Length 6.4 km (4 miles), terrain: one small hill at beginning, gain 50 meters
Paris Running Routes:
Best Paris Running Routes: Overview
Seine island of St. Louis, St. Paul, botanical garden
Left bank and Luxembourg Gardens
Paris' green heart: Bois de Boulogne
Canal St. Martin
Rock formations of Parc Chaumont
Seine loop with Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower
Seine riverside run
Bois de Vincennes
Versailles Palace Gardens
For more running routes, see Route List
This run through modern La Défense and Nanterre shows you a very different side of Paris and the French soul. You wouldn't know it from most of Paris, but the French have a love of things futuristic, and of modernistic architecture: just land at Charles de Gaulle Airport and wander through the terminals. The old Terminal 1 is a vision of the future as imagined in the 1960s: shaped like a circular space station, with passengers transported through tilting glass tubes through the central hole. Or take a look at Centre Pompidou, with its revolutionary exposed pipes and conduits.
|La Défense is full of architectural surprises|
La Défense is Europe's largest purpose-built business district. It began in the 70s but most was built in the 80s and later, and it's still growing. It's based on a very good idea: a modern city needs modern office buildings, but we want to protect our heritage, so move the skyscrapers to the edge of town. So a whole new business area was erected west of the city, continuing the axis of the Champs Elysees westwards.
A wide pedestrian open space, full of trees, fountains, benches and bistros forms the central axis of La Défense. Dominating the axis, the Grande Arche provides a gargantuan, modern interpretation of the Arc de Triomphe, visible on the eastern horizon. Grande Arche is itself an office building.
|In La Défense|
And -- perfect for us runners -- Nanterre is centered around a nice park, Parc André Malraux, a lunch-hour favorite running route for workers from the nearby office buildings. So, if you put all that together, you've got the basis of a very interesting run! I was lucky enough to be back working in the area this past week, and got to try out this great route.
So lets head to the east end of La Défense, at the Esplanade de La Défense metro station. The station steps come up just west of a square pond full of artsy poles. You're in the pedestrian area that stretches westwards towards the lurking silhouette of the Grande Arche.
|Start of the run at the Esplanade|
|Along the pedestrian area|
|Lunchtime Boules players at La Défense: hey this is really Paris!|
|At Grande Arche: continue along the left side of the arch!|
Now turn left when you get past the Arche, heading into the group of modern glass office towers around the Cours Valmy. The tall Société Générale building is right in front of you.
|At the Société Générale building: keep right!|
|View back towards Grande Arche from Nanterre|
At the station, turn left and run through the opening in the buildings to the south and through a little market square, towards the entrance to Parc André Malraux.
|The biggest hill in the park: used for hill-work|
|Parc André Malraux|
At the towers, the path circles northwards again (to the left), going by another little hill. But now take the eastern exit of the park and run along Allée de l'Arlequin past the northern row of towers.
NOTE: For some added distance, you could just loop the park again at this point. That's what all the local runners do. At lunchtime, the park is totally full of runners, when the weather is good.
|The Cloud Towers after a shower|
|Cloud Tower entrance|
Turn left to head past a mall, Les Quatre Temps, and the round UGC cinema into the main square in front of Grande Arche, where you run down the steps and turn right and head back downhill to the start.