Paris' Jardin des Plantes: The Complete Guide

A Gorgeous Botanical Garden That's Also Educational

The Jardin des Plantes in Paris: one of the city's loveliest botanical gardens.

 Arnaud Chichurel/Hemis.fr/Getty Images

Jardin des Plantes

Address
57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
Phone
+33 1 40 79 56 01

The Jardin des Plantes is possibly the most beautiful — and interesting — botanical garden in Paris. But it's so much more than that. On its elegant, centuries-old grounds, you'll also find a zoo, natural history museum featuring awe-inspiring prehistoric bones and colorful displays, outdoor exhibits and much more.

Situated at the edge of the Latin Quarter, the Jardin des Plantes is also a gateway to a part of the city that all first-time visitors to Paris should visit at least one. It's an ideal attraction for all sorts of travelers, whether you're visiting the city solo, looking for a romantic, sunny stroll in the capital or trying to find someplace to both amuse and educate the kids. Keep reading to learn how to make the most of it.

History

The Jardin des Plantes was established around 1635 as a royal medicinal garden under the reign of King Louis XIII. Although it was accessible to the public from about 1640, it was only in 1793 that it became a state-owned institution, following the French Revolution a few years earlier.

That year, the botanical gardens, Natural History Museum, and zoo all opened under new management.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the complex greatly expanded thanks to the efforts of naturalists, botanists, paleontologists and others who created new collections and areas. The Grande Galerie de l'Evolution (Grand Evolution Gallery), Zoology and Paleontology Galleries, greenhouses holding numerous species of tropical plants, Alpine gardens and numerous other sections opened.

Curators, scientists and botanists have continued modernizing and expanding the collections at the Jardin des Plantes in the 21st century, aiming to keep it relevant and engaging to visitors. New permanent exhibits and galleries continue to open while others have re-opened after major renovations.

What to See & Do

There are so many ways to enjoy the Jardin and its adjoining attractions. Even on a rainy or cold day, you might still be able to take advantage of attractions such as the botanical greenhouses or the Natural History Museum. Here are the highlights you can expect at the gardens, whose grounds measure approximately 69 acres.

The Botanic Gardens & Greenhouses

The botanical gardens are lush, beautifully arranged spaces that are in fact divided into numerous different themes and sections. Wander through a few of the 11 thematic areas to learn about the plant species as you leisurely stroll:

  • École de botanique (Botanical school)
  • Jardin alpin (Alpine garden)
  • Perspective Squares (Geometric central beds with lovely views towards the Museum of Natural History at the far end)
  • Jardin écologique (Ecological Garden)
  • Grandes Serres (Grand Hothouses: featuring rare tropical plants)
  • Jardin de roses et de roches (Rose and Rock Garden)
  • Jardin des pivoines (Peony Garden)
  • Jardin des abeilles et des oiseaux (Bees and Birds Garden)
  • Labyrinthe (Maze: This one can be fun with kids)
  • Jardin des plantes ressources (Garden of Plants Used as Natural Resources)
  • Jardin des iris et des plantes vivaces (Iris and Hybrid Plants Garden)

In total, you can take in some 8,500 species and varieties of plants, including hybrids and seasonal blooms. The "Grand" hothouses harbor rare species from regions such as South America and Australia.

Entry to the gardens is free, with the exception of certain greenhouses and temporary exhibits. See more below for information on tickets.

The Zoo (Ménagerie)

The gardens also harbor a small zoo, formerly owned by French monarchs and now a state-run park. Known as the Ménagerie, the zoo can offer a fun activity for younger visitors. Kids can interact with and observe some 1,200 animals: species from goats and ostriches to monkeys, tree kangaroos and even leopards. The Ménagerie sees itself today primarily as a refuge for endangered species, and zoologists work carefully to ensure animal welfare and protect many of the fragile species that can be encountered at the site. Most of the animals were born in captivity, some transferred from other zoos.

The Natural History Museum

The onsite Natural History Museum (Musée d'Histoire Naturelle) is one of France's oldest, and is most famous for its enormous "Evolution" Gallery, featuring models and bones of animals from dinosaurs to wooly mammoths, giraffes and elephants.

While it's a decidedly odd display that at times feels like an old-fashioned curiosity cabinet, recent efforts to modernize the displays and galleries make this museum a must-see for anyone interested in natural history. It's also a great place to take the kids.

Galleries and displays at the museum include the following:

  • Botany
  • Marine Invertebrates
  • Terrestrial Arthropods (Insects, Spiders and Butterflies)
  • Paleontology
  • Prehistory and Anthropology (the study of early human civilizations and their tools)
  • Mineralogy and Geology
  • A new "Virtual Reality" cabinet designed for kids and on the theme of evolutionary history

Special Exhibits & Events

The garden and natural history museum regularly hold interesting temporary exhibits, many in the open-air. These are often a hit with both kids and adults, providing excellent opportunities for both learning and fun.

How to Visit the Garden

The Jardin des Plantes is easily accessible by Paris metro or bus. Alternatively, it's an easy walk from the Latin Quarter (see below). Entry to the outdoor gardens are free (excluding temporary exhibits). See this page for details on entry prices and tickets for the Natural History Museum and the Zoo/Ménagerie.

  • Address: Place Valhubert, 75005 Paris
  • Metro/RER Stop: Gare d'Austerlitz
  • Tel.: +33 (0) 1 40 79 54 79 or +33 (0) 1 40 79 56 01
  • Opening Times: The gardens are open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter. They remain open on most public holidays, but check the official website to
  • Email contact: valhuber@mnhn.fr
  • Visit the official website (in English)

The Best Time to Visit

While spring (late March through early June) is by far the most popular time to visit the gardens, we also recommend visiting during the autumn. There are fewer bright flowers and exotic species to behold, but seeing the botanical displays and greenhouses during different seasons will allow you to appreciate the cycles of natural life underway in the gardens — not to mention the tremendous work done by the horticulturists who tend them.

What to Do Nearby

As mentioned earlier, the Jardin is located at the very edge of the history-filled Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin). Before or after exploring the gardens, take a leisurely stroll through the storied streets of this legendary district.

Perhaps stop for coffee on the leafy, pedestrian-only Place de la Contrescarpe, explore the old Roman coliseum at the Arènes de Lutece, see an old movie at one of the cinemas nestled near the old Sorbonne University, or embark on a self-guided tour of literary hotspots and haunts in the area.

Ready to explore? You can read more about what to see & do in the Latin Quarter in our full guide.

The Gare de Lyon/Bercy Neighborhood

Crossing the Seine River to the right bank, you can also easily explore the lesser-known neighborhoods around the Gare de Lyon train station and the area known as "Bercy". Far fewer tourists venture into these districts, but they're missing out. Take a walk on the green, above-ground beltway known as the Promenade Plantée, explore some of the best open-air produce markets in Paris, and take a break at a cool concept café or wine bar coveted by the locals.

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Visit Paris' Jardin des Plantes, a Glorious Botanical Garden