I love gardens. In my view, gardens are havens that refresh and calm people from the busyness of life in the city. In Paris, there are many gardens. Some are not so grand as the others, consisting only of a few benches, grassy lawn, several trees and bushes. Some are so vast that you can literally spend the entire day there and do different activities, or finish reading an entire book.
I have been to several of these gardens. Each has its own character, although they have similarities in general. These gardens in Paris that I have visited are Jardins du Trocadero, Parc Champ-de-Mars, Jardin du Ranelagh, Square Henri Collet, Jardin de Tuileries, Parc de Bagatelle, Luxembourg Gardens, Parc André Citröen, Jardin des Champs-Élysées, Jardin Catherine-Labouré, Parc Monceau and Bois de Boulogne. I would like to share my sentiment about these gardens I visited, but this isn’t an exhaustive list.
I love the layout of the Parc André Citröen, and the versatility of the place—one area suitable for picnic, another for playing ball games, another for just sitting on a bench feeling the warmth of the sun or reading a book, and another for sitting communing with nature while seated on a rock and surrounded by trees! Parc André Citröen also offers a 15-minute balloon ride—not available in others—that gives one an aerial panoramic view of the whole city of Paris.
I like Jardin de Tuileries for its view of the Tuileries Palace, the Place de la Concorde, and the wide expanse area planted with trees, with benches under the shade, and the pond in the middle where ducks frolic. If you’re into sculpture, you may go around admiring and at the same time examining/learning about the different sculptures in the area. The garden is also very close to the Place de la Concorde and the Avenue Champs Elysees. A part of your day may even be spent in the L’Orangerie Museum located in the vicinity of the garden. This museum houses impressionist paintings. I learned that the name of this garden came from the tile factories that were built on the site where Queen Catherine de Medici built the Palais des Tuileries in 1564.
The Jardin des Champs-Élysées, as what its name indicates, is located on both sides of the most famous avenue in Paris between the Place de la Concorde and the Rond Point des Champs Elysees. It is a public park that offers a contrast to the busy street with its cars, people and shops. Two famous structures that can be found in the park’s area are the Grand Palais and Petit Palais.
As for Parc de Bagatelle, what else but hundreds of roses of course! They have all kinds and all colors of roses—fiery red, blushing pink, vibrant yellow, dusky orange, and so much more. If you’re into flowers, you will learn so much about the varieties of roses since they are labeled. The garden also has a peacock that struts around as if it owns the place. Haha! I’ve been to this garden only once but I still remember how awed I was with the place and I will gladly go back.
The Jardin du Luxembourg looks as grand as its sounds. It has an impressive design of trees, flowers, sculptures. It covers a vast area, 25 hectares of land to be exact, where people may stroll or jog. It gives a nice view of the Luxembourg Palace, one of the major buildings in the 6th arrondissement. The first time I was there was when I attended an official event nearby. I was so thrilled to finally be able to visit the garden after work.
Jardin du Ranelagh is in the 16th arrondissement. It’s a big garden also perfect for picnics, strolls, jogs, and music jamming with friends. What I noticed first was the variety of trees planted there. Some secluded areas are perfect for reading or sketching/drawing. There’s also a carousel and playing area for children, which makes it a good family bonding place. From here, you may walk to Musee Marmottan Monet, that has a huge collection of impressionist paintings.
Jardins du Trocadero, particularly the area fronting the Eiffel Tower, is not as charming as the other gardens. Most of the times I’ve been there, the water of the fountain is dry and the grasses in the area around the fountain aren’t so green. I think, it’s because so many people go there, so the grasses are trampled on ever so often. But if there’s one thing that the garden can boast of that all others cannot, is that it offers a great view of the Eiffel Tower. One can literally spend the entire day there, and capture in photos the famous tower as the sky changes its color from morning until evening. Also, when you visit the gardens, you may also take in a good view of the Palais de Chaillot, stroll along the Pont d’Iena and the Seine river, or spend some time at the Place du Trocadero while enjoying the view of the Tower, listening to a street musician, or enjoying the crepe/waffle/panini bought from nearby food stalls. You may even decide to visit the nearby Aquarium de Paris, which is within the gardens’ area.
On the opposite side of Trocadero is Parc Champ-de-Mars. In this park that’s also a good picnic place, one can enjoy a close up view of the Eiffel Tower. Because of its location, it tends to be crowded, however. It’s also the go-to place during times when fireworks are lit in the Tower. But one doesn’t need to have a special occasion to see something magical; just to go to the park at night and be gifted with the magnificent sight of the Eiffel Tower glittering with lights, a few minutes at the start of every hour.
The Square Henri Collet is a small garden compared to the ones previously mentioned. Situated near the Pont de Grenelle, and surrounded by buildings, commercial and residential on all sides, it’s a breather in a busy area. There are areas where you can sit on benches, undisturbed. There are playing areas for kids and exercise areas. It may also provide an alternative lunch area for those working nearby, to have a break from the busy office environment.
Jardin Catherine-Labouré is a pleasant surprise. I went there once when I visited the Church of the Immaculate Concepcion and found out that it is very near from the church! The garden is not so visible from the street but once you discover its small entrance, you are in for a unique experience. Aside from bushes and trees and benches, it has fruit trees and vegetables (cabbage, tomatoes, etc.). On one entire side of the garden, tendrils of grapes and berries adorn an arch. I learned from two friendly garden visitors who started a conversation with me that the vegetables and fruits can be picked for free. I didn’t “harvest” anything from the garden but I saw some people, such as a mother with her two small kids and a grandma picking berries and having fun.
Parc Monceau is near the St. Joseph Church in Paris. I went there twice after hearing the holy mass to feel that I am fully celebrating the weekend, before heading home in the late Sunday afternoon. The park is spacious. There’s a jogging area, picnic area, benches everywhere and there are some curious structures there too, such as one that looks like a small pyramid. One part that I really love is the pond with a small bridge. It is a perfect spot for a photo.
Bois de Boulogne, meanwhile, is perfect for those who love long hikes. It is a forested area offering many possible activities. It has lakes, waterfalls, ponds and streams. I learned that it used to be a hunting ground for the kings of France. I visited this place once with a French elderly lady that I met during a tour outside Paris. We walked for about two hours but still, the time wasn’t enough to cover the entire area. Good thing was I was wearing comfortable shoes instead of my new wedge sandals that I intended to use for the garden stroll, to pair with my autumn-printed dress.
So you see? It’s not true that the only things that build a park and/or a garden are trees, flowers, bushes, and benches. They can have a balloon, too, a carousel, sculptures, palaces, and more. What makes parks and gardens truly appealing, for me, is the atmosphere of serenity. When a park or garden becomes too crowded with people—although it is really intended for people to visit, it loses a bit of its essence.
What I have noticed is that all the French gardens I have visited are harmonious and balanced. As an example, try looking at Parc André Citröen while you’re up there in the balloon, or at Jardins du Trocadero while you’re on top of the Eiffel Tower. You’ll surely marvel at the symmetrical design and geometric shapes formed. Also, the gardens have lots of open spaces just simply planted with verdant grasses. Even the sculptures are located in spaces respecting each other’s areas. These features certainly add to the beauty of French gardens.