Luxembourg Gardens, known as Le Jardin du Luxembourg to the French, sits on Paris’ left bank, steps from the Latin Quarter in the 6th arrondissement.
It was commissioned in 1612, along with the construction of a palace, by Queen Marie de’ Medici, the second wife of King Henry IV.
Inspiration was taken from the Boboli Gardens of Florence, the landscaped gardens behind her childhood home, Pitti Palace.
Like Boboli Gardens, the Luxembourg Gardens were designed to include fountains, statues on pedestals, grottos, flowers, and fruit trees.
The garden was increased and then decreased in size over the years to its current day almost 57 acres. It exists as one of the most beautiful greenspaces in Paris.
Parisians picnic there, attend outdoor concerts, play chess or tennis, ride ponies, stroll the leafy winding pathways, and take in the beauty of one of the most relaxing spaces in the city.
Some of France's most well known writers and artists spent time, and were inspired, here.
Victor Hugo featured it in Les Miserables. Van Gogh painted people strolling through it.
The park is open between 08.00 to 17.00 in the winter and from 07.30 to 20.00 in summer. Entrance is free.
There is certainly plenty to do in Jardin du Luxembourg.
Here are nine things you might enjoy:
1.Take pictures outside of Palais du Luxembourg
The palace originally existed as a residence for the royal family.
During the French Revolution, it was briefly made a prison, with Thomas Paine one of its most famous detainees, before becoming a government building under Napoleon.
It saw a few other uses and was at one point under German occupation. Today the Senate, part of the French Parliament, meets here.
While there is some Italian influence in its design, it was built in the French style.
It had gorgeous interiors, paintings by Rubens, and wings for the Queen and her son.
Over the years it was remodeled and redesigned to fit the needs of its time so sadly much of the original decoration was lost.
Group tours can be arranged when the Senate is not in session, with the approval of a Senator.
It’s also free to visit during European Heritage Day, the third week in September.
2. Stroll the grounds
While once only royalty could enjoy it, today everyone is free to stroll the grounds of Le Jardin du Luxembourg.
Split between French and English-style gardens (with a bit of Italian thrown in), there is beauty everywhere.
You’ll walk along gravel paths past large green symmetrical lawns, beds filled with flowers, 3,000 trees, 35,000 shrubs, fountains, statues, and more.
There’s an orangery, with almost 200 plants, many of them from the Mediterranean (palm trees, orange trees, pomegranate trees).
Le Jardin also has a fruit orchard with 600 varieties of apples and pears, a rose garden (Jardin de la Roseraie), and a greenhouse with orchids.
3. Take Note of the Statues
There are 106 sculptures scattered throughout the garden, most dating to the 19th century.
Many are statues from Greek and Roman mythology, including gods and goddesses, cherubs, nymphs, and satyres.
Others celebrate artists, musicians, and French royalty.
Here are just some of them:
The Statue of Liberty: This small version and model of the bronze statue gifted to America, was given to the park by its sculptor in 1906. Today a replica exists in its place.
Queens of France and Famous Women: the greatest sculptors of the time helped create a series of 20 white marble scriptures of women who made their mark on France.
Beethoven: the daughter of the sculptor, Antoine Bourdelle, who made over 80 sculptures of Beethoven in his lifetime, donated this bust in 1978.
The Faune Dansant: This dancing faune, a Roman god of shepherds, was made by sculptor Eugene Louis Lequesne.
4. Sit By the Medici Fountain/Leda Fountain
Considered one of the most beautiful and romantic fountains in Paris, La Fontaine de Medicis sits in a secluded corner of the park.
Trees shade the rectangle-shaped fountain, and stone planters line its sides.
It was originally built to resemble a grotto, flanked by nymphs pouring water from pitchers. (An aqueduct was constructed to supply water to the left bank, meaning water was able to be supplied to the grotto.)
It was also given the Medici family crest and topped with a crown.
In the mid-1800s, the fountain was moved 30 meters from its original spot to its current location.
Missing statues were replaced and new ones were added. Masks were added representing comedy and tragedy.
And a long pool of water was added to the front, with trees planted along its border.
La Fontaine de Leda, which depicted the Greek tale of Leda and the Swan, originally existed elsewhere in Paris.
Due to the building of a road, plans were made to destroy it.
Because the Medici Fountain had been originally placed against a wall and needed a replacement after it was moved, La Fountaine de Leda was moved to the back side to support it, helping to save both fountains.
5. Stop in at the Apiary
What does any healthy and gorgeous garden need? That would be bees. Lots and lots of them.
Since 1809 a horticultural school, Ecole d’Horticulture, and since 1859 a beekeeping school, Rucher-Ecole, has existed at Le Jardin du Luxembourg.
Their current building, Pavillon Davioud, was constructed in 1867 and is today a historical monument.
It is here, in this small but ornate building, that students learn beekeeping techniques, earning a certificate at the end of their course.
It’s believed there are almost a million bees in the park. The school produces and sells almost 450 lbs of honey each year, and in September Le Fête Du Rucher Du Jardin Du Luxembourg (a honey festival) takes place.
Pavillon Davioud also hosts temporary art exhibitions for local artists.
6. Sail a Mini Sailboat
In the Grand Bassin, you may come across children sailing vintage toy boats in the pond.
This tradition dates back to 1927 when a local and his wife created boats that could be rented out.
Today they can still be rented for a small sum by the half-hour, or you can bring your own.
The flags on the boats represent a number of countries (or the black flag of a pirate ship). A stick is provided to push them around the pond.
7. Just Sit and Relax
Want to do some people-watching? Want to stretch out and point your face toward the sun?
Want to enjoy a picnic as you unwind from the day? This is the place to do it.
In addition to one lawn set aside for those very purposes, at least 4,500 of Le Jardin’s iconic green Fermob chairs are dotted throughout the park.
There are also 3,500 bench seats and a number of folding chairs near the playground stage.
It does get quite busy at times, with between 50,000 and 100,000 guests a day.
This is especially true when the weather is nice. Going early in the day to claim a seat is recommended.
Note: for picnic supplies, there are all sorts of shops selling bread, cheese, charcuterie, wines, and sweets, in addition to other foods, in the blocks surrounding the park.
8. Watch a Marionette Show
The Theatre des Marionnettes du Jardin du Luxembourg dates back to 1933.
The founder, the son of a toy maker, started a puppet show in the park.
It proved so popular that eventually an official puppet theater was created.
Today that man’s son continues his legacy, overseeing an almost 300-seat theater that puts on such classics as Little Red Riding Hood and Pinocchio as well as original pieces created for the theater.
The theater is open Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, and school holidays.
If you have children looking for other things to do, the oldest carousel in Paris can be found in the park.
There is also a massive playground that includes sandboxes, dominoes, chalkboards, swings, a zipline, a log bridge, and much more.
You can also find pony rides and participate in all sorts of games and activities.
9. Visit the Museum du Luxembourg
The Musée du Luxembourg, opened in 1750, was the first French museum opened to the public.
Its exhibition of pieces created by Italian, Dutch, and French masters drew crowds from around Europe.
In 1818 Louis XVIII wanted to show the world the French could compete when it came to masterpieces.
The Musée, then in the Palace, was where these works were created and judged.
The best of them were sent to the Louvre and other museums in Paris.
The museum was eventually moved to the orangery and eventually closed in 1937. Its permanent collection was shared amongst other Parisian museums.
It wasn’t until 1979 that it reopened, and today there are two special exhibitions a year.
Hours are 10:30-19:00 each day of the week, and it stays open late on Mondays until 22:00.