Paris' April Showers Bring May, June, July, August and September Flowers
By Paige Donner
Paris Local Expert
The meticulous plantings that are evidenced in Paris' gardens and parks throughout the city pay tribute to the thought and care that has been given to the urban landscape as a place for enjoyment as well as dwelling. Under Napoleon III, several principal parks and gardens were created under his mandate, four of which you will find on this list: the Bois de Boulogne, the Bois de Vincennes, Parc Montsouris and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. One of the beauties of Paris is that it has not just one central park, which The Tuileries could qualify as, but rather a central park in every area of the city. It is one of the most garden-filled capital cities in the world. Some have man-made lakes, another has a famous grotto and all of them are planted with a bounty of trees and flowers and even small, urban forests.
When spending time in a new city, it's nice to get to a feel for not just the man-made aspects of the city, but the local flora and fauna as well. In addition to beautifully displaying the native plants and flowers, many gardens are also important historical sites of the city, for example the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is located in the 6ème Arrondissement of Paris.
10 Palais-Royal Gardens
The gardens at the Palais Royal offer a quiet, peaceful escape from the city's bustle. This was once the home to the young King Louis XIVth and where, it is said, he learned to ride. Intriguing sculptures pepper the grounds, adding a measure of manmade beauty to the natural vistas. Surrounding the beautiful gardens is an arcade of specialty shops and art galleries. After you've strolled through the gardens, browse the shops at your leisure. Or indulge in a wonderful lunch at Paris' oldest restaurant, Le Grand Véfour, or perhaps just a snack and a café at any of the handful of more casual eateries that are to be found in this sheltered oasis. METRO: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre
9 Bois de Vincennes
The Bois de Vincennes, Paris' largest park, was originally fenced off as royal hunting grounds. Today, scattered among its trees and lawns are peaceful lakes, bird reserves, a farm and even a castle completed in 1370 under the reign of Charles V. In past years, the castle has served as city fortress, barracks and prison. The Parc Floral botanical garden is a delight throughout the year, thanks to its hundreds of species of rainbow-hued flowers, and a place of entertainment with its children's playground and outdoor classical and jazz concerts in summer, many of which are free. METRO: Porte Dorée or Château de Vincennes
8 Musée National Rodin
This museum, set in the H�tel Biron, is a tribute to one of the world's finest sculptors. Thanks to Rodin's own donations, the facility offers a wealth of objects, including terra cotta, bronze and marble creations. Plaster and wax studies are available as well, along with his sketches, drawings, engravings, and his own collected art. Among the items on display are "The Kiss" and the sculpture that brought Rodin much fame, The Thinker. The H�tel Biron is just finishing its renovations (2012-2015) but the way the works are being undertaken permits the museum to continue to welcome visitors in its galleries during the entire period of work. The gardens are an idyllic draw unto themselves. They were also the setting for the scene where former First Lady of France Carla Bruni played her role for Woody Allen's film, Midnight in Paris. A caf� in the gardens offers tasty refreshments. (01 44 18 61 10)
7 UNESCO Japanese Gardens
These gardens are located at UNESCO, the United Nations' educational, cultural, and scientific headquarters. They follow Asian landscape design beautifully, featuring carefully placed stones and water features, along with bamboo plants and ornamental and flowering trees. These gardens are historically important as they are the first Japanese gardens to be created by a sculptor rather than a gardener. A special claim to fame is that the gardens boast an angel's head sculpture that survived the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. An additional draw is a Japanese fountain designed by Noguchi. To visit the garden, visitors must contact UNESCO for reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org (requests must be made at least three months in advance). METRO: Ségur/Ecole Militaire (1 45 68 03 59)
6 Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des Plantes was established in the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIII and was originally called the Jardin du Roi (King's Garden). It wasn't until 1640 that it was opened to the public. What began as a medicinal herb garden now includes different species of plants from all over the world. Travelers even visited countries around the globe and brought back seeds to enhance the Paris collection. Among the specimens are an American sequoia and a laricio pine from Corsica. The garden also contains Paris's oldest tree, an acacia brought back from America in the early 1600s. Also on the site are the Ménagerie zoo and the natural history museum. METRO: Place Monge or Gare d'Austerlitz
5 Parc Montsouris
Parc Montsouris was a vision created by Napoleon III, who first dispatched his primary urban blanner, none other than Baron Haussmann, to conceptualize this vast English garden covering 15 hectares (37 acres) and 1.5 km (1 mile) circumference. Its Gingko Biloba tree, planted in 1935, is much appreciated by the Asian community of this 14th arrondissement. The park is home to approximately 1400 trees in total, many of them over 100 years old, and it also offers grassy lawns to sit on while you listen to the plenitude of resident birds chirping. The park is favored by the many students from the nearby Cit� Universitaire, in addition to the habitants of this residential neighborhood just south of Montparnasse.
