Secret Vincennes

The very best!

comble sainte chapelle vincennes

Prestigious institutions, excellence hubs, sacred sites, historic places… Several times a year, the Vincennes open days take you behind the scenes of some exceptional places which are usually closed to the public. 

Did you know?

The Bois de Vincennes is home to the biggest Buddha in Europe! This gilt-covered giant is 9 metres tall. Want to see for yourself? Head for La Pagode, where the headquarters of the Institut International Bouddhique welcomes the general public for events like the Fête du Bouddhisme (in May), the Festival du Tibet (September) and various ceremonies held throughout the year. 

The Hôpital d’Instruction des Armées Begin, a real “town within the town”, was built during the Crimean war at the end of the 19th century. A number of guided tours are organised every year. 

Behind the military scenes

On your high horse when it comes to tour quality? You’ll love the twice-monthly immersive tours organised in the barracks of the French Army’s last surviving cavalry regiment: the famous Garde Républicaine! After crossing an indoor school and some stables, you’ll enter the coal forge where the blacksmiths are the last to keep the tradition alive. Another must-do for fans of military history: the exceptional exhibitions at the Library of the Service Historique de la Défense, a chance to see some rare works and valuable manuscripts. 

garde republicaine vincennes

When History beckons…

Rarely open to the public, the Sainte-Chapelle and Hôtel de Ville attic tours have a few surprises in store! A quick expedition below the King’s Tower in search of the “brave men’s tomb” should also send a few shivers down your spine. And you’ll be moved when you enter the Mazarin rooms where the beautiful painted decorations were spared by the terrible fire of 24th August 1944. For yet another surprise, try the commented tour of the 17th-century building of the Hôpitaux de Saint-Maurice, which used to be the Esquirol psychiatric hospital, also known as the Charenton asylum.

piscine insep vincennes

Behind the scenes of a maker of champions

24 Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, 800 high-level athletes, a 28-hectare campus… All in the heart of the Bois de Vincennes where the INSEP (Institut National du Sport de l’Expertise et de la Performance) is truly one of a kind. Expect anecdotes galore during the visit and don’t be surprised to come across the likes of Dimitri Bascou or Teddy Riner on your way round!

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