Terra Botania in Angers, France, is the latest newcomer to France's theme parks. Opened in April 2010 with the aim of exploring and explaining the universe of plants, the concept of this innovative botanical theme park is highly ambitious. All aspects of plant life -- historical, geographical, economic, symbolic, scientific and aesthetic are here, some presented seriously, some in a decidedly wacky way. It's a major new attraction, so here is some help in planning your visit.
What there is to see:
Terra Botanica is divided into four different 'worlds.' The park covers 11 hectares, so decide early on what you want to see. (There are currently very few seats, so bear that in mind as well). It's also very new, so you are seeing a work in progress; come back in a couple of years and it will look very different.
If you do this logically, you'll start with the 'Coveted' plants section. It's to the left of the entrance as you enter, and features the plants our forefathers sought out for their medicinal properties and rarity. Skip the storyteller -- an animated, manic seadog and parrot. Instead make for attractions like the film about the 18th-century Atlantic crossing to Venezuela of naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humbolt.
Walking through this first section, you'll soon get the hang of the park and you'll find it a real mix. There are attractions that you'd expect in a theme park: rides (in a boat, or pedaling a walnut over the tops of the trees), films, games that teach children (and adults) about plants, and experiences like finding out about the leek who discovered disco music in a cube (I am not joking).
Each section has its highlight. In the 'Mysterious' plants area, don't miss the 3D film Journey to the Centre of the Plant following the journey of a raindrop through the tree in a seat that moves you around and mirrors the journey. But there are also areas that will intrigue the serious gardener: greenhouses dripping with strange green plants enveloped in steam; lovely walks over bridges showing the differences between cultivated rice fields and landscapes untouched by Man, a vegetable garden and rare plants you won't see in your back garden.
Tip: Make a plan, take good walking shoes and bottles of water and if you want to eat in the restaurant, get a table on the outdoor terrace.
Some figures and statistics:
This huge project cost €94 million. It took 10 years to conceive and design but only 2 years to build. It has 367 exceptional trees, 5,500 tropical trees and bushes, 510 rosebushes and 520 climbing plants.
Why in Anjou?
Anjou is France's leading horticultural region, so it was logical to build a theme park on the region's strengths. The whole of Anjou is full of nurseries, agricultural and horticultural businesses as well as serious research and training centers. Anjou is the leading European producer of hydrangeas and the leading French producer of medicinal plants, apples, cucumbers, dahlias and more. And the capital of the region, Angers, wins the award for best floral city year after year.
Angers itself is a delightful town, well worth a visit in its own right. It's relatively small so is easy to get around, has some wonderful urban parks and gardens, and an impressive medieval fortress, home to the powerful Counts of Anjou for centuries. Among the many attractions of Angers, the most powerful and very little known treasure is the spectacular, and frightening Tapestry of the Apocalypse.
Address: Route de Cantenay, Epinard
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 41 25 00 00
Website (in English)
- Adult €17.50
- Child (4-12 years) €10
- Family (up to 5 people) €50
- Annual Pass (Individual) €45
May-end of August daily
April, September: Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
Times: 9am-6pm or 10am-7pm depending on time of year (check the website)
Read about France's other great theme parks