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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

Today we’re discovering Paris on the Traveller’s Blog, a city most of you have likely already visited. You’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre… but have you taken a tour of the city’s abandoned railway? Torch in hand, let’s uncover a different side of Paris.

The “Little Belt” Railway

After the French Revolution in 1848 the Paris economy was, to say the least, not booming but it was definitely recovering. The “Petite Ceinture” was born at that time, a railway line that surrounded 19th century Paris.

Jump ahead and the city built a vast network of trams and metros, putting this railway line out of business. It had a good run though, in service from 1934 to 1996. Lets go back to that moment, July 5, 1996: the Petite Ceinture rail service stopped. Each city mayor since then has promised a restoration project of the line, one has yet to keep his promise though. In the mean time the “Little Belt” deteriorates, gives space to a new form of tourism: walking the rails and discovering Paris from the tracks.

Petite Ceinture station

Petite Ceinture park

A walk along the Petite Ceinture

If you’ve done the whole “Paris thing” and want to discover another side of the city, consider a tour of the Petite Ceinture. You’ll see right away that it’s mostly locals hanging around here, a popular place for walking on Sundays. The area is also having its own regeneration process, slowly becoming overgrown with greenery and outdoor “galleries” created so generously by the city’s greatest street artists.

It’s definitely an outing for the more daring, the tracks aren’t the easiest (or the most legal) to reach because in most cases you’ll have to jump a fence, climb a wall or hike up a hill to reach them. The experience of this unique walk is worth it though.

Petite Ceinture street artPetite Ceinture walk

Walks and street art

The most popular walks along the tracks:

  • from Balard to Boulevard Massena
  • from Rue Watt to Porte de Vincennes
  • from Porte Dorée to Buttes-Chaumont
  • from Buttes-Chaumont to La Chapelle

Petite Ceinture rails

Word of caution: if you’re afraid of the dark, better not choose a section of the rails that passes through tunnels. Word of advice, bring a torch with you!

Choose a path and pack a lunch, this will be one Parisian adventure you won’t forget! On weekends many street performers and artists gather on the tracks to hang out, something not to miss. Have a free weekend? Why not jump on some cheap flights to Paris and explore Paris off the beaten path?

Want to know more about the Petite Ceinture?

Check out this video:

This is a more alternative side of Paris, what other cities have alternative cultures and neighbourhoods that you have visited?

Imgs: AlexTurtles, JR_Paris, tetine, eole  / Flickr cc.

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