Le périph

It’s the busiest road in France. Its 35 kilometres have been taking people in and around Paris since 1973. Le périph, as the the Paris ring road is known, is not the most famous monument in the French capital but it is certainly the most visited. And while it is hardly a beautiful sight, it is a view that many French drivers spend hours looking at each day.

Inauguration in 1973

As I mentioned in my last post, the French are experts in how to ‘contourner‘ or go around things. In this case, it is the city itself.

Many large French cities have boulevards périphériques – Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille — but the Paris ring road is the biggest and best known. It was built alongside the old fortifications around the city, there since the 1840s to protect the capital from outside invaders — or the rioting French people.

It seems the recent wave of ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) are only the latest in a long tradition.

A map of the Paris périph with its many exits and the Seine river in the middle

The speed limit on the densely packed périph is limited to 70 km. There are many on- and off-ramps but no safety shoulders, which can make driving on it a hair-raising experience. I once had to do a stretch on the périph to pass my French driver’s test.

I remember thinking that some poor tourists might turn in endless circles around Paris before getting up the nerve to squeeze through its multiple lanes of traffic to exit.

Here’s more info and details on the inner and outer ring roads from Wikipedia.

Do you have a memory of driving on a ring road or ‘périph’?



  1. awtytravels · April 9, 2019

    Yes! Yes! from the A6B to the exit of the A3. I never knew the speed limit was 70, everyone was doing a lot more… As for hair-raisingness, it was intimidating at first but you get used to it after a little while. Apart from the white vans. Marauding white vans were THE menace.

    • MELewis · April 9, 2019

      Speed limits in France are usually theoretical. The real questions are 1) how fast can I go and get away with it? and 2) how fast can I possibly go with so many cars jammed at a standstill (see Francetaste’s comment below!). 😆

  2. francetaste · April 9, 2019

    I’m thinking, if ONLY one could get up to 70! Often the périph’ resembles a parking lot. To me the biggest menaces are the motorcycles, which weave between cars and lanes and sometimes pop up out of nowhere. They make it nearly impossible to change lanes.

    • MELewis · April 9, 2019

      Interesting point. Do you have a périph in Carcassonne? From my wimpy driver point of view, I learned to drive with confidence ONLY because there was so much traffic things were moving slowly enough for me to change lanes! Motos are definitely the biggest danger going, to themselves and everyone else. 😭

      • francetaste · April 9, 2019

        Ha! We have a rocade, which only recently was completed all the way around on the east. It gets plenty backed up during rush hour (as in we have to wait maybe 10 minutes to get through a rond-point), but the rest of the time is smooth sailing. Toulouse is much worse, but nothing like Paris.

  3. Becky Ross Michael · April 9, 2019

    I could never drive there!

  4. Heide · April 9, 2019

    If I had to drive on the périph to obtain a license, I’d resign myself to just walking everywhere. It is INSANE, especially with the motorcycles zooming between the (mostly stopped) cars. And this, from someone who grew up in the legendary traffic of Mexico City! On the plus side, there is some wonderful graffiti inside the tunnels and along the retaining walls. 🙂

    • MELewis · April 10, 2019

      Lol, and so much history if you think about it. The stories those walls could tell: lives lost, and probably more than one delivered while waiting in those traffic jams! I think I read about a tour of the périph somewhere but couldn’t find it. Will have to do some more digging…

      • Heide · April 11, 2019

        You’re so right — I hadn’t considered the human drama those walls have witnessed! Thank you for adding a more poetic element to the next embouteillage. 🙂 And if you ever want a comprehensive tour of the périph, grab a taxi at Charles de Gaulle airport and tell the driver your destination in English. He’ll drive you clear around the city (and then try to charge you per km instead of the set fee). Happened to me only once, but it was a good lesson in not letting too many “portes” fly by before entering the city proper.

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