Paris is a street-level city that doesn’t call for grand views over, say, 250 feet. Still, seeing a city from up high is always a treat, especially with there’s little wait—and no steps to climb.
The tethered helium balloon in Parc André Citroën on the southwestern edge of Paris offers a queueless, stepless view of the expanse of the city and of its southern and western suburbs.
You might see the balloon in the sky as you pass the strange, stone stair-boxes at the eastern entrance to the park.
The RER suburban train line C passes this way along the Seine. You’ll see it going by as you rise in the balloon.
The park is in the former village of Javel (hence the name of the nearby metro and RER stations). In the late 18th century a French scientist set up a factory in Javel to manufacture a chlorinated bleaching powder. Because of that, bleach in French is called Javel or eau de Javel. The park, however, honors the 20th-centry industrialist André Citroën (1878-1935).
As the balloon rises and you look up the river you begin to see the top of the Eiffel Tower.
In 1915 the engineer André Citroën set up a factory initially producing shells to supply the army during WWI. After the war he converted the factory to the construction of automobiles. The automobile production facility moved out in the early 1970s and the company headquarters moved out in 1982.
The park now occupies 35-acre site of that site. It’s is a playful city park with fountains and greenhouses, intimate corners and an open lawn, and diverse vegetation.
Thirty adults or more children can go up at once for to 10 minutes of air time, which is sufficient to take in the wide view, including the towers of the suburban business district of La Défense.
With binoculars or a camera you can zoom in for a closer look of the towers rising beyond the woods of the Bois de Boulogne that form western lung of the City of Paris.
The world’s first manned balloon flight blew over Paris in 1783.
The current balloon was installed in Parc André Citroën in 1999. Aérophile, the Paris-based French company that installed this balloon, has also placed tethered balloons in cities and theme parks around the world, including in the United States Disney World (FL), Wild Animal Park (CA), and Conner Prairie (IN).
No, the basket didn’t sway…
I just took angled shots.
It’s actually a smooth ride, just hold onto the railing at take-off and landing.
At 150 meters (492 feet), the full extent of the balloon’s tether, you’ll have view of the full expanse of the low, dense city of Paris framed between the Eiffel Tower on the left and the Montparnasse Tower on the right.
Getting there: Metro 10 or RER C to the Javel station. Or perhaps stop by when returning to the city from Versailles, in which case you can get off at RER C station Boulevard Victor.
For more information: Ballon Air de Paris
Ballooning times: 9 a.m. to 4:30/6:30pm, depending on the season. It’s grounded during adverse weather conditions; if in doubt call ahead at 01 44 26 2o 00 or see the Ballon Air de Paris website.
Price: Adults 10 or 12€, 12-17 years old 9 or 10 €, 3-11 years old 5 or 6€, infants free. Higher price is for weekends and holidays. Little to no wait on most days.
- photo and text, GLK 2011.