Now that it’s begun to faire chaud outside, what better place to spend the balmy days than in a Parisian parc? Reading, people watching, having a baguette and fromage picnic, no matter what you’re doing, the City of Light offers up a great many parks to pass the day in, ranging from unsung gems to famous beauties. Here are five of them à ne pas manquer.
Jardin du Luxembourg (map) – Let’s start with a classic. Any discussion of Paris parks must mention this gorgeous place. Highlights include its tranquility in the midst of city bustle, and the pond where you can float a boat (if that’s what floats your boat). There is also a permanent puppet theatre where, since 1933, parents have brought baby Frenchies daily to see performances of Pinocchio or The Three Little Pigs performed avec des marionnettes.
Parc Montsouris (map) – This park is a gentle, green expanse located in what a friend of mine once delicately called “the butt” of Paris, meaning the city’s southernmost edge by the péripherique. The Montsouris is named—fun fact!—for a windmill called the Moque-souris or “mocks the mice,” which apparently was suggesting that millers dared mice to find grain inside. I think it is safe to say this is the only park in Paris named for emotional manipulation of rodents, which makes it extra special. Make sure to check out the Colonne de la paix armée (column of armed peace) featured above.
Bois de Boulogne (map) – This massive park bordering Paris’ oblong 16th arrondissement is so vast, you can go in for a quick jog and end up completely lost. I’ve done this and frankly, I’m not sure how I got out. I suspect some lost joggers from the pre-GPS era have been wandering the Bois for decades. Among the Bois’ notable features are two horse-racing tracks (Hippodrome de Longchamp and Hippodrome d’Auteuil) and the famed Roland-Garros tennis stadium, home of the French Open. I’m able to tell you all this because I did, against all odds, find my way out.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont (map) – Unlike the tourist-favorite parks of Paris, which are (mostly) concentrated in the centre-ville, this one is up in the 19th arrondissement on Paris’ northeast shoulder. It’s visually striking, filled with craggy rocks and waterfalls; overlooking it is the Roman-inspired Temple de la Sibylle. As an added bonus, nearby is the fantastic Musée de la Musique, itself worth the trek to the 19th.
Tuileries (map) – Sandwiched between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries is the perfect blend of urban and green. Unlike the hulking Bois de Boulogne, the Tuileries never lets you forget you are in Paris. The city surrounds you on all sides, peeking in. This park is great for reading. (Thanks Paris for providing chairs in your parks!) I can remember whole, specific afternoons spent there with books—a testament to its goodness as a park, if you ask me. 12/10, would read there again.