Hidden parks can offer urban escapes, a wealth of trivia about a city's history and a curious diversity of flora and fauna. But, especially when discussing tucked-away gardens in the French capital, romance and beauty certainly come to mind. Paris boasts of more than 400 parks and gardens spread over 20 arrondissements, many of which are internationally famous. But, this being the city of hidden passages and out-of-the-way cafes, it's no surprise there's also quite the collection of poetic escapes, many of which are located in the shadows of some of the city's biggest tourist attractions. During a month when many Parisians are on holiday, it's fun to plan (or at least daydream) about exploring the fringes of La Ville Lumière.Read More
15 Secret Gardens and Green Spaces Hidden Around Paris
Jardin de l'Atlantique
While it's set above the Gare Montparnasse railway station, this garden is actually supposed to recall the luxury of travel on the high seas. Opened in 1994, the park, located on the rooftop of the commuter terminal, is designed to replicate a "ship" of green floating between office towers, with lampposts standing in as masts and a pair of raised walkways recreating the bridge of a ship.
Jardin de la Vallée Suisse
Known more recently as the Jardin de la Nouvelle France, this park has entranced dozens of travel writers. Located off the crowded Champs-Élysées and accessible by a tiny set of stone steps, this 1.7-acre hideout boasts a footbridge, an artificial pond with carp meandering under the surface, and a white marble sculpture by Alfred de Musset fittingly titled "The Dream of the Poet." A thick blanket of flora, including orange and lemon trees, provide fragrant cover, with a canyon-like layout and waterfall completing your escape.
Populated with dozens of different species of trees, this park is named after Aristide Boucicaut, the entrepreneur who created the French department store Le Bon Marche, a Parisian equivalent to Marshall Fields (the original location, complete with a metal frame constructed by Gustave Eiffel, stands across the street) . Boucicaut's innovations included adding a reading room to his store for husbands to entertain themselves while their wives shopped, and creating the "white sale" to help during slow winter months. The park, which includes a sandpit, playground and children' carousel, also features a statues that honors the charitable work of Aristide's wife.
Jardin Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur
While the official name of this small rose garden in the Marais references its location, the former home of the Marquis d’Ecquevilly, Captain General of Hunting for the King, the park is also meant to honor Pauline Roland, a writer for one of the city's first feminist newspapers.
Le Square du Vert-Galant
Hey romantics, this slice of green at the tip of the Ile de la Cite, named after amorous King Henri the IV (literally the "go-getter," or Vert-Galant) is for you. Shaded views of swans on the Seine, nearby buildings such as the Hôtel des Monnaies, as well as the nearby boat launch for small river cruises make this a compelling place to pass the afternoon hours.
Measuring four acres in total, this park in the 17th arrondissement would be better described as lesser-known as opposed to hidden, but still gets the job done for those seeking refuge (as well as a place to feed the ducks). Amidst the undulating lawns of this English-style garden, created by order of Napolean III from a once abandoned tract of land, one can find a variety of trees, from hazelnut to Siberian elm to Japanese cherry. The most poetic, however, may be the single palm tree stored inside a glass gazebo.
Le Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent
While it may seem like the Parisian landscape has been a collection of charming cafes and narrow streets for all eternity, it actually began in a state very similar to this small park near the Montmartre vineyard, the only "natural park" in the city. Formerly fallow ground was encouraged to stay wild, with a sculpted pond and pathway standing as the only man-made intrusions to the landscape.
Musée de la Vie Romantique
Only the French can get away with calling something the Museum of Romance. And, of course, they pretty much nail the concept; a small courtyard and garden near the quaint neighborhood of New Athens (la Nouvelle Athènes), this spot recalls the area's history as a center of 19th century artistic and bohemian life. Formerly the home of a painter, the workshops are still intact.
Jardin des Abbesses
A small grid of herbs planted near Montmartre, the medicinal garden was established by the ladies of the abbey centuries ago.
Square René Viviani
A tour of Paris' hidden and lesser-known gardens wouldn't be complete without sitting in the shade of the city's oldest tree. In 1601, the King's gardener, Jean Robin, planted a handful of seeds, one of which grew into this brute that has become so large, the city had to add a pair of concrete crutches to help it support its own weight. This small park also provides view of Notre Dame.
Part of the city's biodiversity initiative, this concealed organic garden contains wild oaks and hedgehogs, and the grounds carry the scent of chamomile. The adjoining Jardin Lesseps also features a rare outdoor amenity: a public ping-pong table.
A park within a park, this tribute to mountain flora is hidden in a valley behind an artful array of bushes in the Jardin des Plantes park. The hills are alive within this packed landscape, which contains hundreds of plants from mountainous regions around the world, including the Alps, Pyrenees, and Himalayas.
Square Santiago du Chili
Created by Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, this small pocket park near Les Invalides actually offers a nice view of the Eiffel Tower away from the crowds.
Named after a nun who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary, this park now offers visions of vine-covered pergolas, ideal for a shaded picnic in warmer weather.
Galerie du Pantheon Bouddhique
Part of the Musee Guimet, the city's museum of Asian art located inside a classical mansion, this array of giant bamboo fronds and a tea pavilion transports visitors to Japan.