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The Jardin du Luxembourg reflects back to the casual visitor a real slice of Parisian life. Take the iconic green metal-backed chairs for instance. At any time of the year, Parisians fill the chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg and crack open a good book, snap a newspaper to attention, sunbathe ( I’ve witnessed some pretty handsome topless men!), chat with a friend, have a gourmet picnic, or share a nip of wine.
In the winter, the chairs are lined up with precision against the wall of the Orangerie to catch the winter sun, low in the sky throwing off a bit of heat on a damp day.
Add to the ambience statues that tell a tale, pony rides, pétanque, a stunning palace, a splendid fountain, views of both the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon and you know you are in one of Paris’s best-loved parks, the Jardin du Luxembourg.
As a traveller, I never missed a chance to relax in the Jardin du Luxembourg Paris and when I lived for eight months in the 7th arrondissement, I made the short walk there daily. It was the perfect antidote for Paris in confinement.
1. Observe Parisian Life in Le Jardin du Luxembourg
The green chairs tell many a tale. Sit a while and just observe life in the capital of France. You won’t be disappointed. Grab a coffee from one of the kiosks and as Mary Oliver says, “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
2. The Palais du Luxembourg
Marie de Medici, Queen of France, became a widow after Henri IV was assassinated in 1610. Not able to bear living in the Louvre Palace, she purchased land on the edge of Paris and started plans for the new palace in 1612. The Palais du Luxembourg was heavily inspired by the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens in Florence where Marie de Medici spent her childhood.
The Luxembourg Palace today is the main anchor building of le Jardin du Luxembourg. Don’t be surprised to see guards around the outside as it has been housing the French Senate since 1958.
3. The Medici Fountain
One of the most beautiful fountains in Paris is the Marie de Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens. It has just been renovated and revealed in all its restored beauty! (fall 2021)
Today, the Marie de Medici Fountain, shaded by lovely plane trees, is the perfect place to find a few quiet moments in Paris. The long basin is lined with urns of flowers, and the sculpture situated at the end is well-worth looking at. At the very top is the Medici family coat of arms. Note the masks representing comedy and tragedy and Faunus, the god of the forest. Diana, the goddess of the hunt, is also represented.
And of course, there is a story with the Marie de Medici Fountain. When the Palais du Luxembourg was being built and modelled after the Pitti Palace, so were the garden terraces and fountains. Originally named the Grotto of Luxembourg, the design of the Medici Fountain was influenced by the Buontalenti Fountain found in the Boboli Gardens in Florence.
This splendid fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens fell into disrepair after Marie de Medici died in 1642. She had been exiled out of Paris by her own son, King Louis XIII, but that is another story…
With the redesign of Paris under Baron Georges Eugene Haussmann in the 1860s, the Medici fountain was threatened to be destroyed. In the end, it was saved by the architect of the Palais du Luxembourg, Alphonse de Gisors, and moved thirty metres, one stone at a time.
4. Le Jardin du Luxembourg: Her Queens
Very close to the Medici Fountain, you’ll find 20 elegant, white marble statues. This grouping, called the Serie des Reines et Femmes Illustres, features queens and other important women from the history of France. It’s one of my favourite discoveries in the Luxembourg Gardens.
The sculptures were commissioned by Louis-Philippe, King of France from 1830 to 1848 and honour twenty queens, saints, and celebrities who through their lives and work greatly influenced the country. There are quite a few queens such as Sainte Bathilde, Queen of France from 626 – 680 and Queen Mathilde, Duchesse de Normandie, from 1031 – 1083. I enjoy studying their faces and imagining their lives.
My favourite is Sainte Genevieve. I’ve always had a soft spot for Sainte Genevieve, Patron Saint of Paris, who lived from 423 to 512. She inspired the people of Paris with these words in 451, “Get down on your knees and pray. I know it. I see it. The Huns will not come.” She is said to have saved Paris from an imminent attack by Attila the Hun.
Who wouldn’t be impressed by her?
Once you know of Sainte Genevieve, you’ll find her in many spots around Paris. Look for the modern statue (not as elegant as this one) on the Pont de la Tournelle.
5. The Musée du Luxembourg
The Musée du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Museum) opened in 1750 and was the first art museum open to the general public. People flocked to Paris to see paintings of the grand Dutch, Italian and French masters.
Although the museum was closed for 40 years and those masterpieces now hang in the Louvre, the Musée du Luxembourg presents two exhibitions a year.
It’s part of a perfect day itinerary on Paris’s left bank – stop by and see an exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, enjoy a deluxe hot chocolate at Angelina’s in the front courtyard of the museum, and then head into the Luxembourg Gardens for some relaxation.
