Situated on the northern edge of the wealthy 8th arrondissement (actually on the border of the 8th and the 17th) in Paris is a lovely green space known as Parc Monceau. Rich with history and lush greenery, Parc Monceau is often left out of the must-see itineraries due to its location. The park is a favorite local spot and a short distance away from some of the most touristic areas of Paris.
The park offers a wonderful glimpse into the lives of bourgeoise Parisians and how they spend their leisure time. From children playing on the grounds to young mothers and nannies chatting on shaded benches, the park is a calm, green haven in the urban land of Paris.
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A brief history of Parc Monceau
Parc Monceau’s history goes back to the French royalty when it was created in 1778 by the cousin of King Louis XVI, Phillippe d’Orléans, the Duke of Chartres. The Duke was fascinated by all things English and wanted to create a park inspired by the romantic English and German gardens. Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, a painter and a writer, was commissioned by the Duke to create this beautiful English garden.
The Duke was a liberal thinker and supported the French Revolution. He even voted for the execution of his cousin, King Louis XVI. But in 1793, the Duke himself was sentenced to the guillotine. Post Napoleon, the park was restored to the family of the Duke but was reduced by half in size. The plots within the park were sold to developers who built elegant mansions and homes in the area.
The City of Paris bought Parc Monceau. It was later opened to the public in 1860 and was remade by Baron Haussmann during his urban works. Two alleys were laid out in the garden, one from north to south and one from east to west, both of which met in the center. In the olden days, the alleys were wide enough to allow the passage of horse carriages. The garden was also embellished with several exotic trees and flowers from around the globe.
Why do people like going to Parc Monceau?
A garden of illusions and pleasures, both familial and romantic, Parc Monceau is one of the nicest parks in the city. It has lots of elements to explore and discover. Like many places in Paris, the park is ideal for people watching and is frequented by locals of all ages.
The Dukes Follies
The Duke wanted an authentic English garden that would be filled with curiosities or follies that visitors can stumble upon while strolling. The garden, when completed, had a variety of follies- an Italian vineyard, a Dutch windmill, a Roman Colonnade, a miniature ancient Egyptian pyramid, a temple of Mars, Turkish tents, an enchanted grotto, a pond of water lilies, and antique statues.
These later came to be known as The Duke’s Follies and added an element of surprise for the visitors. Some of the decorative elements are no longer in the park, but the Egyptian pyramid and the Roman Colonnade still stand today.
Pavilion de Chartres
At the main entrance of Parc Monceau on the northern edge, near metro station Courcelles, one can find a classic Doric temple, known as the Pavilion de Chartres. In 1787, Toll Walls, known as Mur des Fermiers Généraux (Wall of Farmers General), were built around Paris to fight smuggling.
Instead of a toll booth, a rotund was designed at this spot by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. The ground floor of the Pavilion was used as a customs house while the top floor had a garden view apartment for the Duke. The dome was added later in the 19th century by architect Gabriel Davioud.
The garden also has gold-tipped iron-wrought gates created in the Louis Quinze style by Davioud.
Sculptures, relics, and paintings
The leafy pathways of the garden are dotted with statues and sculptures of painters, sculptors, and artists from various fields. The garden has a Renaissance Arch from the Paris City Hall and a small bridge modeled after Venice’s Rialto Bridge.
The garden was a favorite of artists like Henri Brispot, Paul Michel Dupuy, Georges Braque, and Roger Guit. Claude Monet painted three tableaus in 1876 and two in 1878.
What’s in and around Parc Monceau?
Parc Monceau is located in the charming 8th arrondissement, which is home to many small museums, classic Haussmann architecture, and beautiful private mansions. You can find some of the finest bourgeois builds of Paris in this neighborhood.
- Manège du Parc Monceau: A traditional merry-go-round in the Parc where kids can ride horses, a Nautilus vessel, a firetruck, and a tram. (See the full list of carousels in Paris here.)
- La Pyramide du Parc Monceau: A Replica of the pyramid of Cheops is a bit of a curiosity! It was installed during the period 1773-1778 when the columns, the arch etc were built.
- Musée Nissim de Camondo: The museum follows one of the saddest stories of Paris where a wealthy Jewish family collected prestigious art and treasured French decorative art of the 18th century only to have it all destroyed during the World Wars. Address: 63 Rue de Monceau.
- Musée Jacquemart André: A Belle Epoque mansion that highlights the fairytale-like life of an art-loving couple who collected rare pieces of art from all over the world. The private art collection highlights 19th-century Parisian life. Address: 158 Bd Haussmann.
- Musée Cernuschi: A mansion built to hold the art treasures collected by a wealthy Italian banker as he traveled across Asia, the museum is now home to rare ancient bronze sculptures from China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Address: 7 Av. Velasquez.
- Hôtel Menier: The 8th arrondissement is home to a number of private mansions (known as hôtels particuliers) from the 18th and 19th centuries. Hôtel Menier, the home of a chocolatier, is one such historical landmark equipped with a beautiful facade and a courtyard. Address: 5 Av. Van Dyck.
- Pierre Hermé Paris: The beloved chef has a pastry shop on Boulevard Malesherbes, serving delicious macarons, pastries, and chocolate. Address: 89 Bd Malesherbes.
- Pagoda Paris: Originally built as a hotel, the building was later transformed into a Pagoda that now holds a collection of Chinese and Asian art and antiquities. Address: 48 Rue de Courcelles.
A little further away…
- Arc de Triomphe: The Arc de Triomphe is a 20 min walk from Parc Monceau and offers a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées avenue, and Paris as a whole.
- Champs Elysées: Home to countless shops, Boulevard Champs Elysées is the most famous shopping street in Paris.
- Gare Saint Lazare: The only train station in the west of Paris, Saint Lazare inspired a number of impressionist paintings, especially by Monet. The station’s wonderful architecture almost transports one to a museum. (Read more about train stations in Paris here.)
Quick Guide and FAQs about Parc Monceau
- How to get to Parc Monceau? The park is located on metro line 2 and can be accessed by the subway station Monceau and Courcelles. It is also within walking distance from Malesherbes on the metro line 3. (Need help with the metro in Paris? I have a guide for you!)
- When is the garden open? In the summer, the park is open from 7 am to 10 pm, and in winter, it closes earlier at 8 pm.
- What is the price for the garden? Is there an entrance fee for Parc Monceau? It’s free!
Parc Monceau is a wonderful oasis of green and a really great spot for a picnic. If you are visiting Paris and need a break from walking and taking it all in, have a seat on a bench in the park and people watch, Parc Monceau is a great place to do it!
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