Railway

La Petite Ceinture, Paris’ abandoned railway, is one of the best-kept secrets of Paris. If you like to explore hidden gems and the romance of abandonment, these abandoned train stations and railroads in Paris are for you.

Here’s the history of La Petite Ceinture and a quick guide to all the official (and non-official) sections worth exploring.

Petite Ceinture Paris

History of La Petite Ceinture

La Petite Ceinture (the Little Belt railway around Paris) was a 32 km railroad line that circled Paris, developed during the Second Empire (1852-1869).

Originally built to transport material goods from depot yards to the core of Paris, ‘Le Chemin de Fer Petite Ceinture’ became, since 1862, also a service for passengers. At the height of its activity, steam trains were charging in each direction six times per hour.

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 ’70s, 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 Paris stopped operating.

La Petite Ceinture Map

Today some sections of la Petite Ceinture are converted into public green spaces in Paris 12, Paris 13, Paris 15, Paris 16, Paris 17, Paris 18, Paris 19, and Paris 20.

Petite Ceinture Map (green line)

Unfortunately, it is not possible to circumnavigate Paris following the Petite Ceinture without any interruption. This is because some kilometers in the west are reused by the RER trains, and some tunnels are sealed. To do the tour presented below, we will combine walks on railroad tracks with bike rides.

READ MORE –  A quick guide to Paris by Bike

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Petite Ceinture, Paris 12 (PC 12)

Access: 21 rue Rottembourg, Paris 12; Metro Station Michel Bizot, Line 8; Velib Station #12.010

La Petite Ceinture Paris 12 is a short section (200 meters) that 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.

This section of the 12th Arrondissement is connected to the Coulée Verte of Paris. If you are around, don’t miss the opportunity to explore one of the coolest unusual places in Paris!

Petite Ceinture, Paris 13 (PC 13)

Access: 60 rue Damesme, Paris 13; Metro Station Maison Blanche, Line 7; Velib station #13.110

Petite Ceinture Paris 13

La Petite Ceinture Paris 13 is located between the parks Charles-Trenet et Moulin-de-la-Pointe.

Along 500 meters, the abandoned train tracks are 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 host some performances and other events.

Petite Ceinture, Paris 15 (PC 15)

Access: in front of 99 rue Olivier de Serres, Paris 15; Metro Station Porte de Versailles, Line 12; Velib station #15.111

La Petite Ceinture Paris 15 served the Citroën factories (Parc André Citroën today) and the slaughterhouses of Vaugirard (today’s Parc Georges Brassens).

On this leg, the old railway track was never deferred. This section also keeps the historic installations while preserving flora and fauna (more than 220 species of plants and animals) installed spontaneously.

Along the 1,3 km walk, we can see an abandoned train station, a couple of wooden chalets, and some train signs.

As you can see in the pictures, la Petite Ceinture is also a playground for graffiti artists, and any flat surface is completely covered with colorful paintings.

Finally, some information panels help us appreciate the existent flora better: grassland, coppice, wastelands, and afforestation.

If you can only do one part of these abandoned railroads, we suggest this section in Paris 15.

Petite Ceinture, Paris 16 (PC 16)

Access: 36 Boulevard de Beauséjour, Paris 16; Metro Station Ranelagh, Line 9; Velib station #16.021

La Petite Ceinture Paris 16 is a 1,2 km section that connects Porte d’Auteuil to La Muette. Deferred in 1993 and completely abandoned, it was quickly colonized by wild nature, making a formidable ‘ecological corridor’ for plants and animals.

This walk is delightful in the summertime 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 in Paris 16 is a beautiful section to see, I never had the feeling of exploring abandoned railroads when walking through this section because no rails or original installations are left. It just looked like a small beautiful forest.

Petite Ceinture, Paris 17

Access: 2 Boulevard Pereire, Paris 17; Metro Station Brochard, Line 13

La Petite Ceinture Paris 17 is one of the latest sections to be open to the public (July 2019). This is a short (700m) but pleasant trench walk through existing rail tracks which allows the discovery of 88 plant species and 92 animal species.

The access down to this section is through a metallic staircase, and it is the perfect place to walk the dog or for little explorers.

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 train 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!

Lunchtime at La Recyclerie (PC Paris 18)

We reach Porte de Clignancourt (Paris 18) at lunchtime. Here there is the old train station of Ornano which after years of abandon was converted into a very cool community space but without losing the ‘old railway station’ feeling.

La REcyclerie Paris (83 boulevard Ornano, Paris 18) is a kind of canteen /restaurant but it is also an urban farm, a cultural space, and a ‘do it yourself’ reparation workshop.

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 on few occasions, usually related to Nature festivals or events.

Petite Ceinture, Paris 18 to Paris 19

Access: rue Thionville, Paris 19; Metro Station Laumière, Line 5; Velib station #19.016

This section of La Petite Ceinture Paris 19 is pretty cool. Here we are off the beaten path, walking on train tracks while enjoying some street art.

In this section, we can even walk above the Canal de la Villette and enjoy this area from another perspective.

Petite Ceinture, Paris 19 to Paris 12

(non-) official access: Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris 19; Metro Station Botzaris, Line 7 bis; Velib station #19.025

update: the access to this tunnel is currently sealed

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

This is the most adventurous section, one of the few chances to explore Paris underground. However, this is not a public section, but the rails that we can see from the park are so tempting! There are three long tunnels to cross along this section, so take a pair of good shoes and a torch.

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 is walking behind us because the tunnel was scary.

There is a second tunnel (1.3 km) some meters further, which goes below Père Lachaise Cemetery!

After the second tunnel, there is another old railway station, above on the street level. Today the Gare de Charonne (1867-1934) is a modern concert hall called La Flèche d’Or (102 bis rue de Bagnolet).

X

The railway line crosses all Paris 20. The last abandoned train station in this district has some cool graffiti around. Here, we are never alone: curious locals, street artists, and vagabonds are frequent in this area.

Finally, we are back in Paris 12, where we started. We leave the world of abandoned train stations and railroads at Villa du Bel Air, happy to have completed the tour.

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  • 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!

  • 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!

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

      Thanks Kevin ! 🙂

  • 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

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

    • 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! 🙂

  • 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!

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

    • 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 🙂

  • 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!

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

      Thanks Angela! 🙂

  • 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?

    • 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 🙂

  • 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. 🙂

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

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

  • Jo
    03/18/2017 at 10:02 pm

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

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

      Thanks 🙂

  • 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!

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

      Yes, it was fun and adventurous 🙂

  • 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.

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

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