There is a large and extraordinary variety of parks and gardens in the heart of Greater Paris. These havens of nature are among the capital’s must-see spots, and provide the perfect respite from the buzz of the city.
If there’s one garden no history buff should miss out on, it’s the Jardin des Tuileries (1st). Designed by Le Nôtre in the 17th century, it is the perfect example of a formal French garden, set in a strict geometric pattern with straight lines and symmetry. Imposing order on nature, the Tuileries represents the pinnacle of French landscape design, together with the Jardin du Luxembourg (6th) and the Jardins du Palais Royal (1st).
The English garden, on the other hand, creates a more relaxed feel, with irregular spaces and plants growing in their natural shape, as in the Parc Monceau (17th). This wonderfully romantic park is a place of timeless charm, with colonnades, statues and ancient ruins.
In the heart of the city, the new Parc Rives de Seine is a 10-hectare expanse on either bank of the Seine, from the Pont de l’Alma to Pont Royal on the Left Bank and from Pont Neuf to Pont de Sully via the Bassin de l’Arsenal on the Right Bank. This tree-lined promenade is dotted with sports facilities, places to relax, play areas for kids and food and drink facilities.
Some green spaces provide magnificent vistas of iconic Paris monuments, like the Parc du Champ-de-Mars and the Jardins du Trocadéro (7th), with their sweeping view of the Eiffel Tower. From the Esplanade des Invalides (7th), you can enjoy a superb view of the Grand Palais on one side and the dome of the Invalides on the other. And a stroll through the Jardins des Champs-Elysées (8th), extending from Place de la Concorde to the Champs-Elysées roundabout, reveals some delightful features: expanses of lawn, paths lined with horse chestnut trees, formal flower beds, statues, fountains, watercourses, a bandstand and games for children.
In the mood to wander off the beaten track? Head to one of the secret gardens tucked away within the heart of the city. A short distance from the Pompidou Centre, the Jardin Anne-Frank (3rd) is an enchanting spot to relax amid greenery after visiting the museum. Similarly, the Jardin Catherine-Labouré (7th) is handily located to rest your aching feet after a shopping spree at the Bon Marché. Some Paris museums also have charming gardens. The beautiful gardens at the Musée Rodin (7th) are dotted with sculptures, including some of the great sculptor’s best known works, such as The Gates of Hell and The Thinker. Unusually, the National Archives (3rd) gardens, which are open to the public, are actually a series of connected gardens belonging to adjoining private mansions.
A visit to one of the capital’s four botanical gardens offers the perfect opportunity to combine a nature walk with an educational outing. Created in the 17th century, the Jardin des Plantes (5th) was the first garden be opened to the Parisian public. This famous botanical garden is not only a green haven in the middle of the city; it also boasts twelve-odd themed gardens where you can explore the sheer wealth and diversity of plant life. The garden’s four greenhouses (Grandes Serres du Jardin des Plantes) were built in 1830. Here you can appreciate biodiversity across the world, with plants from different habitats on all the continents: tropical forests, deserts and arid landscapes, and so on. A fascinating journey!
Who says nature can only be found away from the city? There are any number of buildings decked with plant life in the very heart of Greater Paris, and they are well worth seeing. Bringing a welcome breath of fresh air into the city, these are veritable masterpieces created by some of the top landscape designers and botanists, like Frenchman Patrick Blanc. Some of the finest examples of green architecture are the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (7th), with its lush 800 m² plant wall; L’Oasis d’Aboukir, a living wall.