Nature spots and forests in Paris Region

A legacy of the hunting parties of the kings of France, the natural sites, forests and nature parks around the capital are now home to a host of activities. Check out our selection of nature spots in Île-de-France.
  1. What to see and do
  2. Parks and gardens
  3. Nature spots and forests

Our selection of nature spots and forests in Paris Region

Nature spots and forests around Paris

Fancy taking to the countryside? Want to see trees rather than buildings? Eager to leave the problems of the city behind? You don’t need to go far, just jump on an RER train. You’ll find plenty of greenery just outside the city. Breathe the fresh air of the natural sites, parks and forests of the Paris Region into your lungs and go on your merry way for a walk with the family, with friends or even alone if you enjoy your own company.

Escape to the outskirts of Paris

A legacy of Parisian nobility

For some, the forest is a peaceful place to walk. To others, it is a source of culinary delights. It can be both, when your walk becomes a mushroom hunt. Today’s residents of Île-de-France can enjoy exploring their region’s woodlands, and they owe this pleasure to the kings of France and the many nobles who owned the châteaux here.

Their passion for hunting led to the creation of areas rich in wildlife and vegetation, deemed by some to be key heritage features of the Paris Region. One example is the forêt de Fontainebleau, one of the most extensive forest ranges in France. Between the palace and the estate, Fontainebleau alone is worth a day trip.

There are many other natural sites in Île-de-France where nature takes command. Choose the right moment to go for a stroll. You may be lucky enough to come across a stag drinking from a pond, a fox concealed by the foliage or the birds performing their spring mating dance.

Regional nature parks of Paris Region

Île-de-France is our country’s smallest region. But when it comes to green spaces it has nothing to envy of others. There are four nature parks around the capital:

  • The Vexin Français nature park, between Val d’Oise and Yvelines
  • The Gâtinais Français nature park, straddling Essonne and Seine-et-Marne
  • The Oise – Pays de France nature park in Oise and Val d’Oise
  • The Haute Vallée de Chevreuse nature park in Yvelines

Together, they make up 20% of the Paris Region. Within its 270,000 hectares of plains, woodland and vegetation, walking is one of the most popular pastimes. Although mother nature reclaims her rights in the regional nature parks, they also have a few cultural surprises in store. *These include historic sites like the abbaye de Royaumont, the château de Breteuil and the Madeleine. Villages with a past that’s just as fascinating. Among them, to pick but a few, are La Roche-Guyon on the banks of the Seine, Barbizon, the haunt of impressionist painters, and Chevreuse, the favourite village of Jean Racine.

If you go down to the woods today

Who needs a garden when they have one of the world’s biggest parks on their doorstep? The Bois de Boulogne on the edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, extends across 850 hectares. It is bigger than Central Park and you’ll need a few hours to walk all the way round it. This former hunting ground of French kings is now a venue for a whole variety of activities that are by far more pacifist. Visit the parc de Bagatelle, the greenhouse garden of Auteuil, the Pré Catalan or the jardin d’Acclimatation, a theme park that’s very popular with children.

A spot of history

Before being deliberately burnt down in 1417, the Bois de Boulogne offered sanctuary to outlaws during the Hundred Years’ War. Much later, Louis XI had the forest replanted and Napoleon III transformed it into the woods we know today.

On the other side of Paris, in the 12th arrondissement, you’ll find an even bigger park, the bois de Vincennes. Amid 995 hectares of vegetation, the park is home to more than 500 species of plants and an incredible wealth of fauna. This wood is very popular among runners and cyclists, as well as curious visitors. Among other sites, it boasts the Parc Floral, the Hippodrome de Paris, the Parc zoologique and an educational farm that your children will never want to leave.

Also to be discovered

  • Copyright images: CRT IDF/Tripelon-Jarry, %20