Fodor's Expert Review Bois de Vincennes
Like the Bois de Boulogne to the west, this much-loved retreat on the city's eastern border was landscaped by Napoléon III. Its roots, however, reach back to the 13th century, when Philippe Auguste created a hunting preserve in the shadow of the royal Château de Vincennes, which once ranked as the largest château in Europe. In 1731 Louis XV created a public park here, and the bois (or wood) now features lush lawns, a flower garden, and summertime jazz concerts. Rowboats are for hire at a pair of lakes: Lac Daumesnil, which has two islands, and Lac des Minimes, which has three. For the kids, there are pony rides, a miniature train, and numerous play areas. Here, too, you'll find the stunning Palais de la Porte Dorée (home to an immigration museum and a tropical aquarium), the Parc Zoologique, the Hippodrome de Vincennes racetrack, two cafés, and, in spring, an amusement park. Bikes can be rented at the Château de Vincennes métro stop.