On sunny days, Parisians head for the Luxembourg Garden, built by Marie de' Medici in 1611 and modeled after the Boboli Gardens in her native Florence. In addition to the magnificent Medici Fountain, there are more than 100 statues arranged around the garden’s 20 hectares (50 acres), which encompass both formal French and English gardens. Here you’ll find chess players, puppeteers, children sailing tiny boats on the octagonal pool and sometimes a free concert in the gazebo.
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I love Paris even when it sizzles or drizzles
I enjoy visiting Paris anytime of the year. Most often, I stay at one of the many hotels near the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter. It’s an area well-known for its bohemian culture, and although long gone are the days of la bohème, what still remains is a wonderful neighborhood filled with charming cafes and restaurants.
I like to grab a pain au chocolat and cup of coffee at one of the cafes and head out to les Jardin du Luxembourg, in my opinion the loveliest park in Paris. Afterwards, I like to take a walk through the neighborhood just east of the garden towards St Sulpice, filled with unique little shops, and then, head towards Pont des Arts enjoying the most spectacular view of the Seine.
Afterwards, I like to walk through l’Ile de la Cite, especially through the flower & bird market, through the garden of the Notre Dame and l’Ile St. Louis towards St Gervais Church. Also, la Place des Vosges is a lovely place, and I enjoy strolling down rue Vieille du Temple and rue des Francs Bourgeois, filled with one of a kind shops, galleries and cafes.
“I am sorry for the rain,” said the hotel manager to the couple checking out as we waited for our room. It had been cold and wet the week before we arrived, one of the perils it seems of visiting Paris in late February. But on vacation one should never talk about the vagaries of weather, unless perhaps you happen to do that for a living, and consequently without such concerns we found February to be a nice time to see Paris. First, you are greeted in French even when you, as I do, have a distinctly unfamiliar face, as if they have assumed that you must be French to be in Paris in the cold wet of winter: They have yet to steady themselves with the English phrases used amongst the traffic that arrives with the hot summer. Second, if you arrive at the Musée d'Orsay shortly after it opens, you can have the van Goghs, Monets, and Gauguins all to yourself; at the Louvre or the Branly there might also be schoolchildren holding hands as they march by you to see the art. Third, there is a conviviality of having weathered (cue rimshot) the winter and of bearing witness to the unfettered joir of when the sun reappears and the people rush to fill those ubiquitous green chairs patterned about the Jardin du Luxembourg as if to sit with an old friend. February is certainly not in the shoulder season and you must dress appropriately but if you can channel your inner Gil Pender and find the wonder of the city in the rain, February is one of the best times to visit Paris.
This was at least a weekly ritual when I lived in Paris and it is most definitely my 'first morning' tradition whenever I find myself back in the City of Light.
One of my favorite things on earth is to get up early and make my way to the Luxembourg gardens. En route, I'll be sure to pick up an International Herald Tribune (the international publication of the NYTimes) and hit a nearby bakery for a pain au chocolate and an espresso to go.
I'll then walk into the gates of the gardens, being sure to avoid the joggers flying by the entrance as I make my way in. I love tucking in at the hidden, Medeci Fountain. You can live in this city and walk through the gardens every day and not realize this perfect little shady spot is here. I always settle in to two of the green chairs. One for my rear end and one to prop my feet up. I dig in to my croissant and my coffee and savor every bite.
While reading about the world, I watch the city wake up around me. Families headed to school, Senators walking into the Palace when it's in session and others walking to work. Start the day off right in Paris and then hit the ground running. Allez!
It might seem rather easy to relegate Paris to somewhere not quite near the top of your travel wish list, given how much attention this city receives. But postcards, travel articles and even the cinema fail to capture and convey the splendor of this amazing city. Simply visit the Jardin du Luxembourg and discover for yourself, a nearly indescribable sensation that is Springtime in Paris. And, you will find yourself whispering or shouting one word... Wonderful. Paris is indeed, simply wonderful.
From neighborhood squares to small forests, Parisian life revolves around its parks and gardens. The Tuileries, Champs de Mars and Luxembourg gardens have sail boats, trampolines, puppet shows, pony rides and go-carts for kids, with tennis, pétanque and basketball courts for their adults. Bellevlle, Montsouris, and Buttes Chaumont are sprawling parks with popular restaurants that boast exclusive views. The expansive Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes have all that and more with lakes, museums and a zoo. Even the cemeteries bring in a crowd, with locals strolling leisurely by as visitors make pilgrimages to Edith Piaf’s grave at Père Lachaise or to see Brancusi’s sculpture of The Kiss at the Montparnasse cemetery.
With the bright blue Paris sky above and the lush green grass below, you just might not believe your eyes. This is the luxurious Luxembourg Gardens. Grab a chair and admire the architecture and landscaping. Hear the children's laughter as they steer their model boats around the fountain. Most importantly, relax and bask in the beauty of Paris.
Now you'll walk west to the Boulevard St-Michel, known informally as the Boul’ Mich’ by expats living in Paris in the 1920s. Continue south to where it meets the Luxembourg Gardens (le Jardin du Luxembourg), a Parisian version -- formal, immaculate and wonderfully calm -- of Central Park, or indeed any other oasis in the heart of a huge city.
My favorite spot in the gardens is one of the chairs on the raked gravel surrounding the Grand Bassin. Here you can give your feet a rest as you watch Parisians, both young and old, sailing their model ships on the tranquil waters of the pond.
When you're ready, walk west to the edge of the gardens, past the carousel and puppet show, and exit at the rue de Fleurus.
(Approximately 1 mile or 1.6 km.)