Guide Tour of Luxembourg Garden, Paris, France

The Jardin du Luxembourg is located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, France. The Luxembourg Garden is the most centric, popular and beautiful park in Paris, the garden today is owned by the French Senate, which meets in the Palace. It extends over 23 hectares decorated with flowerbeds and sculptures, and is known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, tennis courts, flowerbeds, model sailboats on its octagonal Grand Bassin, as well as picturesque Medici Fountain, built in 1620.

The name Luxembourg comes from the Latin Mons Lucotitius, the name of the hill where the garden is located. Creation of the garden began in 1612 when Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, constructed the Luxembourg Palace as her new residence. Marie de’ Medici, who tired of life in the Louvre, wanted an Italian style palace built in memory of her childhood in Florence.

In addition to the magnificent Medici Fountain, there are more than 100 statues arranged around the garden’s 20 hectares, which encompass both formal French and English gardens. It was restored under the direction of the architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin under the First Empire and now belongs to the domain of the Senate. The park is redesign under Napoléon III, whom dedicated the 23 gracefully laid-out hectares of the Luxembourg Gardens to the children of Paris.

The Luxembourg Garden is one of the most charming attractions in Paris for both locals and tourists. Here, visitors can find an ideal place to rest after a long day exploring the city. The park houses several metal benches surrounded by numerous statues and sculptures, a perfect place to relax and enjoy a bit of fresh air. In every corner Jardin du Luxembourg surprises you with statues, monuments, fountains, and even orchards.

Surrounding the central green, twenty statues of French queens and matriarchs stand proudly. Spilling across nearly sixty acres, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the place where Parisians do what the French do best — relax and enjoy the good life. Dotted throughout the park are the famous green chairs, both the sitting and reclining type, with numerous benches as well.

In front of the Luxembourg Palace building lies the Senate’s garden, the Jardin du Luxembourg. Walking tours through the Jardin du Luxembourg are an excellent way to get acquainted with the site and admire the palace’s impressive exterior. Overflowed with flowers and trees whose shade will be greatly appreciated during the hottest months of the year, visitors can also play tennis or petanque, take a short course in forestry, or start beekeeping thanks to the bee hives found in the garden.

Immediately west of the palace on the rue de Vaugirard is the Petit Luxembourg, now the residence of the Senate President; and slightly further west, the Musée du Luxembourg, in the former orangery. Entry to the park is free, but there is a price to enter the Musée du Luxembourg, which hosts prestigious temporary art exhibitions.

Dozens of apple varieties grow in the orchards in the gardens’ south, while bees have produced honey in the nearby Rucher du Luxembourg since the 19th century; the two-day Honey Festival takes place in late September. Around the back of the Musée du Luxembourg, lemon and orange trees, palms, grenadiers and oleanders shelter from the cold in the palace’s orangery.

On the south side of the palace, the formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and large basins of water, toy sailboats drifting on a central pond called Le Grand Bassin, Children cloud sail model boats, rent a small wooden sailboats in the duck pond and push them into the water with a long stick. In the park, can also enjoy several puppet shows, pony rides, marionette shows, cafes, and sometimes a free concert in the gazebo.

Since its construction in the early 1600s, the park has undergone a number of events and transformations: from royal residence to the seat of French political power. Today, the park occupies just slightly over 22 hectares of Left Bank land, making it the largest garden space in Paris. It’s known as being one of the calmest spots in the city, drawing families, students and visitors seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of the City of Light.

In 1611, Marie de’ Medici, the widow of Henry IV and the regent for the King Louis XIII, decided to build a palace in imitation of the Pitti Palace in her native Florence. The park was based on Florence’s Boboli Gardens, where she spent much of her childhood. She purchased the Hôtel du Luxembourg (today the Petit Luxembourg) and began construction of the new palace.

She commissioned Salomon de Brosse to build the palace and a fountain, which still exists. In 1612 she had 2,000 elm trees planted; she directed a series of gardeners, most notably Tommaso Francini, to build a park in the style she had known as a child in Florence. Francini planned two terraces with balustrades and parterres laid out along the axis of the château, aligned around a circular basin. He also built the Medici Fountain to the east of the palace as a nympheum, an artificial grotto and fountain, without its present pond and statuary. The original garden was just eight hectares in size.

