In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.
The last park spotlighted in this series, the Square des Batignolles, took me a very long time to get around to discovering it. Similarly, this featured parc du jour waited a while for me to step foot inside. Over three and a half years of living in Paris passed by and just five days before our flight out to NYC, we made the trip over to check out the Parc André Citroën.
This land historically was an industrial area, with this plot serving as a weapons factory during World War I. Afterwards, it transitioned to be - you guessed it - a manufacturing site for Citroën cars. When the factory moved off the premises in the 1970’s, the space was freed up to transform into a green space and the park was born in 1992.
However, it wasn’t an interest in the park’s industrial past, or even its sleek modern present, that persuaded me to finally make a trip over - on my birthday, of all days. There was one attraction that lured me over, and it fed into my love of getting a good aerial view (you can find my favorite vantage points over Paris in my guest post here).
Sitting very noticeably in the middle of the park is the Ballon de Paris, a weather balloon. While the hot air balloon ascends to take its meteorological measurements, people can pay a fee to hitch a ride to see a view of Paris from the sky. The catch is that the balloon only goes up when weather conditions permit - so certainly not during inclement weather. But also, as we found, even on a sunny day, a little bit of wind could cause to keep it grounded - and you have to remember that a slight breeze on the ground is more intense with altitude.
This unpredictability, as well as its location way down in the southwestern residential area of Paris, surely keep the Ballon de Paris from gaining much traction as a popular tourist attraction. Even though Michael checked the website before we headed over, by the time we arrived it was no longer in service (and the website doesn’t seem to necessarily give super current info). Go with low expectations and have other things in mind to do in the area in case it falls through, if you are making a trip over for the express purpose of trying to go up for a ride.
I would have really enjoyed getting to cross off this quirky view from my Parisian bucket list, but on gorgeous days like that one it was easy to remember that we were lucky to be in Paris, and everything else was just an added bonus. (Plus, you can see here that my last birthday celebration in Paris was still pretty sweet.) When we realized the balloon adventure was not happening, we happily strolled around the park to see more of it. That’s when we stumbled upon this…
Not just any water fountain….but one producing fizzy water! This isn’t an exclusive perk of Parc André Citroën, as there are a few others scattered around the city - but it does get the distinction of being the third of its kind to be installed. I love my Perrier like the next Frenchwoman, so I was delighted to get to try le grand cru for at a bon marché - for FREE!
If you are vacationing in Paris - at least as a first-timer - I wouldn’t add Parc André Citroën as a must-see. Its high concentration of local residents and modern design make it more of an essential, living, breathing space for the city’s well-being, as opposed to some of the Paris’ more visited parks that merge leisure and classic aesthetics more securely. Though for those looking for a new place to explore in Paris or a different taste of the city - figuratively or just in search of some sparkling water (there’s no shame in that!) - then by all means, make the trip over! Above all, Parc André Citroën is further proof that Paris is more multi-faceted than it often is portrayed.
Have you ever taken a ride up in the Ballon de Paris? I’m really interested to hear more about what I missed out on!
PLAN YOUR VISIT:
Parc André Citroën
2 Rue Cauchy, 75015 Paris, France
Hours: Open daily; winter hours 8:00am-7:00pm weekdays, 9:00am-7:00pm weekends; summer hours 8:00am-9:30pm weekdays, 9:00am-9:30pm weekends
(See website (in French) for complete hours - slight variation in times in the shoulder months of March, April and September.)
Ballon de Paris [link in French]
Open daily from 9:00am until half an hour before the park closes
Price: €12 adults, €6 children ages 3-11 years old, children under 3 years old go for free
The balloon only goes up weather permitting - it is advised to call (01 44 26 20 00) before coming out, or checking the website for updated information