Viaduc des Arts: Shopping Below an Elevated Park

Viaduc des Arts 2** NOTE: France, like the rest of the world, continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic. Many Paris museums, shops, restaurants and tourist destinations either remain closed or have limited hours. All will require masks while indoors. Many also will require proof of vaccination. Please check online information or telephone your intended destination to determine any restrictions. Let’s all help each other through this harrowing period in global history. Merci! **

Many visitors to Paris are familiar with the Coulee Verte Rene-Dumont, more commonly called the Promenade Plantee, a 4.7-kilometer long elevated park built atop a disused elevated railway line that runs roughly from the Place de la Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes on the eastern outskirts of the city.

But equally recognizable—and even sometimes confused for the park above it—is the Viaduc des Arts, a rehabilitated arched bridge in the 12th Arrondissement that hoists only a small portion of the park, but is home to many ground-level shops, galleries and restaurants.

Viaduc des Arts with a view of the Promenade Plantee elevated park above.

Viaduc des Arts with a view of the Promenade Plantee elevated park above.

Beginning at 1 Avenue Daumesnil, just southeast of the Opera Bastille, the Viaduc des Arts runs about a dozen blocks to 129 Avenue Daumesnil at the corner of the Rue de Rambouillet.

Originally built as the Viaduc des Bastille in the mid-1800s, the 1.5 km viaduct consists of 64 arched vaults that at one time supported a portion of the Paris-Bastille-Vincennes train line that ran above the street. But the train ceased operating in 1969, leaving the ground-level viaduct and the elevated platform abandoned.

Viaduc des Arts 1More than a decade passed before the city opted to build a new, modern opera house near the Place de la Bastille, which necessitated a decision on what to do with the defunct rail line. While many championed simply demolishing the elevated train line to make way for new buildings along its entire route, the city’s Atelier Parisien d’Urbanisme (Urban Planning Workshop) instead opted to convert the railroad into an elevated park and to renovate the 64 vaults into spaces for small businesses.

Work on the above-ground park began in 1983.

Renovations of the viaduct were launched in 1988 under direction of the city’s Societe d’Economie Mixte d’Amenagement de l’Est des Paris (Society of Mixed Economy Planning for Eastern Paris). The first shops were opened in 1994, with the final renovated vaults reaching completion in 1997.

Viaduc des Arts 3And the shops—while typically pricey—are unique and well worth a visit, followed by a spot of lunch at either of the two eateries located in the renovated bridge.

Today, viaduct tenants include:

Shop hours vary, but tend to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays.