If you are looking for a chess partner; want to soothe your nerves, then take a stroll past lovely flowering plants and shrubs; lounge at an open-air café while sipping coffee; give the kids a pony ride; get away from your office for a quiet lunch break, then the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens is just the place for all these activities. The gardens have fountains, sculptures, ponds, tennis courts, a marionette theatre, playgrounds and food kiosks.
Jardin du Luxembourg, to give its proper name, sprawls in the 6th Arrondissement, the heart of Paris, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is bounded by Rue de Vaugirard, Boulevard St. Michel, Rue Auguste-Comte and Rue Guyneme. The second largest park in the city it is the official gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, the home of the French Senate.
The Palace and the Gardens are the child of Marie de Medicis’ grief at the assassination her husband, Henri IV. Not wanting to live in sorrow at the Louvre, their home, after his death she bought the (now called) Petit-Luxembourg Palace in 1611.
She then set about building a new one to resemble her childhood home in Florence – the Palazzo Pitti. She also commissioned several gardeners, notably Tommaso Francini, to design and create a park in her beloved Florentine style. 2,000 elm trees were planted amidst several terraces. Francini then built the beautiful Medici Fountain – the centre of a grotto.
When work first started the garden was only eight hectares. Then in 1630, Mme. Marie purchased more adjoin land and engaged Jacques Bovceau to carry on the work. He laid out a series of squares along an east-west grid that was marked at the east end by the Medici Fountain. He added borders of flowers and hedges in front of the palace, an octagonal basin with a fountain facing (what is now) the Paris Observatory.
Work was completed in 1625 but the present size of the Gardens was reached in only 1790. This additional land was confiscated from the Carthusian monks by leaders of the French Revolution. Jean Chalgrin, architect of the Arc de Triomphe, carried out restoration work on the derelict gardens. He preserved and incorporated the old vineyards and formal French style gardens of the monks.
In the mid to late 1800s, many statues, sculptures and new boulevards were added. The Medici Fountain was rebuilt and moved to its present location. A scale model of the Statue of Liberty, built by Bartholdi, became a new resident. The garden also acquired a marionette theatre, greenhouses, an apiary and an orangerie.
The Jardin du Luxembourg now has hundreds of statues, monuments and fountains; acres of flower beds, trees and shrubs. It has changed much since Marie de Medici’s original plan but one thing has always remained – serenity. The gardens have always been an oasis amidst Paris’ turbulent history and everyday life. It is true sanctuary in every sense of the word.
Admission to the Luxembourg gardens depends upon the time of the year.
Opening times: Between 7:30am and 8:15 am.
Closing times: Between 4:45pm and 9:45 pm.