The Luxembourg Gardens: The Favorite Outdoor Living Space of Parisians
Originally part of the palace that was built for Marie de Medici in the early 1600’s, the Luxembourg Gardens are, today, the outdoor living room and playground for Parisians and their families. The 25 hectare (62 acre) gardens features many activities for the entire family. One of my favorite parts was a huge basin of water surrounded by gorgeous flower beds and statues of the queens of France, saints, and copies of Classical sculptures. Children can rent miniature remote-controlled boats that they then sail across the basin. I really wanted to try them out, but it seemed more like an activity for the little ones. Oh well! For the nature and flower lover, there are both English and French style gardens and a geometric forest in between the two. The greenhouse, which is surrounded by
a rose garden, contains a collection of orchids, and the apiary allows people to learn about beekeeping. Families flock over to the southwest corner of the gardens where an orchard of fruit trees is the setting for a marionette theater. Children will also love the vintage carousel, playground, slides, and pony rides. The gardens also contain areas to play tennis, lawn bowling, chess, and bridge. After all the activities, take a break at the gazebo where free concerts are held or enjoy a glass of wine and a snack in the small cafe with plentiful outdoor seating. You can also take a stroll through the orangerie of the former palace which showcases art, photographs, and sculptures. There really is something for everyone at the Luxembourg Gardens, and as we walked around, we got a sense that Parisians love them as much as we did.
Even if you’re not a fan of history or architecture, you can’t help be impressed by the incredible Luxembourg Palace that dominates the gardens. Since 1958, the palace has been the home of the French Senate. However, the Luxembourg Palace was originally built, beginning in 1615, to be a residence for Marie de Medici, dowager queen and mother of King Louis XIII. Marie was from Florence and had the architect design her new home based on the style of the Pitti Palace, in her home city. During the French Revolution, the palace had a short life as a museum, and with the rise of Napoleon, the French Senate began to meet in the building for the first time in 1804. At this time, the interiors were redesigned so, unfortunately, nothing inside remains of Marie de Medici’s layout or furnishings. During the Second World War, the Luxembourg Palace was occupied by a commander of the Luftwaffe, the Nazi Air Force. After the war, the Paris Peace Conference was held in the building, and upon the declaration of the Fifth French Republic in 1958, the French Senate began meeting there again. Today, visitors can tour the Luxembourg Palace on Mondays and Fridays when the Senate is not in session.
One of my favorite locations in the Luxembourg Gardens is the gorgeous Medici Fountain. The fountain was built around 1630 for Marie de Medici, dowager queen and mother to King Louis XIII, as part of the gardens surrounding the Luxembourg Palace. After the fountain fell into disrepair, it was moved 30 meters, in the 1860’s, to its current location to make room for a street. Since the fountain no longer stood against a wall, the Leda Fountain, a different architectural features which was in danger of being demolished, was moved from another location in Paris and placed behind the Medici Fountain. The Medici Fountain also underwent other remodeling at the time. The original statues of nymphs were replaced by two sculptures representing the Rhône and Seine Rivers. Statues of a faun and a huntress were also added, and a sculpture of Venus was removed. Two replica Greek masks were included to symbolize tragedy and comedy. The relief of the original Medici coat of arms was restored, and the water basin was changed from a simple one with a single fountain to a long one which is now surrounded by beautiful flowers and shaded by trees. The restored Medici Fountain is a lovely place to sit and rest after walking through the extensive Luxembourg Gardens. It would also be a romantic setting for a Parisian date. The fountain is one of many treasures that we found through the marvelous gardens.
The Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens are located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The gardens have many metro stops aroudn them. On the north side of the gardens, the closest stops are Odeon and Saint-Sulpice. Click on the map below to get specific directions.