In 1630 she bought additional land and enlarged the garden to thirty hectares, and entrusted the work to Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie, the intendant of the royal gardens of Tuileries and the early garden of Versailles. He was one of the early theorists of the new and more formal garden à la française, and he laid out a series of squares along an east–west alley closed at the east end by the Medici Fountain, and a rectangle of parterres with broderies of flowers and hedges in front of the palace. In the center he placed an octagonal basin with a fountain, with a perspective toward what is now the Paris Observatory.

Later monarchs largely neglected the garden. In 1780, the Comte de Provence, the future Louis XVIII, sold the eastern part of the garden for real estate development.

Following the French Revolution, however, the leaders of the French Directory expanded the garden to forty hectares by confiscating the land of the neighboring religious order of the Carthusian monks. The architect Jean Chalgrin, famous for building the Arc de Triomphe, redesigned the garden, adding new paths and an English garden. He remade the Medici Fountain and laid out a long perspective from the palace to the observatory. He preserved the famous pepiniere, or nursery garden of the Carthusian order, and the old vineyards, and kept the garden in a formal French style.

During and after the July Monarchy of 1848, the park became the home of a large population of statues; first the Queens and famous women of France, lined along the terraces.

The garden was redesigned and renovated under the rule of Napoleon III in the 19th century before being gifted to the city’s children. In 1865, during the reconstruction of Paris by Louis Napoleon, the rue de l’Abbé de l’Épée, (now rue Auguste-Comte) was extended into the park, cutting off about seven hectares, including a large part of the old nursery garden. The building of new streets next to the park also required moving and rebuilding the Medici Fountain to its present location. The long basin of the fountain was added at this time, along with the statues at the foot of the fountain.

During this reconstruction, the chief architect of parks and promenades of Paris, Gabriel Davioud, under the leadership of Adolphe Alphand, built new ornamental gates and fences around the park, and polychrome brick garden houses. He also transformed what remained of the old Chartreux nursery garden, at the south end of the park, into an English garden with winding paths, and planted a fruit garden in the southwest corner. He kept the regular geometric pattern of the paths and alleys, but did create one diagonal alley near the Medici fountain, which opened a view of the Pantheon.

Then, in 1880s and 1890s, monuments to writers and artists, a small-scale model by Bartholdi of his Liberty Enlightening the World (commonly known as the Statue of Liberty) and one modern sculpture by Zadkine.

The garden in the late nineteenth century contained a marionette theater, a music kiosk, greenhouses, an apiary (or bee-house); an orangerie also used for displaying sculpture and modern art (used until the 1930s); a rose garden, the fruit orchard, and about seventy works of sculpture. In the early 20th century, many more attractions were added, eventually making the garden a public favourite.

The garden is largely devoted to a green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and centred on a large octagonal basin of water, with a central jet of water; in it children sail model boats. The garden is famed for its calm atmosphere. Surrounding the bassin on the raised balustraded terraces are a series of statues of former French queens, saints and copies after the Antique.

In the southwest corner, there is an orchard of apple and pear trees and the théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theatre). The gardens include a large fenced-in playground for young children and their parents and a vintage carousel. In addition, free musical performances are presented in a gazebo on the grounds and there is a small cafe restaurant nearby, under the trees, with both indoor and outdoor seating from which many people enjoy the music over a glass of wine. The orangerie displays art, photography and sculptures. The model boat pond in Conservatory Water in Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, is loosely based on that of one in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The École nationale supérieure des Mines de Paris and the Odéon theatre stand next to the Luxembourg Garden.

The entire garden is traversed by paths allowing walks and strolls. The garden has a “French” part located in the axis of the palace and “English” parts on the side of rue Guynemer. Between the two stretches the geometric forest of quincunxes. To these three well-differentiated areas are added, to the south, the lawns and an orchard, conservatory of pomology of old and forgotten varieties, located opposite the Lycée Montaigne, on the side of the rue Auguste-Comte.

The central axis of the garden is extended, beyond its wrought iron grill and gates opening to rue Auguste Comte, by the central esplanade of the rue de l’Observatoire, officially the Jardin Marco Polo, where sculptures of the four Times of Day alternate with columns and culminate at the southern end with the 1874 “Fountain of the Observatory”, also known as the “Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde” or the “Carpeaux Fountain”, for its sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. It was installed as part of the development of the avenue de l’Observatoire by Gabriel Davioud in 1867.

