The Champ de Mars park in Paris
The Champ de Mars is a large park in Paris situated right by the Eiffel Tower between the Ecole Militaire military academy and the River Seine, and is the ideal place to have a picnic, or take your children for an afternoon out.
A bit of history on the Champ de Mars
Originally back in the 16th and 17th centuries the Champ de Mars was an open area that had market gardens where people used to grow vegetables to sell at the Paris markets, but things were to change with the building of the military academy called the Ecole Militaire.
Designed by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel and started in 1765, the Ecole Militaire that was to be the military training centre in Paris, was to have a drill ground attached to the building and originally this was planned for the area to the South, but then the plans were changed and the area to the north was chosen.
The grounds were completely levelled, a long avenue was constructed and planted with trees and the whole area was surrounded by a ditch and created in 1780, then enclosed by a fence, it was originally around 42 hectares in size.
It became known as the Champ de Mars after the Roman God of War, due to the fact that it was used as a drill ground for military cadets and there could be thousands of men training on the grounds at any one time.
But by the end of the 18th century, the area of the Champ de Mars was also a place for celebrations and the first national event was the Fete de la Federation, which was to celebrate the very first anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille.
The Champ de Mars was even used as a horse race track for a period of time, but was completely redesigned for the 1890 Universelle Exposition or World Fair, by Jean-Camille Fromige, where it was actually reduced in size. And then it was redesigned yet again for the 1889 World Fair, which was when the Eiffel Tower was constructed at this location.
About the Champ de Mars today
The Champ de Mars now stretches from the Ecole Militaire, which is the French military academy that is still in use today, right through to the River Seine and the main feature of this park is the most famous landmark in Paris is the Eiffel Tower, however, there is much more to this place than just the French icon.
The park is accessible day and night and is not closed, so it is an ideal place to have a picnic, especially on a warm summers day, or just as it is growing dark when you can see the illuminations of the Eiffel Tower and the twinkling lights that go on for a short time each hour.
You will find this a favourite place for many Parisians with its ornamental ponds and winding walks along with wide open spaces of grass that are used for ball games, playing Frisbee, etc, meeting friends or just relaxing.
This is also one of those rare places in Paris that you will get to see lots of birds, and if you listen carefully you can often hear the sounds of tawny owls at night, but the park is also an ideal place to take your children to have some fun.
There are proper childrens playgrounds with swings, sandboxes, climbing webs etc including one the opposite end to the Eiffel Tower, another area with full sized basketball courts, a table tennis table and next to the play area there is a kiosk that sells ice creams, drinks and snacks.
Behind the kiosk you will find an old fashioned carousel that is hand cranked and when the children are mounted on the horses they can play catch the rings with a baton type stick as the carousel goes round, which is what Marie Antoinette used to like playing on her carousel at the Chateau de Versailles.
And the same area again has a pedal go cart track for children, which is an approximate cost of €4, however, if it is not such a nice day, then why not treat the children to a traditional puppet show at the Marionnettes de Champ de Mars puppet theatre in Paris.
But putting the children to one side for a moment, it is often a romantic retreat especially as night falls plus there is also a modern monument within the Champ de Mars park called Le Mur Pour La Paix, which basically translates to the Wall For Peace. This was inaugurated in 2000 and designed with the word peace written in numerous different languages and alphabets and is a monument in Paris where people can go and provide their own comments of peace for the world and all who reside in it, plus look at the many other comments other people have made whilst on holiday in Paris.
Plus there is a snack place called Pizza La Bonbonniere de Marie et Laura that provides different pizzas and salads with an average cost of €9 to €12 if you do not have the means to do your own picnic or just want to stop for a quick snack.
Yet if you are lucky enough to be on holiday in Paris for Bastille Day, which is one of the National French holidays and is held on 14th July each year, then major celebrations take place at the Champ de Mars like a fabulous fireworks display.
Access to the Champ de Mars
Located in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris you can access the Champ de Mars via the Metro station called the Ecole Militaire stop, which is located by the Military School where Napoleon Bonaparte once studied and serves the Metro Line 8.
However the Champ de Mars - Tour Eiffel stop located at the opposite end of the garden by the Eiffel Tower is a train station serving the RER C Line, plus there is the Batobus water bus located on the River Seine by the Pont d'Iena and the numerous tours in Paris such as the L’OpenTour buses also stop right by the Champ de Mars.
Alternatively, another option of public transport are the Buses, and the Bus Lines 28, 42, 69, 80, 82, 87 and 92 will get you close by, plus if you are arriving in this area of Paris directly from the Orly Airport or Charles de Gaulle Airport, then you may be pleased to know that Les Cars Air France, now known as Le Bus Direct also has a stop on the Avenue de Suffren, very close to this historical garden.
And even though the Champ de Mars often gets overlooked by tourists, this is an incredible park that is worthy of a visit if you have the time and there are even guided tours available that are organised by the Direction des Parcs Jardins and you can find out more via telephone on +33 (0) 1 40 71 75 60.
Also, via the Tourist Information centre or the reception of the Hotel de Ville you can also find out what events are being held throughout the year at the Champ de Mars, just like on Bastille Day, celebrated on 14th July each year.