In Pictures and Profiles: Ten Most Elegant Parisian Gardens

  • 01 of 10

    Jardin du Luxembourg: Italian Regal Roots

    The Jardin du Luxembourg is a favorite Paris spot for sunning and strolling.
    ••• The Jardin du Luxembourg is a favorite Paris spot for sunning and strolling. ©2006 Courtney Traub. Licensed to About.com

    Though they seem timeless today, public parks are in fact a fairly recent phenomenon in Paris: while the city harbored some squares and jardins royaux (royal gardens) that the general public were allowed to visit, truly public green spaces only appeared in the post-revolutionary era, in the modernizing nineteenth-century. Today, Parisians cherish these green spaces, which often still feel few and far between in a city where trees can be sparse in certain neighborhoods. Tip: try to visit these beautiful gardens in the early morning and late afternoon, before crowds throng on them and take up every available bench or inch of grass.

    Read related feature: Top 10 Paris Parks and Gardens

    Pictured on this page: The Jardin du Luxembourg is Paris' favorite place to sun, stroll, picnic, and play. The gardens and their striking palace were occupied by the Italian monarch Marie de Medicis during the Renaissance, and the elegant formal gardens still bloom each year in majestic fashion. This is a...MORE wonderful place for a romantic stroll, and the kids will have plenty to see and do here, too. Even in the winter, these gardens are sure to inspire.

    Location: Place Edmond Rostand, 6th arrondissement
    Metro: Odeon or Cluny La Sorbonne (Lines 4, 10)
    RER: Luxembourg (Line B)
    Bus: Lines 27, 38, 82, 83, 85, 89

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • The Luxembourg Palace and fountain at the heart of the park is a preferred spot for people-watching, sunning, and admiring the blooms. You can't sit on the grass here, but plenty of green metal chairs are available for reading and relaxing. The fountain provides lyrical perspectives of the Palace and surrounding gardens, and children often sail toy boats here. Statues of the royal women of France and Greek mythology surround the central pavilion, so you can take close to an hour admiring their noble figures. The Palace, which was a royal residence and now houses members of the French Senate, can unfortunately only be admired from the outside.
       
    • The Medicis Fountain at the northeast end of the gardens is a stunning Italian-style fountain whose sculpture and greenery leave a lyrical impression.
       
    • The Orangerie at the northwest end of the park houses temporary exhibits. In addition, this end of the park is usually quieter and can be a wonderful spot for relaxing or observing the park's many gorgeous botanical arrangements.
       
    • Kids will enjoy the puppet theater and playground at the park's southwest end. Pony rides may be available depending on the season.
       
    • Tennis courts are located in the garden's central-west sector.
    • Paris' oldest public museum, The Musee du Luxembourg, is nestled in a corner of the gardens and has hosted major retrospectives and exhibits on artists such as Modigliani, Matisse and Vlaminck.
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  • 02 of 10

    Jardin des Tuileries: For Gorgeous Walks Near the Louvre

    The Jardin des Tuileries was once the backyard of the royalty.
    ••• The Jardin des Tuileries was once the backyard of the royalty. ©2006 Tomoyoshi. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    The Jardin des Tuileries is a formal Paris garden that is stamped with history-- often of the bloody variety. The since-destroyed royal palace that once stood here was stormed and pillaged during the revolution of 1789 and was later occupied by the last kings of France. In 1871, another revolution led to the arson of the Tuileries. Today, the remaining gardens are a major source of fresh air and greenery, and kids adore the carnival set up here each summer.

    Much like the Luxembourg gardens, the Tuileries is an Italian-style garden marked by the influence of the Medicis family. The gardens are filled with dramatic statuary and perfectly symmetrical shrubbery, reflecting the Renaissance preoccupation with bringing rational design to nature.

    The gardens stretch west toward Concorde and the Champs-Elysées and are the starting point of the "Triumphant Line": a nearly straight path leading from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe and the Grande Arche de la Defense west of Paris. Pomp...MORE abounds here, making for great perspectives.

    Location: Just west of the Louvre museum, 1st arrondissement. You can also get there from the Musee d'Orsay's "Solferino" footpath over the Seine river.
    Metro: Tuileries (Line 1)
    Bus: Lines 42, 68, 72, 73, 84, 94

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • Statuary by Rodin and Maillol can be admired amid elegant flowers and shrubbery just west of the Louvre, near the park entrance and around the "Grand Carré" fountain.
       
