Taking a break from your fast-paced travels can seem tough, but the French capital makes it easy with its large number of parks scattered throughout Paris. Each green space has plenty to offer, from the traditional Tuileries Garden and Buttes Chaumont to the contemporary Parc de la Villette and Parc de Bercy. Amongst all these lies the prized possession of Paris, Le Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens.
This is a park that Mr. Misadventures and I hadn’t frequented very often during our first decade of trips. Because the hotel locations where we frequently stayed were in the 1st Arrondissement, we spent a lot of time in the Tuileries Garden. We didn’t realize until later what a gem the Luxembourg Garden was. Now we visit on every trip.
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Here is my guide to what to see, do and eat in and around the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris’s 6th Arrondissement.
Perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll, a fun summer picnic, or even an adventure-filled evening full of running kids and laughter, the Luxembourg Gardens, also known as “Luco,” has something for everyone. Although it looks formal and ordered throughout the year, the garden has a certain playfulness.
The locals come here to play a game of chess, tennis, basketball, and pétanque while the children ride the carousels and ponies. The garden has a vibrant playground for kids with futuristic-looking slides and forts, natural wooden structures, and a piece of art doubling as a maze. One can also enjoy a traditional game from the 1920s, bateaux à voiles, by renting colorful sailboats and sending them sailing in the pond.
The garden also has the largest puppet theatre in the city (Théâtre des Marionnettes).
The Luxembourg Garden is divided into two sections, an English-style garden and a French-style garden (jardin à la française), both separated by a geometric forest of trees planted in a quincunx pattern (a number five pattern on a dice). The English garden is located in the southern part and has an orchard with some of the oldest apple varieties.
Traditionally, the garden was a hotspot for Parisian high society. The intellectuals, the bourgeois, and the nannies. It was opened to the public in 1642. The Luxembourg Garden is filled with iconic green chairs. Initially, you had to pay a woman, called “Les chaisières,” to sit on them.
Also known as the Luxembourg Chairs, they are a common sight in some of the most popular gardens of Paris. Want to explore the fascinating history behind green chairs and how they came to be known as Luxembourg Chairs? Check out my post dedicated to the green chairs!
A brief history of the Luxembourg Garden
While it is filled with activities today, the garden was different in the beginning. It was named after the private mansion, L’hôtel du Luxembourg. Owned by the cousins of the dukes of Luxembourg in the Middle Ages, the mansion and the surrounding gardens were sold in 1611 to Marie de Medici, the queen of France.
Marie de Medici, the wife of King Henry IV, was originally from Florence and ordered the creation of the gardens to resemble the surroundings that she grew up in.
With the help of the landscape architect who also worked on the Tuileries Garden, Marie de Medici expanded the gardens and designed them in an Italian baroque style. The style was formed on the basis of imposing order on nature and keeping it perfect all year long. The Renaissance design is what keeps the garden formal-looking through the seasons.
The size of the garden went through many cuts and expansions throughout the centuries, which explains its weird shape. While the garden has been through numerous renovations and updates through the decades, it has not been robbed of its Italian influence.
The Palais du Luxembourg, built by Mairie de Medici along with the garden, is a landmark resembling a country chateau right in the middle of a bustling city. It has housed artwork, been used by the French nobility, and has been turned into a prison for those headed to the guillotine during the French Revolution. D
uring Napoleon’s reign, he gave the palace to the high chamber of the Parliament, and it remains the house of the Senate even today.
The architectural diversity of the Luxembourg Garden is visible to the naked eye whether you’re on a leisurely stroll or actively searching for sculptures. The Senate is the manager of the Luxembourg Gardens and looks after the conservation, maintenance, and enhancement of the garden’s architecture.
The Luxembourg Garden has a wide range of classical statues (more than 100 in number) from Roman and Greek mythology- Venus, Goddess Diana with a deer, and Vulcan (God of fire) along with numerous cherubs, nymphs, and satyrs. The list also includes statues of the French royalty, saints, and artists, along with a statue of Marie de Medici carved in marble in 1840.
The Statue of Liberty, which was originally a gift from France and designed by a French sculptor, has a smaller version that looks right at home in the Luxembourg Garden.
The Marie de Medici Fountain is perhaps the most visited area of the garden, thanks to its shaded and dusky atmosphere that lends it a very brooding and mysterious look. Built in the 17th century, the artificial grotto has some of the most important decorative elements of the garden.
Known as the ‘Grotte du Luxembourg’, the architectural masterpiece was a perfect replica of the Fountain of Buontalenti and went through many transformations through the centuries. It was even moved, stone by stone, during the Haussmann renovations of the city. In 1889, the Medici Fountain was listed as a historical monument.
The Luxembourg Garden has an attached garden, called the garden of the grand explorers or Jardins des Grands Explorateurs. It contains two smaller gardens, Marco Polo and Robert Cavelier de la Salle, both named after explorers. Perhaps, the most marvellous feat of the garden of explorers is the massive Fontaine de l’Observatoire, a collective work of many French sculptors. It was designed to represent the four parts of the world with four female figures (representing Europe, Asia, America, and Africa) holding a celestial globe.
The fountain was commissioned by Baron Haussmann during the redesigning of Paris when the Avenue de l’Observatoire was being constructed on the Meridian line. The zero meridian, or the vertical line perpendicular to the equator, passes through Paris and its observatory. The Luxembourg Garden has metal medallions indicating the course of the zero Meridian. The Paris Meridian is no longer in use and has been replaced by the zero Meridian of Greenwich.
