Parks and gardens in Paris

Posted on September 8, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Jardin des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries 

 

When overseas friends visit London for the first time and they asked me for recommendations, I would always say, "museums and parks". Not only they are free ( which reaffirms the statement, 'the best things in life are free'), but it is hard to find the same offering elsewhere. Although Paris also offers top-notch museums and wonderful parks/gardens, most museums are not free and it is forbidden to sit on the grass in many 'upscale' parks and gardens. You will have to find a bench or chair and 'admire' the surrounding rather than be in it, just like you do in the museums.

Whenever I travel to Paris, I would spend days visiting art/design/photography exhibitions, but I would also spend time lingering in their beautiful parks and gardens during spring and summer time. Aside from relaxation and contemplation, it is also fascinating to watch and observe people in parks and gardens. I find that people often reveal their true nature when they are in a relaxed state with their guards down. If you want to understand the people and culture of a city, spend a few hours observing them in a park, you will mostly likely learn more about them than from reading books.

Like London, there are many parks, gardens and squares in Paris; this is by no means a comprehensive guide, it is just a list of places that I have visited within inner Paris.

 

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Jardin des Tuileries in summer and winter

 

Jardin des Tuileries ( 113 rue de Rivoli 75001) - Perhaps this historical garden is one of most touristy in Paris but it is also one of the most beautiful. Originally part of Catherine de Médicis' Palais de Tuileries, the garden was redesigned between 1660 and 1664 in French formal style by André Le Nôtre, the celebrated gardener of King Louis XIV, best known for his gardens at the Versailles Palace. The park was one of the first public parks in Paris and in 1999, many modern sculptures were added to the garden. The gardens has two ponds, fountains and two galleries, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume (a wonderful contemporary imagery/photography gallery) and the Musée de l'Orangerie ( where you will find Monet's water lilies).

 

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Jardin du Palais Royal and Les Deux Plateaux art installation

 

Jardin du Palais Royal (8 Rue de Montpensier, 75001) - Not far from Jardin des Tuileries is another historical garden and elegant originally constructed in 1633 by Cardinal Richelieu but now mostly dating back to the late 18th century. In the inner courtyard of the palais, you will find 'Les Deux Plateaux' ( also known as Colonnes de Buren), a controversial art installation composed of 260 black-and-white striped columns by French conceptual artist, Daniel Buren installed in 1986.

The actual garden is slightly tucked away in another inner courtyard surrounded by elegant arcades full of designer shops ( also home to Paris' most famous haute couture vintage shop, Didier Ludot). There is a large circular pool, fountain, and four double rows of lime trees dating back to the 1970s and chestnut trees planted in 1910. Although the garden is not very big, it is more laid back and less touristy than Jardin des Tuileries, a good spot to relax after a visit to the touristy Louvre nearby.

 

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Parc Monceau

 

Parc Monceau (Boulevard de Courcelles, 75008) is a popular park amongst the Parisians (especially with families, joggers and Marcel Proust!) that dates back to the 18th century. The park is surrounded by luxury buildings and sumptuous mansions, including the Musée Cernuschi (which I will write about later) and Musée Nissim de Camondo. The park is really interesting because it was originally intended to be an Anglo-Chinese or English garden modeled on Stowe House in England, but it was later redesigned (Under the direction of Jean Charles Adolphe Alphand who was responsible for many of the parks in Paris and mentioned in this entry) to look more 'French'. Now when you walk around the park, you will come across children's playground, numerous statues, an Egyptian Pyramid, a Renaissance archway belonging to the former Paris City Hall and even a classical colonnade! Random but quirky.

 

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Square des Batignolles

 

Square des Batignolles ( Place Charles Fillion - Rue Cardinet 75017) - About half way between Parc Monceau and Montmarte, there is a well-hidden square ( or park) in an neighbourhood that is becoming popular with young hip professionals and young families ( there are numerous cool restaurants, bars and even A.P.C. has opened a shop near the square).

Ordered by Baron Haussmann to be built as a tribute to Napoleon III in 1862, the square was again designed by Alphand in a naturalistic English-garden style. This square is full of tropical plants and exotic trees ( I especially love the bonsai tree seen above), and it features a large pond which is fed by a stream that runs through the square and it is home to large red Japanese carp, koi and over 300 ducks. Other unusual features include a grotto, waterfall, and a small greenhouse, that was added in 1996.

 

Parc Clichy-Batignolles

Parc Clichy-Batignolles

 

Parc Clichy-Batignolles (147 rue Cardinet 75017) - About 10 minutes walk from Square des Batignolles is a new green ecological park called Parc Clichy-Batignolles or Parc Martin Luther King. The 50-hectare park is part of the Clichy-Batignolles redevelopment project by the City of Paris is to transform the formerly occupied by freight yards for the French National Railway Corporation into a new green community. The park is yet to be completed, but the first phase has been opened to the public since 2007.