    • Enjoy stunning views of the Seine from the Terrasse du Bord de L'Eau at the south end of the gardens.
       
    • Dramatic statues are flanked by stairways and greenery near the octogonal basin at the park's central-west end.
       
    • The Musee de l'Orangerie and the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume hold major exhibits through the year.
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  • 03 of 10

    Buttes-Chaumont: A Romantic-Style Haven in North Paris

    The Buttes-Chaumont Park's dramatic landscapes are to romantic effect even in the winter.
    ••• The Buttes-Chaumont Park's dramatic landscapes are to romantic effect even in the winter. ©2005 Tiseb. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Conceived by the architect Haussmann in the late 19th century, the Buttes-Chaumont is a sweeping romantic-style park whose dramatic (albeit primarily man-made) bluffs, waterfalls, and rolling green hills provide a welcome sense of space and fresh air to overcrowded Parisians. The Buttes-Chaumont is not on the usual tourist circuit and is a great place to explore if you want to see where the locals go to get away from the grind.

    Location: Main entrance at Rue Botzaris, 19th arrondissement
    Metro: Buttes-Chaumont or Botzaris (Line 7 bis)

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • The "Petit Temple" (Little Temple) at the center of the park is a dome surrounded with white columns from which one can procure great views of Montmartre. Two bridges have you stroll across the man-made lake to lead to the temple.
       
    • Artificial grottos and an imposing waterfall give...MORE the Buttes-Chaumont a slightly-campy amusement-park feel.
       
    • A puppet theater at the park's south end will keep the kids entertained (generally open in spring and summer only).
       
    • Picnics, naps, Frisbee or badminton matches are all ideal on the park's many hilly green spaces. Unlike many of Paris' parks, where sitting on the grass is forbidden, you can really sprawl out at this romantic-style park.
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  • 04 of 10

    Parc Montsouris in South Paris

    The Montsouris Park in south Paris has thousands of stunning, well-aged trees.
    ••• The Montsouris Park in south Paris has thousands of stunning, well-aged trees. ©2007 Courtney Traub. Licensed to About.com

    The Parc Montsouris is a haven of color and peace in the already-green, primarily residential south Paris. Not far from Montparnasse, the romantic-style Monstouris Park can offer a welcome break after a busy day of sightseeing. Kids will love this park for its playgrounds, pony rides, ice cream, or puppet theater.

    Read related: Visiting Paris With Kids - What to Do (and Avoid)

    Designed in the 19th century under the direction of the Baron Haussmann, the park has inspired an impressive share of writers, poets, and artists. Too bad the designer, who committed suicide in the park's lake on inauguration day, did not foresee his creation's eventual success.

    Location: Main entrances at Avenue Reille and Boulevard Jourdain, 14th arrondissement
    RER: Cité Universitaire (Line B)
    Bus: Line 21, 67, 88
    Tramway: T3 (Parc Montsouris stop)

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • In the spirit of an...MORE English romantic-style garden, the park is filled with ambling wooden footpaths, small waterfalls and brooks, and hidden nooks where shaded flowers and trees render a sense of enchantment and repose.
       
    • The park's enormous man-made lake is a home to ducks, geese, swans, and other birds-- but you are asked not to feed them.
       
    • Kids can enjoy the park's many playgrounds, puppet theater, and a train ride through the park.
       
    • The park's onsite restaurant is pricey, but affords pleasant dining on the patio in the spring and summer months.
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  • 05 of 10

    Jardin des Plantes: A Great Educational Experience for Kids and Adults

    ••• ©2007 Mr. Gourmand. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    The Jardin des Plantes is an ideal spot for those who want to both admire natural surroundings and understand the science behind them. The site of Paris' National Museum of Natural History, the expansive gardens here display countless varieties of plants, including tropical plants. An edifying experience that's sure to capture your senses. Admission to the gardens is free, but there is an admission fee for the museum.