Several orangeries have come and gone in the Luxembourg Garden but the one present today dates back to 1839. It has around 180 plants in containers with the majority of them belonging to the citrus family. Oleanders, date palms, and pomegranates are some of the other plants in the Orangerie. The oldest trees of bitter oranges, around 250 to 300 years old, are displayed in the garden every year along the southern facade from May to October.
The Luxembourg Garden also houses an orchard that started in the 17th century and includes over 350 varieties of apples and around 250 varieties of pears today. In 1991, the fruit garden was officially recognized as the ‘conservatory orchard’.
Managed by the Senate since 1879, the garden has greenhouses with decorative plants and plants conserving the heritage of the mid-19th century. One of the greenhouses is specifically reserved for orchids and includes more than 60 species.
There are some very happy bees in the Luxembourg Garden as well. Since all of Paris is a no-pesticide zone, these insects are living their best lives pollinating flowers and fruit at will! The apiary and bee school (Rucher in French) has been in the park since the 1800s. The school still runs and classes are given on an ongoing basis.
The students sell the honey harvest at the annual Fête du Miel. The beehives are worth a visit to see the beautiful wooden boxes. You can find them in the southwestern part of the garden closest to the Rue d’Assas.
Where is the garden?
Situated between two popular neighborhoods, the Luxembourg Garden is a melting pot of activities. Not only is it appreciated for its beauty but also for the various activities that can be carried out on the premises. While it is hard to choose a beautiful garden in Paris, the Luxembourg Garden is set apart by its unique contrasting features- from the Medici fountain and the Senate palace to the tiny sailboats and puppet shows.
The Luxembourg Garden covers around 23 hectares in the 6th Arrondissement and is popular for the tree-lined promenades, flower beds and lawns, fountains and sculptures, tennis courts, and model sailboats. It is a must-visit on your trip to Paris. It is within walking distance from the two most popular neighborhoods, the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It is accessible through the Luxembourg station on RER B and Odéon on metro line 4.
The gardens are open year-round. The opening and closing hours of the gardens are dependent on the sunlight and are increased by 15min increments as it nears summertime when it opens from 07:30 am to 09:30 pm. During peak winters, the garden remains open from 08:15 am to 04:30 pm.
What’s In and Around the Luxembourg Gardens?
I sprinkled that information throughout this post, but if you skipped down to get “the good stuff” here is the list of highlights!
- Marie de Medici Fountain
- Théâtre des Marionnettes
- Sail bateaux à voiles on the pond
- Statue of Liberty replica
- Petanque courts
- Jardin du Luxembourg Carrousel
You do not have to go all the way to the Rue de Rivoli to enjoy some delightful Angelina pastries, or perhaps a cup of their infamous chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) if it is cooler outside as there is one right at the entrance near the Musée du Luxembourg (19 Rue de Vaugirard) called Mademoiselle Angelina. It’s open from 10am to 5:45 pm every day.
Of course, I recommend checking out the museum as well! Although that could be a bit tricky as only hosts two exhibitions a year. It is actually Paris’ oldest public museum and it was the first museum for contemporary art.
And while the Luxembourg Garden is a destination in and of itself, there is also plenty to do nearby. There are several places to visit in the surrounding quarter.
- Panthéon: The 18th-century temple of the French nation, the Panthéon is 10 mins away from the garden. You can visit the tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Alexandre Dumas.
- Saint-Germain-des-Prés: A neighborhood full of legends and history, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has the oldest abbey in Paris and popular cafes where Parisian artists and writers of the 20th century frequented for inspiration.
- Latin Quarter: Famed for its bookshops, student-filled cafes, and winding cobblestone streets, the Latin Quarter is the oldest district in the city. Even today, it paints a pretty picture of medieval Paris.
- Musée Zadkine: The museum, dedicated to the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine, explores the artistic evolution of the sculptor and houses his workshop. It has a collection of statues and sculptures nestled in the greenery.
- Odéon Theatre: One of France’s six national theatres, Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe was built in 1782 and was the first monumental Parisian building dedicated to theatre.
- Église Saint Sulpice: It is the second-largest church in Paris with a beautiful facade, and one of the locations of the movie The Da Vinci Code.
- Fontaine Saint Sulpice: Built in a renaissance style, the fountain of Saint Sulpice is a historic monument created by Louis Visconti. It is often referred to as the Fountain of the Four Cardinal Points due to the statues of the four bishops in the center.
- Saint Michel: The Saint Michel fountain is a popular tourist destination near the Notre-Dame cathedral. It represents the struggle of Good against Evil through the slaying of the Devil by Archangel Michael.
- This is a great tour that starts in the Luxembourg Garden.
- This is a great tour that ends in the Luxembourg Garden.
Restaurants in the Luxembourg Garden
- Mademoiselle Angelina (19 Rue de Vaugirard) in the museum, all the treats they are known for!
- La Terrasse de Madame (138 Rue de Médicis) the food is okay, but it is a great place for hot wine (vin chaud) when it is cold outside.
- La Table du Luxembourg (7 Rue Guynemer) nice terrace, classic French fare.
Restaurants just outside the Luxembourg Garden
- We had an exceptional lunch at La Cuisine de Philippe (25 Rue Servandoni) and I highly recommend this restaurant!
- Karavaki au Jardin de Luxembourg (7 Rue Gay-Lussac) Greek food.
- Le Petit Medicis (13 Rue de Médicis) nice terrace with classic French food.
- Treize Bakery Paris (5 Rue de Médicis) organic bakery.
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How about you? Have you visited the Luxembourg Garden? What did you think? What was your favorite part?
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