Runners begin the Paris Marathon with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. (Photo: Getty)
Avid runners with an itch to see the world often combine their two great loves by traveling around the globe to run marathons. Racers find one of the more spectacular routes at the Paris Marathon, a mostly flat course that affords spectacular views of the city’s major sights.
An added bonus of the race? Running 26.2 miles through the city’s streets gives you an excellent excuse to indulge in gooey French cheese, flaky bread and wine during your stay. If you’re lacing up your running shoes for the Paris Marathon, here are the top sights along the route.
Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe
The Paris Marathon starts on the broad, elegant expanse of the Champs Élysées. Runners commence their race against the dramatic backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, the spectacular 19th-century triumphal arch that commemorates those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Champs Élysées is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, home to major designer brands such as Chanel, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, as well as stylish cafés, restaurants, theaters and more. But there’s no time to shop today; there are still miles to go.
Place de la Concorde and the Jardin des Tuileries
Exiting the Champs Élysées, you’ll run through one of Paris’s largest and most celebrated squares, Place de la Concorde. Admire the towering Egyptian Obelisk and elaborate fountains with their statues of mythical figures as you race around the square, and keep an eye out for the statues representing different French cities set in each of the octagonal square’s eight corners.
You’ll also enjoy views of the Jardin des Tuileries as you head out of the square and turn onto Rue de Rivoli.
Rue de Rivoli, the Louvre and More
Another famously fashionable Parisian street, Rue de Rivoli houses a wide selection of stylish shops, with the added bonus of close-up views of many Paris attractions. To your right lie the elegant grounds of the Jardin des Tuileries, quickly followed by the Louvre, a former royal palace that is now a world-famous museum marked by a distinctive glass pyramid in the outdoor courtyard.
On your left you’ll pass Place du Palais Royale, centred on the former palace of Cardinal Richelieu. Further along on your right, you’ll pass the Hôtel de Ville, Paris’s impressive city hall.
Worried you’ll overlook one of these sights? Fear not! Race organizers set up handy signs to tell you where to look.
Place de la Bastille
Runners pass through the Place de la Bastille several times, so you’ll have ample opportunity to soak up the festive atmosphere in this bustling square. This spot was once home to the mighty Bastille prison, which the people of Paris famously stormed at the start of the French Revolution. Today, pleasant shops and cafés, as well as the Opéra Bastille, line the square.
Bois de Vincennes
Bois de Vincennes is the largest green space in Paris; it occupies 10 percent of the city’s surface area, and is three times larger than New York’s Central Park. Most tourists rarely experience its shady green walkways and peaceful lakes. The marathon route also skirts past the Château de Vincennes, a massive former royal residence built between the 14th and 17th centuries.
Views Along the Seine: Notre Dame, Pont Neuf and Musée d’Orsay
The next section of the marathon is a favourite for many, as the course winds along the banks of the Seine and offers spectacular views of the famous river at the heart of Paris. You’ll catch a glimpse of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris’s striking gothic façade on the Île de la Cité, and admire the expanse of the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris.
Further along on the Left Bank you’ll see the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in former train station, the museum boasts to a large collection of Impressionist masterpieces.
After racing past the Jardin des Tuileries once more, runners finally set their sights on the most famous of Parisian landmarks, the Eiffel Tower. The structure is silhouetted against the sky on the far side of the Seine. On your right, meanwhile, lie the handsome Jardins du Trocadéro, with graceful fountains casting streams of water into the air.
Roland Garros Stadium and the Bois de Boulogne
As the marathon enters its final stages, runners pass through Roland Garros Stadium, home of the French Open, a Grand Slam tennis championship. Finally, the race plunges into the cool shade of Bois de Boulogne, Paris’s second largest park.
With its peaceful gardens, lakes and woods, this is an ideal stretch for runners to gather their thoughts and strength. After emerging from Bois de Boulogne, the grand finish is just ahead on the Avenue Foch, in sight of the mighty Arc de Triomphe.