In the past a royal hunting reserve, the Bois de Boulogne park, which covers the area of 8,45 square kilometres, includes an amusement park for children, famous tennis courts – Roland Garros, horse racecourse, gardens, restaurants, lakes, and bicycle trails. It offers a wide range of activities, but it is most famous as Paris’s red-light district
It is just the place for many activities, such as cycling, jogging, boat rowing and remote control speed boats racing. Picnics are held there, but private barbecues are not allowed. Located a little out of Paris, it is a calm area and its northern part is occupied by the Jardin d’Acclimatation, an amusement park with a menagerie and other attractions. There are also several elegant restaurants, as well as snack-stands, cafes and children’s playgrounds.
The park, built on the area previously occupied by an oak forest, used to be a royal hunting reserve and a haunt of robbers. It was commissioned as a park by Napoleon III in 1852 and landscaped the way it is today by Baron Haussmann. The park also hosted some events connected with the 1900 summer Olympic Games.
The Bois de Boulogne park is a remnant of the ancient oak forest of Rouvray, which was first mentioned in 717 in the charter of Compiègne. Some time later a number of monasteries in the woodlands were founded there until Philip Augustus bought back the main part of the forest from the monks of St Denis to create a royal hunting reserve on Crown lands. During the Hundred Years’ War, the forest became the haunt of robbers. In 1416-17 troops of the Duke of Burgundy burned part of Rouvray Forest. Under Louis XI, the estate, now called the Bois de Boulogne, was reforested and two roads were opened through it.
The site was made into a park by Napoleon III in 1852 and under the direction of the Baron Haussmann, in the following years it was informally landscaped with open lawns and woodlands of hornbeam, beech, linden, cedar, chestnut and elm trees as well as exotic species, like redwoods. There are thirty-five kilometres of footpaths, eight kilometres of cycle paths and twenty-nine kilometres of riding tracks within large lawns and patches of forest. The upper and lower lakes, connected by a waterfall, were created; the excavated earth was used to create the Butte Montmartre. Between 1855 and 1858, the Hippodrome de Longchamp was built on the plain of the same name. At the 1900 Summer Olympics, the land hosted the croquet and tug of war events. The Bois de Boulogne was officially annexed by the city of Paris in 1929 and incorporated into the 16th arrondissement. It is however not counted as part of Paris proper, since it consists of public land only, with no population except for custodians.
At night, the area becomes one of Paris’s most prominent red-light districts, although the French government has sought to eliminate prostitution in the park.
The Bois holds a three-day weekend party in July with over 50 bands and singers, attended mostly by students who camp out overnight.