“Working out” is still a somewhat foreign concept in France, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise. Though gyms are few and far between, pools are everywhere, and any enterprising sports enthusiast can easily find places to bike, rollerblade, or run.
There are 38 public pools (piscines, pronounced “pee-seen”) in Paris, and they are accessible to everyone. They are generally quite clean and always have lockers and dressing areas. The size of the pools varies—most are 25m (82 ft.), and a few, like the one at Les Halles, are 50m (164 ft.). The most unusual is the Piscine Josephine Baker ([tel] 01-56-61-96-50; Métro: Quai de la Gare), a floating swimming pool docked on quai François Mauriac in the Seine (don’t worry, the water is not from the river). The best way to find addresses and hours is to visit www.paris.fr and click on the blue “piscine” icon on the upper right-hand corner. Entry to almost all municipal pools is 3€; you can buy a card for 10 entries for 24€.
There are two indoor municipal ice-skating rinks open year round: Patinoire Pailleron (32 rue E. Pailleron, 19th arrond; [tel] 01-40-40-27-70; www.pailleron19.com; Métro: Bolivar) and Patinoire Sonja Henie (8 bd. Bercy, 12th arrond; [tel] 01-40-02-60-60; Métro: Bercy). The latter has DJ-hosted soirees until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. In addition, every year, two large outdoor rinks are set up from December through February in front of the Hôtel de Ville and the Gare Montparnasse. Both are free—you’ll just have to pay a small fee for skate rental. For more information all of these rinks, visit www.sport.paris.fr and search for “patinoire.”
You can rent a bike by the hour in the Bois de Vincennes at Lac Daumesnil or Lac des Minimes and in the Bois de Boulogne (in front of the Jardin d’Acclimatation or next to the Lac Inferieur [lower lake]). If you are up to the challenge of Parisian traffic and want to cycle around the city, you can try Velib’, the city’s wildly popular rent-a-bike program—just be sure you are armed with the right kind of credit card or have picked up an internet subscription for your stay (for details on how the system works, visit www.velib.fr and/or see p. ###). For longer-term rentals, try Paris à Vélo, C’est Sympa (www.parisvelosympa.com) or Bike About Tours (www.bikeabouttours.com).
Today, le footing, as running is called, is considered pretty commonplace, though nowhere near as omnipresent as in London or New York. You can run anywhere, of course, but a few favored places are around the lakes in the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes, the Promenade Plantée, along the quays of the Seine, and the Jardin du Luxembourg.
The French are huge tennis fans, and Parisians are no exception. There are 43 public tennis courts in the city, all of which can be reserved online at the city’s website (www.paris.fr/tennis). The courts in the Jardin de Luxembourg are particularly nice, as are those in the Marais (5–7 rue Neuve-Saint-Pierre, 4th arrond; Métro: Saint Paul). The fee for an hour of play is 7.50€ in an open court, and 14€ for covered courts. Note:You will need to bring your own tennis equipment.
The New Banks of the Seine & Paris Plage
Over the last couple of years, portions of the Seine’s banks have had a pedestrian-friendly overhaul, most impressively along the stretch between the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont d’Alma (known as Les Berges, or “the embankments”). Not only have cars been banished, but the quays have been embellished with promenades, gardens, cultural spaces, cafes, sports facilities, and picnic areas. You can eat, drink, flirt at one of the bars, walk, or even take a tai chi class at various points along the route. There are kids’ activities too. For details and schedules visit www.lesberges.paris.fr.
Meanwhile, another hugely successful riverside event is now into its second decade: Paris Plage. Every year, from mid-July to mid-August, tons of sand are shipped in and dumped on the riverbanks to create a fun and funky “beach,” complete with beach volleyball, tea dances, concerts, drink stands, and all sorts of excellent silliness. Success has been such that the beach can be found on the Voie Georges Pompidou (near the Hôtel de Ville, 4th arrond.) but also along edges of the Bassin de la Villette (19th arrond.), where you can rent paddleboats and canoes. The number of activities and events swells every season, for a complete rundown visit the city website (www.paris.fr) and search “Paris Plage English.”
The Best Paris Parks & Gardens
* The best gardens: It’s hard to choose between the grand geometry of the Tuileries, the relaxed elegance of the Luxembourg Gardens, and the colorful palette of Giverny.
* The best parks: The Bois de Boulogne has lakes, gardens, and even a small amusement park (the Jardin d’Acclimatation; p. ###) for your rambling pleasure. While there’s no amusement park at the Bois de Vincennes, there is a medieval castle, the Château de Vincennes, complete with ramparts and a keep as well as the newly re-opened zoo, the Parc Zoologique de Paris.
* The best primrose promenade: The Promenade Plantée must be the world’s skinniest garden: Because it’s set atop a former train viaduct, you can stroll among the flowers and greenery from the place de la Bastille all the way to the Bois de Vincennes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.