Paris is a city that rewards outdoor activity – whether it’s simply walking the boulevards or renting a Velib bicycle. Not for nothing do thousands of Parisians turn up once a week to take part in one of the world’s largest regular roller skating nights. Here, then, are our top ten tips for staying active.
1. Pari Roller
At 10pm every Friday night in Paris thousands of rollerbladers gather to skate through the streets with a police escort. I kid you not. Not for beginners (you have to be able to stop) the free Pari Roller starts and ends in Montparnasse and takes about three hours to cover 30 kilometres.
2. Pere Lachaise cemetery
Exercise is often best when you don’t notice you’re doing it so a turn among the great and the good of Pere Lachaise cemetery is recommended. Oscar Wilde, who is buried here, would disapprove (“To get back my youth I would do anything... except take exercise”) but he died aged 46. Amazing tombs in 110 wild acres.
3. Take a literary walk
Another exercise in exercising with really exercising is to accompany author and Australian ex-pat John Baxter on one of his literary walks around St. Germain and Montparnasse. He spoils it all by taking you back to his apartment for lunch afterwards but it’s the thought that counts.
4. Bois de Boulogne
Take a rowboat out on the lake in the Bois de Boulogne. Failing that just jog, cycle or stroll around the place – there’s plenty of it. Situated on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement it covers an area of just over 2000 acres.
5. Cycle around Versaillles
Train it out to Versailles and take a bicycle tour around the Palace. There are plenty of tours available and most include entry to the palace itself. It’s a good way to take in some of the more far-flung parts of the impressive grounds.
6. Velib bike-hire scheme
And talking of bicycles, learn to embrace the Velib, the public bike-hire scheme with its 14,500 bicycles and 1,230 stations all over the city. Once you get the hang of it, cycling around bike-friendly Paris is great fun. A cheap and cheerful way to stay fit.
7. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Take a turn around the 61 acres and 2.2 kilometres of paths at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement. That done, cross the bridge to the island in the middle of the lake and climb the steep 173 steps to the incongruous Temple de la Sibylle perched 50 metres above.
8. Josephine Baker swimming pool
The 25-metre Josephine Baker swimming pool at Quai Francois Mauriac is the closest you’ll get to swimming in the Seine. Built inside a barge permanently moored on the river it has a retractable roof for those more inclement days. Can get uber-busy.
9. Cycle the Coulée Verte du Sud Parisien
Get out of town by cycling the semi-rural, car-free Coulée Verte du Sud Parisien bike path which runs from the Montparnasse railway station for nearly 14 kilometres to the town of Massy. Or if your legs give out, stop in the hamlet of Sceaux and admire its chateau.
10. Jog the Coulee Verte Rene-Dumont
Jog safely away from the traffic along the top of the Coulee Verte Rene-Dumont, the 4.5 kilometre railway viaduct that runs from Place de la Bastille to Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in the city. At the bois just keep on going, if you can.