    Location: Place Valhubert, 5th arrondissement
    Metro: Gare d'Austerlitz (Line 5, 10)
    RER: Gare d'Austerlitz (Line C)
    Bus: Line 24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 91
     

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • A labyrinth makes exploring the gardens especially stimulating. At the center of the labyrinth, a gazebo affords noteworthy views of the surrounding gardens.
    • The gardens are divided into several themed sections, including:
      • Tropical garden
      • Alpine garden
      • Rose garden
      • Botanical garden-- featuring thousands of varieties of medicinal plants
      • Irises...MORE and climbing plants

    Read related: Visiting Paris With Kids - What to Do (and Avoid)

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  • 06 of 10

    The Bois de Vincennes -- "Paris' Lungs"

    ••• Boating on the Bois de Vincennes' man-made Daumesnil lake provides a quaint country experience just outside the city. ©2006 Celesteh. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Just on Paris' eastern outskirts is an immense stretch of green called the Bois de Vincennes, also referred to, along with the Bois de Boulogne to the east, as "Paris' Lungs".

    The site of a 14th-century fortified chateau, the Chateau de Vincennes, the Bois offers seemingly endless space to stroll, picnic, boat, and unwind. Even though the wood is located at the city's borders, a day at the Bois de Vincennes is enough of a getaway to count as a day trip from Paris.

    Location: Main entrance at Avenue de Paris, Vincennes (just east of Paris' 12th arrondissement)
    Metro: Chateau de Vincennes, Porte Doree, Porte de Charenton (Line 1, 8, 12)
    Bus: Line 46, 56

    Highlights:

    • The man-made Daumesnil lake at the wood's west end features two islands (including one with a cafe atop it) and is a fantastic place to take out a boat and picnic. An artificial grotto adds to the romantic, if caricatural, effect.
       
    • Also on the west side, the Bois de Vincennes Buddhist Center (open...MORE spring-summer only) features an imposing Buddha statue and an impressive colonial-era wood pavilion.
       
    • At the sprawling park's east end, the Parc Floral features hundreds of varieties of flowers and botanical plants, including camellias, rhododendrons, dahlias and irises. Contemporary statues contribute to the park's contemporary appeal. In the spring and summer, jazz concerts and plays are performed on the park's central stage. A small entry fee is charged at the Parc Floral. For more information, see this page.
       
    • Also in the east, the Lac des Minimes is another poetic lake which once housed a convent. Today, a bridge leads to an island on the lake, where a restaurant provides scenic dining.
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  • 07 of 10

    The Promenade Plantée: Care for a Romantic Stroll on a Defunct Railway?

    The Promenade Plantee near Bastille features gorgeous blooms in spring and summer months.
    ••• The Promenade Plantee near Bastille features gorgeous blooms in spring and summer months. ©2006 Gadl. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    The Promenade Plantée (literally, "Planted stroll") is one of Paris' most zealously guarded place to stroll, muse, and enjoy the blooms. Its contemporary appeal is unbeatable: the long, narrow stretch of trees and planted flowers is built above-ground on what once was a railway track. A few lucky Parisians have direct views of the garden from their apartments, which themselves become part of the view for curious strollers.

    The promenade, also referred to by locals as "La Coulée Verte", stretches from Bastille through the area around Gare de Lyon and Bercy, all the way to the west entrance of the Bois de Vincennes.

    In the spring, cherry blossoms, chestnut trees, long "halls" of bamboo, and vibrant perennials make for an unforgettable stroll. Come here to unwind and see a side of Paris few tourists ever venture to explore.

    Location: Main entrance at Avenue Daumesnil, above the "Viaduc des Arts". Take the stairway up to access the garden.
    Metro: Bastille...MORE (Line 1, 5, )

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

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  • 08 of 10

    Parc De La Villette: Fresh Air, Fun, and Discovery

    The Parc de la Villette's design is a contemporary fusion of the organic and the industrial.
    ••• The Parc de la Villette's contemporary fusion of the organic and the industrial makes it a fitting Paris hotspot for concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. ©2007 Colbwt. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Nestled in the far north of Paris is an under-appreciated park that is at the center of the Cité des Sciences et de L'Industrie, an ultramodern complex that itself encompasses a cultural center, a concert hall, a museum, the beautiful new Philharmonie de Paris (Paris Philharmonic) designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, The Parc de la Villette is a great place for kids and adults to explore and offers equal parts fun, beauty, and opportunities for learning. The Parc de la Villette's multi-themed gardens, open "prairies", and cultural center, and open-air cinema area are guaranteed to provide you with a memorable day in one of the city's less-explored areas.