The ecological park is designed by the landscape designer Jacqueline Osty, and it has three themes: seasons, sports and water. The park is self-sufficient in water and electricity with minimum energy consumption, and water is heated by means of solar panels and voltaic, which provides the energy necessary for the lighting. Even the park's wooden benches are accredited with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification to guarantee the wood's ecological and sustainable criteria. Hence if you are bored of the historical Paris, visit this park and you will see what future is in store for the modern day Paris.

 

Parc de Belleville

Parc de Belleville

 

Parc de Belleville (47 Rue des Couronnes 75020) is the highest park in Paris, located on the hill of Belleville between the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont ( see below) and the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The park was conceived by the architect François Debulois and the landscaper Paul Brichet in 1988, and it offers a stunning panoramic view of the city. Perhaps due to its location, the park is not at all touristy. It may not the most beautiful park in the city but it is pleasant and calm; and if you are hungry after all the climbing, you can always enjoy some pho at one of the authentic Vietnamese restaurants in the nearby Belleville.

 

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Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

 

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (1 rue Botzaris 75019) is probably my favourite park in Paris (and it is well-loved by the locals). It is also one of the largest in Paris, covering 24.7 hectare of land and offers great views from the top of the hill. Another Alphand creation, Parc des Buttes Chaumont was inaugurated on April 1st by Napoleon III during the Universal Exposition of 1867. Made in a disused quarry, the park is a prime example of how industrial land can be recycled.

I love this park because it is quirky, romantic and full of surprises. There is a large lake surrounding a rocky peak with a "Temple of Sibylle", inspired by that of Tivoli. There are a few bridges including a suspension bridge, grottos and even waterfalls. And unlike other posher parks in the centre, you can sit on the grass and have picnics here. However, there is a darker history of the park that I found on the blog cultureandstuff...

 

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Jardin des Plantes

 

On the south of the river, there is the wonderful and historical Paris botanical garden: Jardin des Plantes (57 rue Cuvier 75005). Founded in 1635, the garden has four museums, a botanical school, vineyard and a small zoo. You can also stroll and wander around the rose gardens, iris gardens, alpine garden and greenhouses. Given its central location, I was surprised that this garden is not as busy or touristy as one would imagine unlike the nearby Jardin du Luxemurg.

 

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Top: Jardin du Luxemurg; Bottom: Jardin Atlantique

 

Jardin du Luxemburg (2 rue Auguste Compt 75006) - Built in 1620, this graceful and well-laid out garden (part of the palace) is very popular amongst Parisians and tourists alike. This was the first French garden to be influenced by the Italian Baroque. And like Jardin des Tuileries, this garden is to be admired, so grass is off-limits but you can grab a green chair and sit in the designated areas. Once I visited a prestige duplex apartment nearby that overlooks the garden (even the bathroom has a view of the garden), it made realised why property prices in the area are one of most expensive in the city!

 

Jardin Atlantique ( Gare Montparnasse, Boulevard de Vaugirard) - this is a rather odd and random park on the roof that covers the tracks and platforms of the Gare Montparnasse railway station. There are several entrances to the garden but they are not easy to find, the one I used was from Boulevard de Vaugirard where there is a glass elevator and staircases that would get you up to the top.

Created by the landscape architects François Brun and Michel Péna, the maritime theme garden opened in 1994. Surrounded by office buildings and by a line of tennis courts on the west side, the garden is probably not the prettiest, but it is an interesting site if you happen to be in the area or is stuck at the station for some reason.

 

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Parc de Montsouris

 

Parc de Montsouris (2 rue Gazan 75014) is another Alphand creation, just like Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, this 15.5-hectare park was also built at the site of a former granite as an English landscape garden, though less spectacular. A train track cuts right through the park, yet it is hardly noticeable thanks to Alphand, who created a sunken trackway lined with pine trees.

The Park has a lake, a cascade, sloping lawns, meteorology station, a cafe and a guignol theatre. There are also many bronze and marble sculptures here, it's a shame that some of them have been vandalised by graffiti. Although this park is not as 'romantic' as Parc des Buttes Chaumont, it is still a very pleasant park where you can unwind and relax.

All the parks and gardens listed above are free, but for a few euros, you can enjoy the impressive and tranquil sculpture garden at the Musée Rodin, it is best to be visit it with the museum, but you can visit it alone for €2. However, the museum is being renovated now, so it may be worth waiting for renovation is completed later in the year.

 

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La Grande Mosquée de Paris

 

The last garden is slightly unusual and it is within La Grande Mosquée de Paris ( 2 bis place du Puits-de-l'Ermite 75005) near the Le jardin des plantes, with a €3 entrance fee. The beautiful pink marble mosque was built in 1922 to honor the North African countries that had given aid to France during World War I. Inspired by El-Qaraouiyyin Mosque in Fes, Morocco, the mosque also has a minaret which is the replica of the one at the Zitouna Mosque in Tunisia.

The lovely Moorish courtyard garden makes you forget that you are in the middle of Paris, and best of all, there is a souk, hammam, tea room and restaurant within the compound. I did not try the hammam, but I enjoyed having mint tea and pastry at the shady courtyard cafe, which reminded me much of Morocco.

 

To be continued...

 

 


This post was posted in Travel, Nature, Paris, Gardens & parks and was tagged with nature, paris, gardens, parks

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