6. The Luxembourg Gardens And Le Grand Bassin
You’ll be drawn immediately to the Grand Bassin in le Jardin du Luxembourg. The large, octagonal pond opposite the Palais du Luxembourg, is always active. Sit here and pay attention to Parisian life. The young crowd sail their boats, squealing with delight as they cross the Grand Bassin, and the adults chat, sip rosé, and read (and some chase the littlest of kids so they don’t fall into the fountain!).
This has been a tradition in Paris for over 90 years! The relaxing, the chasing and the sailboats. Hand made wooden boats, hand-sewn fabric sails and a stick to push it across the Grand Bassin is what you get when you rent a sailboat for €3.50 for 30 minutes.
7. Activities In the Luxembourg Gardens
It’s a hub of activity in the Jardin du Luxembourg Paris. Take part in or observe pony rides, puppet shows, tennis, Tai Chi, running, chess and the famous French game pétanque. On the pétanque court, men (yes, mostly men… I asked someone where the women were) toss the silver ball and then stand about and study and measure where it has landed. It’s great fun. Have you ever played?
Oh – and don’t miss the Band Stand. I have heard several bands play there. Just pull up a green chair and sink into the beauty of daily life in the Luxembourg Gardens.
8. Picnic In Le Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
In the Luxembourg Gardens, there is only one area where you can sit on the grass. Perhaps that is why there are so many green chairs scattered about.
By the trimmed trees, just past the Grand Bassin is the sacred area for picnics. On the weekends, Parisians flock to this lovely part of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Come early to get a coveted spot.
9. The Orangerie And Flowers In The Luxembourg Gardens
Gorgeous seasonal flowers grace the magnificent Jardin du Luxembourg. Paris in the fall sees stunning oranges and yellow blooms while summertime presents a glorious riot of hues. My favourite Pierre de Ronsard roses climb the trellises near the Orangerie.
What about the fact that there are date palm, citrus, and pomegranate trees in large green crates positioned around the Jardin du Luxembourg? They lend such an exotic feel to the gardens. These glorious trees spend the winters in the Orangerie and are placed outside from May – September each year. The sour orange trees are reportedly 250 – 300 years old.
Meanwhile, you might think that the Orangerie is empty. But it’s not. Every year from May- September, the Orangerie at le Jardin du Luxembourg hosts exhibitions of photographers, paintings and sculptures. Every day approximately 1500 people visit the exhibitions.
10. The Statue of Liberty In The Jardin du Luxembourg
This particular Statue of Liberty has only been gracing the Luxembourg Gardens since 2013. It replaced a small-scale model of Liberty Lighting The World that had stood in the garden since 1906. The original bronze statue, which was presented at the Universal Exhibition of 1900 by Auguste Bartholdi, now stands in the grand hallway of sculptures in the Musée d’Orsay.
Right beside the Statue of Liberty is an American oak tree, a gift from the American community in Paris, that is dedicated to the memory of the victims of September 11, 2001.
11. 100 + Statues In The Jardin du Luxembourg
The Jardin du Luxembourg is dotted with statues throughout. Spend some time perusing the various statues. You’ll find the likes of George Sand, Paul Verlaine and Eugène Delacroix. As always, it is a good introduction or education to French history and culture.
12. Find The Beehives In Le Jardin du Luxembourg Paris
On a wet fall day, I finally stumbled upon the beehives (les ruches) in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The wooden hives with their elegant caps line a gated garden facing a lovely 19th-century pavilion. I love that honey is made in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The honey made in the Jardin du Luxembourg is for sale every fall. I’m adding that to my list of things to do in the fall in Paris!
Want to train to be a beekeeper? How about in Paris? It’s possible right here in the apiary at the Jardin du Luxembourg. The notices for 2022 classes are not yet posted but if this is your dream, keep checking back!
Practicalities For Visiting The Luxembourg Gardens In Paris
Location: Le Jardin du Luxembourg is located on Paris’s left bank in the 6th arrondissement.
Getting To The Luxembourg Gardens: Métro Stops: Odéon, Mabillon, Saint-Germain-des-Prés. RER Stop: Luxembourg-Senat
Entrance To The Luxembourg Gardens: Free and the gates are located on rue de Vaugirard, rue Guynemer, place André Honnorat, place Edmond Rostand
Hours: The parks in Paris are locked at night. The opening hours of the Jardin du Luxembourg are much shorter in the winter. I remember being shocked last winter being shooed out as the light was falling at 4:15 pm. Check the schedule here for hours. The latest the Luxembourg Gardens are ever open is until 9:30 pm in June.
I hope you find as much joy as I do in le Jardin du Luxembourg.
Until next time,
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