The park complex of the Vincennes Forest (Bois de Vincennes) is spread over 995 hectares, its forests feed a huge territory with oxygen, which is why it is also called the eastern “lung” of Paris. People come here to rest from nearby cities and different parts of the capital. You can only move around the park on foot or by bicycle.
The huge park in the east of Paris has a long history dating back to the time of Hugh Capet (founder of the Capet dynasty, 10th century). It was from his suggestion that the Bois de Vincennes became a favorite place for royal hunting. Later, the forest was surrounded by a 12-kilometer fence, estates began to appear in its vicinity, and the royal hunting lodge gradually grew into a beautiful castle with a high tower. In the middle of the 19th century, the area around the Château de Vincennes was ennobled: alleys were planted and walking paths were laid, lakes were dug to create a park hydraulic system, fountains, bridges and statues were installed. The instructions of Napoleon III were implemented by the architect Deschamps and the engineer Alphand. Already in 1900, part of the Games of the 2nd Olympiad took place in the Bois de Vincennes.
The main natural landmarks when walking through the Vincennes forest are its small but very picturesque lakes: one natural and three artificially created. All of them are combined into one hydraulic system, which was built in the 1850s-1860s.
The artificial lake Gravel in the southeast of the park is the smallest. Through this lake, the remaining three are supplied with the waters of the Seine, so the water in the lakes does not stagnate. Lake Minim in the northeast and Lake Domenil in the southwest of the forest were also formed with the participation of man. In the middle of the last two reservoirs there are small islands, and on Lake Domenil from the shore you can go to the islands by bridge.
Lake Saint-Mandé is the only natural lake and is located in the northwest of the park. A reservoir was formed in the 13th century when a natural hollow was filled with sewage and rainfall. Due to the lack of water flow, the lake began to exude a putrid smell, so it was covered with soil, but it was cleared again in the 19th century. Today it is inhabited by waterfowl.
What you can see
The territory of the park is so vast that it is impossible to get around in one day. Moreover, there are various sights on the way.
The main, world-famous attraction of the park is the Chateau de Vincennes in its northern part. The former royal hunting lodge, expanded and rebuilt, turned into a castle with a donjon tower from the 14th century. Gradually, the city of Vincennes (now a suburb of Paris) grew up around the castle. At different times, the castle served as a hunting lodge, a prison, a residence for members of the royal family, a military school, an armory and even a porcelain factory. Nowadays, the castle is constantly being reconstructed, but nevertheless, excursions to its different parts are held regularly.
No less remarkable Buddhist pagoda south of lake. Domenil, one of the Parisian centers of Buddhism. The pavilions of the Vincennes Pagoda were built in 1931 for the Colonial Exhibition. In the pagoda is a statue of Buddha, covered with gold leaf. It is believed that this Buddha statue is the largest in Europe.
You can stroll among the flowering flower beds in the Botanical Garden of the four seasons. Plants from different parts of the world are selected in such a way that at any time there are numerous bushes blooming, trees are fragrant and multi-colored flower beds delight the eye. Classical concerts and theme exhibitions are often held in the garden. The Botanical Garden does not have a strict fence, so you can get out of it along paths and paths immediately into the forest zone of the park.
Children will be most interested in visiting the zoo, which is located north of Lake Domenil. Initially, a temporary exhibition of exotic animals was being prepared for the Colonial Exhibition of 1931, but, thanks to the great interest of the public, in 1934 the zoo opened as a full-fledged zoo. In 2014, the Vincennes Zoo opened its doors after six years of reconstruction and now offers to get acquainted with all kinds of birds and animals of five geographical areas: Patagonia, Sahel-Sudan, Europe, Amazonia-Guyana and Madagascar. Lattices and fences in the zoo are so well integrated into the environment that they are not striking at all, so it seems that the animals are in their natural habitat.
A hippodrome is located along the Vincennes forest. It hosts horse racing, in which horses and jockeys of Arab sheikhs, world celebrities and rich people participate.
In addition to the above attractions, the velodrome, the boat station, the 19th century military redoubt, and the butterfly garden are of great interest to the citizens and guests of the capital.
Entrance to the Vincennes Forest is free, it is open to all lovers of outdoor activities and for those who want to just walk in the greenery of various plants.
Address: Bois de Vincennes, Paris 75012.
Metro: Château de Vincennes, Berault, Saint-Mandé.
RER Train: Vincennes.