Paris has a lot going for it, but if there’s one thing lacking, it’s space. The need to squeeze, adjust and think creatively not only applies to living space but to agriculture too. In just the past few years, urban farms and community gardens have exploded in popularity, with small plots of land popping up on rooftops, in quiet corners and on bustling avenues.
While it might seem newfangled and of our eco-conscious moment, urban farming has a long history in the French capital. As far back as the 17th century, urban farmers–or “maraîchers” in French–grew community plots of fruit, vegetables, wine and flowers. While the practice essentially disappeared following WWII and the modernization of Paris, it has since made a noticeable comeback.
Today, Paris’s urban farms have a community-centric feel, with the general public and municipal bodies working together to make the city an agricultural capital once again – but in a new way. The urban farms and community gardens we’ve picked for you here are quaint, charming and accessible, and often still in bloom even as winter approaches.
Venture to explore these spaces clustered primarily in the city’s east to enjoy a leisurely day of strolling, or to gather ideas and inspiration for your own mini-farm at home.
1. La REcyclerie
This former railway station is now a bustling hub for creative types, hipsters and nature lovers. Part restaurant/bar, part community center, La REcyclerie is a massive, airy space that’s perfect for a quick lunch or writing session. You can– and should if you can– also go admire the impressive urban farm on the premises, and even take a gardening class. Everything you see here – from the recycling bins in the restaurant space, to wood chip-covered pathways – has been carefully installed with environmental preservation in mind.
The urban farm measuring some 1,000m2 is a genuine local ecosystem. Run by local members, it houses chickens, an aromatic garden, fruit trees, green rooftops with several beehives, a 400m2 vegetable garden, an “edible forest” and two composting systems.
This is a true haven, especially considering that it’s situated right near the always-packed, polluted highway known as the Boulevard Périphérique. It may be a little out of the way, but it’s worth a visit when you’re looking for an unusual place to perch, think, work and enjoy some greenery.
Getting There: 83 boulevard Ornano, 75018 (Metro Porte de Clignancourt, Line 4)
2. Jardins passagers de la Villette
What was once an industrial wasteland is now a glorious 3,000m2 agricultural space within the sprawling Parc de la Villette. Here you’ll find an area of land that has been carefully cultivated, complete with arbors and beehives; an additional space has been left to grow wild. Flower boxes have been constructed up off the ground to make it easier for those with reduced mobility to take part in the gardening activities offered at various points throughout the year. Once you finish admiring the gardens, why not wander across the rest of the sprawling, quirky park or stop in to the Cite de l’Industrie for a science-related exhibition?
Getting There: 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 (Metro Porte de Pantin, Line 5)
3. Garden on Rue Fessart and Rue Clavel
While grandiose gardens are impressive to look at, one of the best ways to experience Paris’ urban farming trend is to happen upon one of these spaces unintentionally. This subtle yet lovely community garden is hidden in the worming streets on the edge of the city, near the enormous, romantic-style Buttes-Chaumont Park.
So after you take a gander at this truly urban farm (complete with street art on the surrounding buildings), walk a few blocks to Rue Botzaris to stroll through or stage a picnic at one of Paris’s lushest parks. Before you head into the park, you might consider stopping in at L’Escargot (50 Rue de la Villette), a lively restaurant-bar serving food and drinks to the neighborhood’s artists and style hounds.
Getting There: Corner of Rue Fessart and Rue Clavel, 75019 (Metro Jourdain (Line 11) or Buttes-Chaumont (Line 7bis)
This community garden in Belleville gets lots of love, evidenced by its bursting flowers, fruit trees and lush vegetable patches. In the spring, this garden bursts into riotous color, with hybrid irises, tulips, anemones and clematis among the striking blooms to admire. Gardeners dedicate their time not only to keeping up the plant life but also organizing events to get the neighborhood involved, like its recent yard sale complete with knitting lessons.
Once you’ve seen the garden, wander through the Cité Leroy, a village dating back to 1869. Its miniature apartments, bursting flowerboxes and winding paths will no doubt have you daydreaming about snagging one of these much-sought-after residences. Curious to see inside? Several of the city’s painters and artists live here and once a year, you can go in their workshops during the annual Belleville Open Studios event every May.
Getting There: Rue des Pyrénées and Cité Leroy, 75020 (Metro Jourdain (Line 11) or Pyrénées (Line 11)
5. Place Frehel and Rue de Belleville
As you’ve started to no doubt gather, Belleville is home to many of the city’s most-interesting community gardens. This one is a space to admire not only for its budding plants and flowers but for the nearby street art as well. Large murals fill the walls surrounding the garden and the next-door Culture Rapide is a great place to stop in for a coffee or beer, or hang out on the outdoor terrace.
Every Thursday at 8pm, the bar offers a literary open mic night in English, featuring spoken word poetry, musical theater and comedy. Poetry not your thing? You can also head up the road to the Parc de Belleville, a hilly, flower-filled expanse of land. Or, if you’re craving some authentic Chinese or Vietnamese fare, traipse down steep Rue de Belleville a few paces to find plenty of options.
Getting There: Corner of Place Frehel and Rue de Belleville, 75020 (Metro Pyrénées (Line 11)
6. The Clos Montmartre, Paris’ Last Remaining Vineyard
Anyone who’s set foot in Montmartre can easily attest to its old-village feel (outside the ultra-touristy squares and restaurants, at least). Only annexed into Paris during the late 19th century, remnants of agricultural and independent Montmartre are visible in the old windmill that still stands at restaurant Le Moulin de la Galette– and also in the tiny, picturesque vineyard that stands on a hilly plot off of Rue des Saules.
The wine produced at this Instagram-worthy vineyard is hardly exceptional, and only about 1,000 bottles are produced each year. But the continued activity of winemaking connects Montmartre to its agricultural history and reminds both locals and visitors that the rapidfire modern age has its downsides. Take a peek at the vineyard from outside its gates– or better yet, take part in the annual Vendanges de Montmartre harvest festival if you happen to be around in October.
Getting There: 22 Rue des Saules, 75018 (Metro Lamarck-Caulaincourt (Line 12)
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this feature originally appeared on About.com Paris Travel. It has been edited and updated.