The bronze fountain represents the work of four sculptors: Louis Vuillemot carved the garlands and festoons around the pedestal, Pierre Legrain carved the armillary with interior globe and zodiac band; the animalier Emmanuel Fremiet designed the eight horses, marine turtles and spouting fish. Most importantly Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux sculpted the four nude women supporting the globe, representing the Four Continents of classical iconography.

There are crops of bedding plants for the garden beds and greenhouses housing green and flowering plants for decorating the interiors of the palace. An apiary located near the Davioud pavilion (Porte Vavin) provides an introduction to beekeeping.

Built in 1867 by Gabriel Davioud, the pavilion that bears his name today was first called the “Pépinière buffet”. At the time, it was a café-restaurant. It now hosts courses from the Luxembourg School of Horticulture (public and free), conferences by students of Luxembourg courses and the Société centrale d’apiculture and finally, in the summer, artistic exhibitions.

Buildings and Facilities
Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, grouped within the enclosure of a grid whose points are covered with gold leaf, the gardens are home to several listed buildings:

Luxembourg Palace
The Luxembourg Palace where the Senate sits, the upper house of Parliament, owner of the garden. The Palais de Luxembourg, built at great expense by King Louis XIII for his mother, Marie de Medici. Located in the north end of the garden, the palace, inspired by Florence’s Renaissance masterpiece, the Palazzo Pitti, was transformed after the French Revolution into the official seat of the French Senate.

Petit Luxembourg
The Petit Luxembourg, a mansion adjoining the previous one, residence of the President of the Senate. Today, the right wing, called the Hôtel de la Présidence, is the official residence of the President of the Senate: there are his office, those of his collaborators, official lounges and the President’s private apartments. There is a consecrated chapel, called Marie de Médicis, richly decorated.

The left wing, called Boffrand’s salons, houses dining rooms and salons, which are used for receptions and conferences organized by the president but also by other senators. Foreign personalities invited by the President of the Senate are generally welcomed at Petit Luxembourg. The private apartments are located upstairs.

Luxembourg Museum
The Luxembourg Museum is a place of art exhibition installed in a wing built perpendicular to the orangery of the Luxembourg Palace. The Luxembourg Museum, devoted to large temporary art exhibitions, renowned for the quality of the works presented. Its current vocation is to periodically present thematic and original artistic exhibitions favoring three axes of programming, in connection with the history of the place: “the Renaissance in Europe”, “Art and power” and “the Palace, the Garden and the Museum: Luxembourg in the heart of Paris, capital of the arts”.

In 1818, Musée du Luxembourg was designated as a space for living artists and the 100 paintings from the Royal Collection were moved to the Louvre. On display in the 19th century were paintings by David, Ingres, and Delacroix.After the French Senate took over the palace and the gardens in 1879, a new structure was built, a smaller building next to the main palais, and this is the current home of the museum. The first Impressionist exhibition in Paris was held here with works by Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, and Cezanne.

Another legacy of Marie de Medici is her collection of paintings that were displayed in the palais at Luxembourg, often considered the first public museum in Paris. There were 24 paintings by Rubens of the royal family as well as the Royal Collection of 100 paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Veronese, Rembrandt.

Mines ParisTech school
The former Hôtel de Vendôme, now occupied by the Mines ParisTech school. Adjoining the Luxembourg Gardens, it has been the headquarters of Mines ParisTech since 1815. It also houses the Mineralogy Museum. In the 19th century, it was enlarged in two campaigns to make it a place of teaching and research.

The Orangery
Built in 1830, the Luxembourg orangery houses a vast collection of exotic plants like palm trees, oleanders, orange and pomegranate. The fruit garden was founded by Carthusian monks and there are still hundreds of apple and pear varietals. Several buildings have followed one another. It houses a collection of 180 plants in boxes including citrus fruits, Canary Island date palms, oleander and pomegranate trees. Some bitter orange trees, which can be found in the French -style part of the garden from May to October, are estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old.

Today, the orangery is open to the public on European Heritage Days, usually held in mid-September. The Senate organizes temporary exhibitions of contemporary art in L’Orangerie in the summer when the exotic plants have been moved outside into the gardens.

The Greenhouses
the greenhouses of the Luxembourg garden, adjoining the Hôtel de Vendôme, house rich horticultural collections, including more than 400 species of orchids. These greenhouses are both a place of production of plants for the embellishment of the garden and the floral decoration of the Luxembourg Palace and a place of conservation of a plant heritage dating from the middle of the 19th century.

