The Coulée Verte, or Promenade Plantée as it is otherwise known, is a raised tree-lined walkway that follows the ancient route of the Bastille-Vincennes railway, connecting the hustle and bustle of the inner city to the tranquility of its sylvan periphery. Inaugurated in 1993, the Coulée Verte (green corridor) provides a much needed pocket of calm amidst the noise and fumes of the eastern arrondissements, its 4.7km (2.9 mi) of flora and fauna a world away from the metropolitan frenzy playing out below. The galleries, cafes and trendy shops nestled beneath the walkway, known collectively as the Viaduc des Arts, have succeeded in bringing new life to the dilapidated storage vaults that they replaced and have come to represent a veritable haven of creativity in a once underprivileged neighbourhood.
The western section of the Coulée begins a few steps away from the Opera Bastille and can be accessed via a stairwell or small elevator. This part of the route is reserved for pedestrians and boasts spectacular, uninterrupted views of the city skyline coupled with charming little gardens and sheltered areas dedicated to rest and meditation. Further east the rooftops give way to quiet, secluded parks and shady tunnels as the viaduct upon which the Coulée rests descends to street level, the urban landscape peeling back gradually to reveal the verdant charm of the Bois de Vincennes beyond.
The walkway was designed by architects Jacques Vergely and Philippe Mathieux. Since its inauguration it has been used as a place of both relaxation and recreation, hosting everything from amateur art installations to ephemeral music festivals. Though these days the Coulée is rivaled by grander projects such as the Manhattan High Line and the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, for many years it was the only pathway of its kind and its wonderful atmosphere of calm amidst the chaos still sets it apart and makes it well worth a wander.