If you’re blessed to watch tennis in person at the French Open, you’re probably spending a lot of time near the Roland Garros stadium. It’s located in the lovely Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. This city formed by the merging of two former cities, Boulogne-sur-Seine on the north side and Billancourt to the south. I’ve spent a bit of time in Boulogne-Billancourt and fell in love with its quieter, more relaxed ways. If you’re a tennis tourist and don’t want to make the train ride to Paris, check out its local sights. It offers its own wonderful museums, gardens, and restaurants. Here are six things to do near Roland Garros in Boulogne-Billancourt.
A Great Crêpe Restaurant
Foodwise, there’s nothing more French than a crêpe and the restaurant Tant Qu’il Y Aura Des Bretons has outstanding ones. The restaurant, with its long name that loosely translates to “As Long As There Are Britons,” is a sophisticated yet warm establishment. It has a mid-size dining room and ample terrace. The wide selection of savory and sweet crêpes influenced by the tastes of Brittany will tempt you to order a variety and share. They also have gallettes, which is a buckwheat pancake with cheese, ham, fish or sweet ingredients. Top it all off with a great wine from their large selection and you have a delicious, authentic French dining experience.
Escudier Farmer’s Market
Whether the weather is sunny or rainy, you can visit the farmer’s market or Marché Escudier on Sundays. It’s on the Boulevard Jean Jaurès. Many locals shop here, picking out just the right strawberries and cheese and bread and breakfast sweets. They also have flowers and meats. But you have to arrive on the early side. The homemade pastries and such sell out early. In addition to the Escudier Market, an organic market along the Boulevard de la Reine takes place on Saturdays until three o’clock in the afternoon.
Botanical Garden of Paris
If you like plants as I do, consider visiting the Botanical Garden of Paris (Jardin Botanique de Paris). It’s in the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil gardens, a huge park with five greenhouses built in the late 18th century. The houses feature tropical plants, unusual palms, a desert garden, and an aviary with colorful parakeets. When I was there, an art installation of a plant vending machine surprised and perplexed me until I realized what it was. Sorry, I can’t remember which specific house it’s in, I think one with tropical plants. And outside, the cultivated grounds are spectacular, full of contrasting trees and shrubs and perennials. The garden is a quick walk from the Roland Garros Stadium so if you’re looking to get away from the busy crowds of the tennis tournament, check out the garden. It’s a hidden gem of Boulogne-Billancourt. I highly recommend it. Oh, and it’s free.
The Boulogne Forest or Bois de Boulogne is a three-mile preserve of natural land, which is also technically in Paris but again a short distance from Roland Garros. It’s like the city’s Central Park, where people go to relax by a lake or jog the winding paths. On the northern edge in the Jardin d’Acclimatation is a small amusement park for kids with rides, a huge playground, and horseback riding. At Lac Inférieur, one can rent a bike or a boat for the afternoon. It’s also a great place for a picnic. If you don’t want to pack food, the Bois de Boulogne has several cafes and food stands.
Louis Vuitton Museum
Though it’s named after Paris’s most famous fashion designer, this museum has little to do with fashion. Instead it’s a modern art museum run by the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Housed in a building designed by Frank Gehry, the museum structure resembles a collection of clear sails cascading over on one another. It’s been called “the iceberg” and is meant to bring in the natural beauty and light of the surrounding forest. The museum’s water feature is particularly interesting. Water flows down a series of flat wide steps into a reflecting pool at the foot of an outdoor courtyard. Inside are exhibitions of both permanent and traveling modern art. An intriguing place to visit.
Museum of the 1930s
The 1930s Museum or Musée des Années Trente houses art and crafts from the Art Deco era. It’s in the Espace Landowski. Landowski was the sculptor who designed the famous giant statue of Christ that sits atop the mountain and overlooks the bay of Rio de Janeiro, an ethnic Pole born in Boulogne. Inside the museum there are hundreds of sculptures, paintings, and thousands of drawings. Plus, there’s a great collection of ceramics and furniture.
Overall, I highly recommend Boulogne-Billancourt. If you’re near Roland Garros and not in the mood to take the train back into Paris, this sleepy suburb offers a wealth of interest and activities. It’s fun and charming and still very very French.
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