Requiring a bit more work to find than the Grands Jardins of my previous post, the following beautiful spaces are found around a corner, through a courtyard, down a path…and once inside create a sense of calm and serenity.
These havens of tranquility found all over Paris are often when you least expect to, yet given their presence were likely part of the plan for this grand City of Lights!
The Promenade Plantée
1 Coulée verte René-Dumont – 12e
This elevated, narrow strip of urban park was once part of a rail line from the Paris suburbs to the Bastille. Transformed into a 4.5-km walkway lined with trees, bamboo, and flowers, it offers a bird’s-eye view of the stately Haussmanian buildings below in the 12e arrondissement. As well, the voûtes (arcades) under the track now house hand-picked artisans’ boutiques and so ‘upstairs and downstairs’ offer a wonderful stroll, which gained fame in the 2004 film Before Sunset.
Place des Vosges
1 Place des Vosges – 4e
Ok, not exactly hidden, this ‘oldest square in Paris’ was a favourite destination for us, as well as for many many others in the past four centuries! This symmetrically-designed garden was originally the site of the Palais des Tournelles, home to King Henry II and Catherine de Medici, where they staged regular jousting tournaments. In 1612, the square became Place Royale on the occasion of Louis XIII’s engagement to Anne of Austria, then Napoleon renamed it to its current Place des Vosges to honour that namesake region as the first to pay up taxes to the Revolutionary government. Whatever the name, it’s beautiful in its geometry and lined with arcades of contemporary galleries and Victor Hugo‘s home, a must-see also!
Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph-Migneret
10 Rue des Rosiers – 4e
This delightful, and hidden, Zen gem is tucked behind the Maison de l’Europe in the heart of the bustling and very trendy Marais district. When we discovered it, we were almost alone in its splendour…rose bushes blooming, vegetable potager filled with kale and courgettes, and deserted benches around the corner. We thought we were in heaven!
The secret seemed to get out though, as the next time we ventured there just before noon with our baguette and chèvre, and settled into our picnic, we proceeded to watch close to 100 school-children, teachers, teens, and other tourists parade in and out of this cloistered series of gardens in mesmerizing, somewhat noisy disturbance! Oh well, c’est la vie 🙂
1 Place Dauphine – 1e
Though not green, (and triangular!), this pretty and tranquil garden square on the western side of the Pont-Neuf on Île de la Cité was built by Henry VI. He named it as an homage to his son the crown prince (or dauphin) who later became Louis XIII when Henry was assassinated. Apparently the Surrealists called it “le sexe de Paris” because of its suggestive V shape. There are several restaurants lining the sides, though beware of the whirls of sand when the wind picks up!
Jardin de l’Hotel-Dieu
1 Parvis Notre-Dame-Pl. Jean-Paul II – 4e
Lucky we didn’t get sick during our time in Paris and even more lucky is the fact that I listened to Rick Steves’ interview with Elaine Sciolino about Hidden Gardens of Paris. Ms Sciolino was the former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times and has written several books about this city she’s lived in since 2002. Fortunately I stumbled upon her chat with Rick because I wouldn’t have found this gem if not for her pointing me in its direction. Oh, and just pretend you are visiting someone in the hospital making your way into the inner courtyard, and voila!
Jardin du Musée Rodin
77 Rue de Varenne – 7e
Where else can you sit quietly under blue skies and gaze at a Rodin sculpture? This beautifully designed garden lined with linden trees can be enjoyed separately from the adjoining museum. In all its splendour and peace, the green spaces display most of Rodin’s best-known sculptures, including The Thinker, The Gates of Hell and The Kiss. Sit at the far end and enjoy the grandeur of this gem!