One of the most beautiful parks in Paris is Jardin du Luxembourg. The 55 acres of green space lies between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter in the 6th arrondissement. The garden is open from sunrise to sunset all year round. It’s where Parisians come to stroll and to sit awhile – read, have a picnic or catch up with a friend. Runners, tennis, chess and children come to play. Of all the top things to do in Paris, visiting this pretty park is one of my favourites. Here is everything you need to know, plus the top things to see in Jardin du Luxembourg.
History of Jardin du Luxembourg
In 1611 Marie de Medici, the widow of King Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII, purchased this land. She decided to create a palace similar to the Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens from Florence where she spent her youth.
Once built, the palace housed royalty right up until the French Revolution. In 1791, it was declared a National Palace and became the hub of government.
Things to See in Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg, or Luxembourg Gardens, is the second largest park in Paris. It is a local’s favourite, and the best part, it’s free to visit. Here is a list of the top things to see and do in this pretty Paris park.
PALAIS DU LUXEMBOURG
The palace, built in 1615-1645, features the Italianate style of architecture. Walk the entire perimeter of this impressive building to admire all of its stunning details. Today it’s home to the French Senate, and you may hear the building referred to as ‘le Sénat’. Touring the interior is not as easy. Visiting hours are limited to days when the Senate is not in session which is mostly Mondays to Fridays. Group tours are available but must receive advanced approval to visit.
What makes Jardin du Luxembourg unique is that the gardens combine elements of Italian, French, and English landscape design. It consists of large rectangles of lawn with wide gravel pathways perfect for strolling. The gardens change with the seasons. Tulips are replaced with germaniums that are later replaced with chrysanthemums.
An ancient orchard of 1,000 trees featuring 320 different varieties of apples and 210 varieties of pears can be found in the southern part of the park. There is a Orangery, or L’Orangerie du Jardin du Luxembourg, built in 1830 to protect 300-year old lemon and orange trees and palms, as well as grenadiers and oleanders from colder weather.
Tucked away on the east side of the palace is where you’ll find the famous Fountaine de Médicis. This oblong pool is flanked by tall plane trees creating a lovely canopy over the fountain. It is stunningly beautiful and tranquil. Hidden behind the Medici fountain is a 19th century wall fountain called Foundaine de Léda. Most people miss this detail.
Spread throughout Jardin du Luxembourg are 106 statues. The statues feature the past Queens and famous women of France. There are also statues of famous French writers and artists, as well as the classics from Roman and Greek history. A popular statue to seek out is, Liberty Enlightening the World, or commonly known as the Statue of Liberty.
MUSEE DU LUXEMBOURG
Built in 1630, the Musée du Luxembourg is known as the first French museum to open to the public in 1750. In 1818, it transferred its priceless masterpieces to the Louvre and became a museum of contemporary art. Today, it only offers special exhibits at least twice a year. What really draws the long lines is visiting the popular Angelina tea room. Treat yourself to their decadent desserts or hot chocolate they are so famous for. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!
My absolute favourite thing is seeing those battered green metal garden chairs. The famous French Fermob chairs are generously scattered all over the park. I love how some are upright and lined up perfectly while others may be tipped over or at an odd angle. They give the park a casual yet quintessential Paris chic look. And, they are the perfect chair to indulge in a little people-watching.
Near the apple and pear orchards you will find the beehives. Bees in this park have produced honey since 1856. If you are lucky to be in Paris in late September you may be able to attend the two-day Fête du Miel (or honey festival). How wonderful would it be to buy a jar of honey, flavoured with the signature flowers of this beautiful park to take home with you.
Things to Do in Jardin du Luxembourg
The large circular pond, called the Grand Bassin, is in the middle of the park and where you’ll find the small little sailboats where children (and adults) use long sticks to navigate their miniature sails. Rent a toy boat from the nearby kiosk and experience this quintessential Paris tradition.
A popular thing to do for kids is to go to Ludo Jardin, the garden’s playground. This includes activities perfect for toddlers all the way to pre-teens. For only 3 euro, your child will enjoy playing here for hours. Another fun activity is the Marionettes du Luxembourg Théâtre. Watch a 40-minute performance on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Chess enthusiasts meet in the northwest corner of the park to play. Watch rapid-fire games of mere minutes or longer strategic games that can go on for hours. Either way, players always draw a crowd and where you’ll hear cheers or groans in unison.
HOW TO GET TO LUXEMBOURG GARDEN:
Metro – take line 4 or 10 to Odeon stop, or line B to Luxembourg station
As a holidaymaker…
One of my favourite things about Paris is the city’s parks. They are so beautiful. It’s an indescribable feeling you get as you stroll through them. I admire the slow down culture Parisians have. It’s have a seat, relax, take in the view kind of attitude. They appreciate the smallest moments throughout the day – a coffee, a good meal, a chat with a friend. Never rushed, always enjoyed.
Next time you are in Paris go to the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, and enjoy.