Whether they be royal, secret, places to stroll, or picnic, Paris’s many parks and gardens offer lots of variety and can be found in all parts of the capital!
Previously a royal park, the mythical and historical Tuileries Gardens, are a must-see. These French-style gardens, with the Louvre Museum at one end and the Orangery Museum at the other, include a maze, statues and ornamental ponds. They are a beautiful place to stroll or to relax right in the heart of Paris. A few streets away, the Palais Royal Gardens, recognizable by the signature Buren and Bury contemporary sculptures at the entrance, are a haven of peace. Created in the 17th century, the perfect symmetry of the place can be appreciated by visitors as they stroll around the gardens in the daytime.
On the other side of the Seine, adjoining the Sénat (France’s upper house of parliament), are the Luxembourg Gardens, a delightful park covering 25 hectares. Dating back to 1612, it is made up of a garden in the French style, a garden in the English style, an orchard and a hot house. Other features include a huge ornamental pond, popular with children for sailing model boats and paths lined with grassy areas and flower beds.
Although smaller, the equally charming Parc Monceau is one of the most elegant parks in Paris. Statues, columns and an arcade add to the park’s romantic atmosphere. The Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, is easily distinguishable by its red brick buildings and arcades dating back to the Renaissance. The garden in the middle is a pleasant place to stroll with grassy areas to sit on in fine weather.
The Jardin des Plantes, another garden created in the 17th century, was the first to open to the Parisian public. It retains the symmetrical paths typical of royal parks but also a collection of rare plants and a rich diversity of other plants across 12 themed gardens. Planted with remarkable trees and embellished with statue, this is an idyllic setting for a stroll. For more botanical adventures, the Serres (hothouses) of the Jardin des Plantes take visitors to the four corners of the world, from tropical forests to arid zones and New Caledonia.
Secret and unusual green spaces
Tucked away in between historical buildings and hôtels particuliers in the Marais are many charming little courtyards and gardens. These hidden green spaces are perfect for a quiet break in a natural setting after a shopping spree or a visit to the Centre Pompidou. The Jardin des Rosiers Joseph Migneret, the Square Charles Victor Langlois or even the Potager des Oiseaux near to the Marché des Enfants Rouges (market) are oases of peace and seclusion.
A lovely garden to enjoy in the 7th arrondissement is the Jardin Catherine-Labouré, a vegetable garden converted into a public garden where families enjoy relaxing amongst fruit trees and vines. More artistic, the Jardin du Musée Rodin full of works by the sculpture is well worth a visit!
The little streets of Montmartre offer many areas of greenery to discover. Starting with Square Suzanne Buisson or the wonderful gardens of the Musée de Montmartre, which once belonged to the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The pretty garden of the Musée de la Vie Romantique is the perfect spot for a bucolic break after a walk in the 9th arrondissement.
The small and charming Maison de Balzac, once home to the famous French writer, nestles on the hillside in Passy. With its recently redesigned little garden, it offers a unique view of the Eiffel Tower and a green interlude in the middle of the 16th arrondissement.
The stunningly original Coulée Verte was developed along the site of the former railway line tracks that used to link Bastille train station to Varennes-Saint-Maur. This planted trail starts behind the Bastille opera house, runs above Avenue Daumesnil, joins the Parc de Bercy and ends at the Bois de Vincennes.
Along the water
The Seine riverbanks are an iconic part of the Parisian landscape and a dream setting for a picnic with friends or family, or a walk along the river. A stretch of the quaysides sprinkled with restaurants, terraces fitness installations and games for children can be enjoyed starting out from around the Gare d’Austerlitz. The riverbanks afford magnificent views of Notre-Dame de Paris, the Île de la Cité and Île Saint Louis, the Louvre and Orsay museums, the Académie Française, the Conciergerie, the Grand Palais, the Pont Alexandre III, Invalides, the Eiffel Tower … Further along the river to the west, walkers will spot the Île aux Cygnes and its famous replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Île Saint-Germain, and the Île Seguin - home to the Seine Musicale concert hall complex.
In central Paris, the Canal Saint Martin, with its typical locks offers a lovely 4.5 km stroll starting out from Port de l’Arsenal and finishing at Stalingrad. The latter is the starting point for another popular canal, the Canal de l'Ourcq, which hosts Paris Plages during the summer and runs alongside the Parc de la Villette finishing outside Paris.
Parks, woods and forests
Paris’s major parks are spread around the city and highly popular places for sport and recreation: a game of molky with friends, a family picnic or simply stretching out to relax on the grass in the sunshine.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, spread out over 25 hectares in the East of Paris, is a popular spot, especially in summer. With its lake, waterfall, grotto, and suspension bridge, it offers a romantic setting and a magical view of the Sacré-Cœur basilica from its highest point. The park was built on a former stone quarry which adds to its charm. A little further, the Parc de Belleville with its belvedere also offers a stunning view of Paris.
More to the South, the Parc Montsouris, also created under the Second Empire, is a fine undulating green space with lovely century-old trees, statues and a lake with swans, and ducks. Right next door, the Parc de la Cité Universitaire boasts 34 hectares of grassy areas, and although flatter remains the 3rd largest Parisian park. With its water fountains and bike parks, it is frequented by students and sporting enthusiasts.
Bordering the Canal de l’Ourcq, the Parc de la Villette, a huge grassy area extending over 35-hectares in the North of Paris, is popular all year round. It offers a perfect mix of art and nature as the park is home to numerous concert halls, museums and festivals. For kids, there are sheep to discover in different places in the park and a playground.
In the 17th arrondissement, the Parc Martin Luther King, the city’s most recent park, opened on the border of the Batignolles district in 2007. In a nod to the Batignolles train station just next door, the park's paths have kept the traces of the old railway tracks. Covering 10 hectares, this place is a real breath of fresh air in the north of Paris.
Paris also has two woods, one on each side of the capital.
Lying at the eastern most point of Paris the Bois de Vincennes is a veritable green lung. Covering 955 hectares, it encompasses the Parc Floral de Paris, the Paris Zoo, farms, an arboretum, a forest, the Château de Vincennes and several small interconnected lakes, an ideal place for walking, cycling, pony rides or kayaking. Numerous open-air cultural events are held here throughout the year, including the Paris Jazz Festival, Les Pestacles, and the Classique au Vert.
At the Western most point, the Bois de Boulogne, a former hunting ground of the kings of France is a fine 850-hectare green space. It offers many attractions including the Jardin d'Acclimatation (a wonderful place for Parisian children with its many play areas and attractions, the Parc de Bagatelle, the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil and the Pré Catalan. People come here for leisure activities and relaxation, have a picnic, attend an exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, go boating on the lake or enjoy the 28 kilometres of bridle paths. A true paradise!