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A queen's garden: Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden) is the most beautiful garden in Paris.
Located in the historic 6th arrondissement, near Ile de la Cité and the Latin Quarter, it is also regarded as the most iconic public park of Paris.
The 60-acre garden is known for its symmetrical manicured lawns, colorful flowerbeds, lush chestnut groves, romantic promenades, graceful fountains, and an incredible collection of some 70 statues!
The garden is home to several magnificent buildings: Palais du Luxembourg (currently used by the French Senate), Musée du Luxembourg (art exhibitions), and the Orangerie (greenhouse/botanical garden).
At the center of the garden is a large octagonal pool – the Grand Basin – where children float toy sailboats.
Other notable features include the Medicis Fountain, tennis courts, marionette theatre, and a centuries-old carousel that is still in operation.
1611-1612: Queen Marie de Médicis (widow of Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII) purchased a property owned by the Duke of Luxembourg (hence the name of the garden) to build herself a palace. She commissioned Florentine landscape designer Tommaso Francini to construct an Italian-style garden around the palace.
1614-1631: The garden went through numerous changes and expansions. Landscape designer Jacques Boyceau was enlisted by the Queen to re-design it into a formal French garden – with a series of parterres (square or rectangular-shaped flowerbeds bordered by low hedges) and an octagonal basin at the center of the garden.
1635: Renowned landscape architect André Le Notre (who designed the gardens of Versailles) rebuilt the parterres.
1789-1799: During the French Revolution years, the garden basically was left in ruins. After this period, architect Jean Chalgrin (who built the Arc de Triomphe) took on the task of restoring the garden.
1848: Statues of former French queens, saints, gods and goddesses from Greek mythology were placed along the terraces. Later, monuments to writers, artists, poets were added.
1865: New metal gates and fences were built around the garden, also a greenhouse, a fruit orchard, and an English-style garden with meandering paths among rose bushes.
1940-1944: During the WWII German Occupation of Paris, the garden was transformed into a German military camp, filled with bunkers and trenches; trees were cut down, some statues were destroyed, and its flowerbeds became vegetable gardens for food.
1958: The Senate - the Upper House of French Parliament - took over the ownership of the garden and its buildings. They are credited for restoring the garden to its former glory and maintaining it as a public park – to be enjoyed by all: local Parisians, tourists, and future generations and people of all ages.
- The original garden was only 20 acres in size when it was first completed in 1612.
- Medicis Fountain, built in 1630, has been re-modeled and re-located multiple times over the centuries before its final location in the northeast corner of the garden.
- A small bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi is located near the garden’s west entrance.
- The carousel in the garden is the oldest one in Paris, designed in 1879 by Charles Garnier – the architect of the Opera House.
- The green metal chairs scattered around the garden for people to sit on are from 1923.
- The garden has been the subject of numerous artworks by French painters (including van Gogh) and other great painters of the world, as well as featured in novels (including Les Misérables by Victor Hugo) and films ("The Age of Innocence" by director Martin Scorsese).
- Because of its proximity to the bohemian Latin Quarter and prestigious Université Paris-Sorbonne, the garden has always been – and still is – a popular rendez-vous spot for the intellectual, avant-garde crowd of students, artists, and writers.
Things to Do in the Garden
- Children: pony rides, float toy sailboats (available at rental kiosk), see a puppet show, or take a merry-go-round ride on the carousel.
- Adults: take a nap, read a book, play tennis, or watch a game of jeu de boules played by groups of Parisian men. Also, check out the art/photograph exhibitions at the Musée, or browse the collection of potted Mediterranean palms and citrus trees at the Orangerie.
- For the politically inclined: attend a hearing of the French Senate inside the Palais du Luxembourg. It’s open to public.
- Or simply do this (like all Parisians do): grab one of those green vintage chairs, choose a location with the best view of the garden, put on your most fashionable sunglasses, sit back and enjoy the people watching!
Have you visited Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris?
Open hours: 7:30AM – 9:30PM in summer, 8:30AM – 4:30PM in winter
Entrance fee: Free
Public bathroom facilities available
Food, beverage, souvenirs kiosks available
To Get Here
Address: Rue de Médicis - Rue de Vaugirard 75006 Paris
Metro station: Saint-Sulpice, Odéon or Rennes
RER train station: Luxembourg
Bus: #21, 27, 38, 58, 82, 84, 89
About This Article
The author felt like he was on a French movie set while visiting Jardin du Luxembourg this past summer. Within a few feet from where he sat: a lovely couple kissing passionately on a bench; a young woman crying, breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone; two attractive gay men meeting on their first date; and a group of nuns taking photo of themselves with a selfie stick. La vie est belle!
All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera.
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Copyright © 2015 Viet Doan (punacoast)
© 2015 Viet Doan