The thought of there being a completely abandoned railway travelling through Paris is pretty surreal isn’t it?
The railway is officially called ‘La Petite Ceinture’. Service began in 1852 and was the main circular connection between Paris railway stations.
By 1934, the use for passenger trains in Paris was nearly non-existent due to the up and coming metro system and a wider use for vehicles. Eventually in 1993, La Petite Ceinture was completely abandoned.
After more than 150 years since being built, the railway is now covered in colourful graffiti for miles on end.
On our last day in Paris, we decided to escape the tourist filled centre to explore this unusual ‘attraction’.
I made sure I did my research before heading out on this adventure and realised that the access if safest in the North of Paris.
We entered the railway in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumount (Metro: Buttes-Chaumont) and walked through the park until we came across a bridge and noticed the railway laying underneath. (below)
Access is easier than expected, to the side of the bridge is a small trampled green fence, easy enough to step over. We guided our way down a small but steep hill and that was it. As easy as that, we were officially on La Petite Ceinture.
Eager to explore, we headed towards the first tunnel and bumped into George. An illustrator and street artist from Leeds, based in London.
We bumped into George in the middle of an abandoned railway and we both got onto the tracks at the exactly the same time, just from access points metres apart. Coincidence?
Luckily we brought a torch (preparation is key!), as the tunnels take roughly 20-25 minutes to walk through each. It gets incredibly dark and the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to get any bigger.
We came to the end of the second tunnel and was confronted by a metal railing, luckily there was a forced hole and we squeezed ourselves through before being blinded by the beaming sun.
What we saw in the tunnel was something I unexpected. Belongings of the homeless lined the walls towards the lighter parts of the tunnels, along with their makeshift beds are wardrobes.
There must of been around 20 DIY beds and this place is where these people sleep at night and consider as home. It’s pretty eye-opening.
// To get an idea, see below my photographs from inside the tunnels.
On the streets above, restaurants overlooked the railway; they must see hundreds of people pass through the tracks as they didn’t even blink an eye.
We came across La Flèche d’Or, a live music venue, which has windows looking down over old rail tracks.
After seeing this music venue on my Google image searches, it is the location along the railway which I definitely wanted to see for my own eyes and even though it isn’t exciting as I thought, the atmosphere of the location was incredible and the photographs turned out pretty nice too!
Moving on, there were no more tunnels. Just a few more miles of open overgrown abandoned railway tracks.
Feeling like I was in a replication of my own ‘Stand By Me’ film, the three of us spent the next 20 minutes strolling along and admiring the fact that we were actually walking the abandoned tracks of Paris.
We came across a large bridge which went over a main road. We decided to go for it. Keeping low and slow, me moved pretty quickly across the bridge, trying to avoid getting caught or noticed. We walked for another 20 minutes before coming to another exit.
We decided to call our journey a day, we had a flight to catch after all.
As soon as we left the track, we walked down a couple of streets before saying ‘errrrrr, where are we?!’
We decided to follow people and traffic and eventually came to a metro station. We realised that we had walked just under 5K down the East side of Paris, ending up near Bel-Air.
What an unforgettable experience!
If you have any questions regarding this journey, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org!