4 Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
This park, established in the mid-19th century, boasts a manmade lake, complete with its own island. A classical temple, the Temple de la Sybille, sits within the park, offering great views of the surrounding area. A suspension bridge and a grotto also add charm to the lovely greenspace. There are 173 steps that lead you from the top of the Ile de la Belvédère down through the grotton to the edge of the lake. Aside from sightseeing, park activities include picnics, scenic walks, donkey rides, and puppet shows. It is also the site of one of Paris' most popular guinguettes, an old-fashioned beer and dance hall that were fashionable at the turn of the century. METRO: Buttes-Chaumont/Botzaris (n/a)
3 Jardin des Tuileries
Stretching between the Louvre and place de la Concorde, this garden originally dates to 1564, when Catherine de Medici had it constructed as a reminder of her home in Italy. Historically, it marked one of the first times that Paris displayed beauty and elegance outdoors rather than only inside. It took its present layout by André Le Nôtre during the reign of Louis XIV. Boasting gravel paths, avenues of lovely trees and numerous sculptures, both historic and modern, the garden is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon, or to come for lunch when visiting the Louvre as there are several outdoor cafés and restaurants. In summer there is a big funfair. METRO: Tuileries, Concorde
2 Jardin du Luxembourg
One of Paris's most famous parks, Luxembourg was originally established in the 1600s surrounding the Palais du Luxembourg (now the French Senate). Not until the 19th century, however, were its grounds opened to the public. The park is known for its elaborate Médici fountain, ornamental statues and for its manicured design. While many folks come simply to enjoy its beauty, the park also invites folks to play a game of tennis or chess or sail a model boat across the water. Kids love Luxembourg's puppet shows, playground and pony rides and everyone enjoys just sitting back and relaxing. METRO: Odéon or RER Luxembourg
1 Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne offers more than 2100 acres of beautiful terrain, including woods, lakes, waterfalls and gardens. It also houses France's oldest amusement park and now, too, the brand new Fondation Louis Vuitton, built by architect Frank Gehry. Originally fenced in as royal hunting grounds, the park was opened to the public in the early 19th century by Napoleon III, who had the wall built by Henri II torn down. This act marked the park's beginning. Today, multiple footpaths invite folks to explore the lovely grounds. It's best, however, to restrict visits to daytime hours, because some areas can be sketchy after dark. METRO: Sablons, Porte Maillot
About Paige Donner
Paige is a transplanted Parisian. She first arrived as a young bride in the early 90s to live in Paris, having uprooted herself from her native California. Since then it has been an on-again, off-again love affair with the City of Lights, one that has grown fonder over time. Paige hosts Paris GOODfood+wine and World of Wine for World Radio Paris. When not in Paris Paige often travels visiting French vineyards. She's also producer of Paris Food And Wine. As a journalist, Paige also writes for the NY Times,LA Times, Michelin Guide, Fodor's, Blackbook, Variety
Read more about Paige Donner here.