Since the attachment of the lands of the Chartreux estate to the Luxembourg garden, shortly after the French Revolution, in 1796, there have always been greenhouses in this place. The first greenhouse houses ferns, widely used as green plants in floral decorations. The second is home to flowering pots such as hydrangeas or begonias. The temperature of this greenhouse is regulated and the plants are fed by a drip system. Finally, the third greenhouse houses the collections of orchids, begonias and crotons. It was inaugurated in 1999, replacing the two oldest of the Conservation des Jardins which dated from the 19th century. century. This set is completed by trial beds of plants with flowers or decorative foliage. This permanent research thus makes it possible to offer visitors the garden, in perpetual evolution, and each year different.

The Bandstand
Built in 1888, based on plans of Charles Garnier (the architect who masterminded Palais Garnier), the gazebo bandstand presents dozens of free musical events from June to October. The gazebo is located in the trees to the southeast of the palace, near the cave.

Sculptures and fountains
Monuments, and fountains, scattered throughout the grounds. The two fountains in the garden are the Fontaine Médicis, along the Rue de Médicis and the Monument to Eugène Delacroix, against the Petit Luxembourg.

The garden contains just over a hundred statues,, including: The Greek Actor, The Scream, The Writing, The Dancing Faun, Herd of stags listening to the close -up. Surrounding the central green space are twenty figures of French queens and illustrious women standing on pedestals. They were commissioned by Louis-Philippe in 1848 and include: Anne of Austria, Anne of Brittany, Anne of France, Anne Marie Louise of Orléans, Bertha of Burgundy, Blanche of Castile, Clémence Isaure, Jeanne III of Navarre, Laure de Noves, Louise of Savoy, Margaret of Anjou, Margaret of Provence, Marguerite of Navarre, Marie de’ Medici, Mary, Queen of Scots, Matilda, Duchess of Normandy, Saint Bathild, Saint Clotilde, Saint Genevieve, and Valentina Visconti.

The Luxembourg Garden is perfect for a sunny stroll, and the foliage-lined corridors offer ample shade for a lazy afternoon walk or an impromptu picnic. Some of the trees here bear centuries-old heirloom apple varieties, and the former royal nurseries contain roses and orchids that perfume the air. The tranquil Medici Fountain, built in 1630, and one of the major attractions here, is lined with willowy trees and a pond. It’s a popular meeting spot for local lovers. Check out the little-known apiary, to find out how French artisanal honey is made.

The enormous territory of this palace-park ensemble offers a diversity of fascinating attractions for both children and adults. The western part of Jardin du Luxembourg has a huge playground called “Poussin Vert”. It is divided into two zones: for kids under 7 years old and from 7 to 12 years old. The playground is equipped with sand-boxes, slides, rope tracks, a children’s climbing wall, and various swings.

Children in the park can try to take a ride on a pony or an ancient 100-year old merry-go-round, or watch a performance about the Guignol’s life in a small puppet show. Sailing toy-ships and vessels with a remote control in a large pond in front of the palace is one of the most popular children’s entertainments. Joe Dassin mentioned this attraction in his song called “Le Jardin Du Luxembourg”.

The park offers not less fascinating pastime opportunities for the adults here as well. It has equipped tennis courts and basketball fields. There is an open musical pavilion where you can listen to a performance for free. Fans of board games are offered a roofed terrace for playing chess. The Parisians and guests of the capital choose the Luxembourg Gardens for family picnics, romantic walks, and just reading books. Once the weather is sunny and warm, the vast lawns are covered with visitors.

The garden hosts sports activities: tennis, basketball, martial arts, as well as the final stages of the French tennis championship, which take place on the first Sunday of September. The Senate tennis court hosted the events of the 1900 Summer Olympics.

In the northwest corner, near the orangery, chess players (twelve tables provided by the Senate) meet regularly, even in the middle of winter, while those of bridge(three tables) await fine weather to meet in the middle of the afternoon to the east of the four tennis courts.

The Jardin du Luxembourg is a stone’s throw away from some of Paris’ most beloved Left Bank neighbourhoods. The Saint Germain des Pres boulevard, with its literary cafes and chic boutiques is just a short trot, as is the historic Quartier Latin, with its tiny cobblestone streets, art galleries, and pocket-sized wine bars.