    Location: Main entrance at the Cité de Sciences et de L'Industrie, 30 rue Corentin-Cariou, 19th arrondissement.
    Metro: Porte de la Villette or Porte de Pantin (Line 7, 5,)

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • The Grand Hall is a former livestock hall which was redesigned by architects Bernard Reichen and Philippe Robert and re-imagined as a cultural center and performance hall. This multiform center is a hotspot for shows and cultural "happenings" of all kinds.
       
    • The "Prairies" are vast open spaces which are ideal for games or picnics. Views of the nearby Canal de l'Ourq add to the charm. The Prairie du Triangle near the park's center hosts regular free open-air movie screenings during the summer..
       
    • The Parc de la Villette have 10 thematic and original gardens that will easily amuse both adults and kids, including:
      • Bamboo garden
      • Dragon garden
      • Fog garden
      • Mirror garden
      • Wind garden
      • Dunes garden
    • The Zenith concert hall at the Parc de la Villette's mid-east end is one of Paris' most important music venues.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    The Bois de Boulogne: Old-World-Romance West of Paris

    The Bois de Boulogne west of Paris houses many varieties of trees, including the weeping willow.
    ••• The Bois de Boulogne west of Paris houses many varieties of trees, including the weeping willow. ©2006 Bdesveaux. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Like its counterpart east of Paris (the Bois de Vincennes), the Bois de Boulogne just west of the city is a place where Parisians go to breathe and enjoy spacious green surroundings. A historic spot which French nobility once used as hunting grounds and that inspired great painters like Van Gogh or Monet, the park is a lyrical expanse of greenery and calm where picnics, bike rides, boating, and even fishing can make you feel like you're far away from the urban blight.

    One word of warning: prostitution rings thrive around the Bois de Boulogne after dark. Avoid the area at these times.

    Location: Main entrances near Porte Maillot, Avenue Foch, and Porte d'Auteil in west Paris.
    Metro: Porte Maillot, Les Sablons, Porte Dauphine, Porte d'Auteil (Line 1, 2, 10)
    RER: Porte Maillot (Line C)

    Nearby Sights and Attractions:

    Highlights:

    • Two lakes stretch along the east end of the park near Porte Dauphine, offering romantic views of waterfalls, majestic trees, and islands. Boats can be rented around both lakes.
       
    • At the center of the park, near the racing club, is the Pre-Catalan, a historic garden that features an open-air Shakespeare theater (shows in French and occasionally in English) and a legendary purple beech tree.
       
    • The Jardin D'Acclimation at the north end of the park will keep the kids busy and content and features a zoo, boat rides, miniature golf, and more.

    LAST: Parc Andre Citroen, a little-known gem

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  • 10 of 10

    Parc Andre Citroen - A Little-Known Green Gem

    The Parc Andre Citroen is a contemporary Paris park worth exploring.
    ••• The Parc Andre Citroen is a contemporary Paris park worth exploring. © 2006 Brian Purie. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

    Named after one of France's main automobile manufacturers, the Parc Andre Citroen is a contemporary gem of a park located in southwest Paris, in the area known as Javel. Its thematic gardens, unique architecture, and fusion of organic and industrial elements makes a visit here worthwhile and memorable.

    Location: Near the Quai Andre Citroen on the Seine, 15th arrondissement
    Metro: Javel Andre Citroen or Balard (Line 10, 6)
    RER: Javel (Line C)

    Highlights:

    • The park's greenhouse (Orangerie) features summer exhibits revolving around plants.
       
    • Fountains and water lilies around the park provide a note of lightness and grace amid the park's primarily glass and metal architecture.
       
    • The park's numerous thematic gardens were conceived around color motifs and include a white garden, a "black" botanical garden, and gardens complemented by metals of different colors. Fountains and ramps help create striking perspectives.

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    For more fresh air and escape...MORE from the urban grind, check our guide to the best day trips from Paris. These include excursions to the gorgeous gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny, with its winsome willows and haunting water lilies, and to the unforgettable gardens at Versailles. Looking for something really different? Get off the beaten tourist track, and try a tour of Paris's waterways and "other" rivers, including the bucolic banks of the Marne.