Designed in an English landscape manner, Bois de Vincennes occupies a vast area of almost 10 square kilometres. The park includes 4 lakes and numerous facilities and attractions, such as a zoo, a Buddhist temple, a floral museum, play areas, boat rides and a network of cycling, horse-riding and walking routes, which make it a great place to explore.
With its vast size, the park is 3 times larger than the Central Park in New York, and 4 times larger than Hyde Park in London. The park is mostly wooded, and the four lakes include islands and a system of streams. The vast network of roads includes 17.5 km of tracks and explorer trails, 19 kilometres of horse-riding paths, and 32 kilometres of car-free roads, used by joggers. That is why the site may be explored on foot, on horseback, by bike, or in a boat on the lake. At the north end of the Bois de Vincennes stands the Château de Vincennes, a splendid, massive 14th-century castle, which used to be a favourite second home for many 14th-century kings. Now in renovation, it is still open to the public.
The zoo located in the park occupies an area of 14,5 hectares and keeps about 1200 animals, including 82 species of birds and 35 species of mammals, many of which are on the endangered species list. One of the more impressive elements in the zoo is the Grand Rocher, an artificial 65-metre-high rock made of steel and concrete, home for wild mountain sheep and penguins.
The floral museum, which covers 70 acres, is famous for its horticultural presentations, shows and theme gardens.
The park was originally a hunting preserve for the kings of France, and after the French Revolution it became a military exercise area. It was turned into a public park and given to the city of Paris by Napoleon III in 1860. At the 1900 Summer Olympics, the archery competition took place there.