Discover the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris

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Among the many parks and gardens of Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) is certainly one of my favourites. It is also a much appreciate green space for Parisians, students and tourists. It’s easy to fall in love with the gardens. They are a fascinating place, an “oxygen bottle” in the centre of the French capital. There, visitors enjoy the greenery punctuated with a multitude of statues, flowerbeds, tree-lined promenades, playgrounds and the famous Guignol puppet show. Come along, I’ll show you the place…


Where is the Jardin du Luxembourg?

The Jardin du Luxembourg is part of the 6th arrondissement. The park owes its popularity to its magnificent trees, particularly the grand horse chestnut trees and the paulownias. A little orangery hosts rose-bays, palm trees, camphor trees and also pomegranate trees.

At the centre of the garden, Le Nôtre designed an open space. The formal garden is organised around an octagonal basin. It borders the South façade of the Luxembourg Palace and create a perspective to the Paris Observatory.

Jardin du Luxembourg Map

The formal gardens cover most of the Jardin du Luxembourg (French for Garden of Luxembourg). Traditionally it is a gathering site of Parisian high society. It also offers a resting space in the English garden located along the rue Guynemer and rue Auguste-Comte. This is where you’ll find orchids and vines.

Luxembourg Garden in Spring © French Moments

Luxembourg Gardens in Spring © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Spring in the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments


History of the Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Garden in Spring © French Moments

Luxembourg Gardens in Spring © French Moments

The Luxembourg Gardens were created in 1617. It owes its name to the Duke of Piney-Luxembourg, first landlord of the domain.

The Mark of Maria de’ Medici

Maria de' Medici in 1616 by Pourbus

Maria de’ Medici in 1616 by Pourbus

Maria de’ Medici, widow of the King of France, Henri IV, later acquired the estate.

The Italian born Queen wished to create a building to remind her of the Pitti Palace as well as establishing gardens evoking those of Boboli in Florence.

Maria commissioned the construction of the palace (current Luxembourg Palace) from Salomon de la Brosse.

The new edifice opened onto a 8 hectare park. More than 2,000 elm trees were planted and large flower beds were laid out. The recently built Arcueil aqueduct fed the fountains with fresh water.

The Medici fountain

One of the most beautiful settings in the gardens is the Medici fountain.

The Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens © French Moments

The Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens © French Moments

It can easily be missed if you don’t walk to the east side of the palace.

It’s probably the most famous fountain of the park. It dates back to the 1630s when Maria de’ Medici Florentine commissioned its construction from engineer Thomas Francine.

Initially named “Luxembourg Grotto”, it features an Italian-style portico to which the garden architects added a fountain and a lengthened basin.

However the fountain you now see has been altered several times since the 17th century. In 1863, Auguste Ottin decorated it with a group of three mythological characters:

Polyphemus catching Galatea by surprise in the arms of Acis”.

Luxembourg Garden in Spring 21 copyright French Moments

Luxembourg Gardens in the Spring © French Moments

In the central niche, you’ll discover the story of Polyphemus in love with Galateais.

Crouched down, the cyclops is about to crush the young and beautiful goddess of the sea in the arms of Acis.

Luxembourg Garden in Spring © French Moments

Medici Fountain © French Moments

The Medici Fountain escaped demolition!

In 1862, the gardens’ neighbourhood underwent a massive restructuration in the line with the great urban works of Baron Haussmann. The construction of the new rue de Médicis led to great changes in the gardens.

Urban planners under the direction of Haussmann removed the fountain stone by stone and re-assembled it 30 metres closer to the palace. They also created a 50 m long basin bordered with plane trees and flower pots in stone.

That’s why the basin in front of the fountain shows a wonderful green setting. Its long shape gives the illusion of a water setting.

The rear of the Medici Fountain © French Moments

Also part of the urban restructuration, city-planners moved the Léda Fountain located on the corner of rue du Regard and rue de Vaugirard. It found its place against the rear of the Medici fountain’s portico.

The touches of Le Nôtre

The garden has been modified and extended several times.

Architect Le Nôtre constructed a big octagonal basin in the centre of the formal garden on which little boats drift.

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

The central basin of the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

From the garden designed for Maria de Medici, almost nothing remains today apart from the orangery and the Medicis Fountain of Florentine inspiration.

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg - the Grand Bassin copyright French Moments

The Grand Bassin © French Moments

From 1810, the green area of the park was extended to the South by the gardens along the avenue de l’Observatoire.

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

The entrance railings of the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Avenue de l'Observatoire © French Moments

Avenue de l’Observatoire © French Moments

A public park opened to the public since 1642!

In 1642, Gaston of Orléans opened the park to the public. He was the younger brother of Louis XIII, who inherited the space.

The first visitors were local bourgeois, clerics, intellectuals and nannies who had to rent chairs from a lady in front of the palace.

Today, the park is the favourite green spaces of students from the universities of the 5th arrondissement. 

Jardin du Luxembourg, Benches of Paris © French Moments

Fermob’s armchair in the Luxembourg Gardens © French Moments

Before 1974 it cost to use the iconic chairs in the park. You had to pay a fee to women called “les chaisières” to sit on them. This is one of the many professions which disappeared more than 40 years ago…


The statues of the Luxembourg Gardens

Jardin du Luxembourg in Spring © French Moments

Luxembourg Gardens in Spring © French Moments

While having a stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg, you’ll be amazed at the multitude of statues scattered in the park.

Ouf of the 106 statues in the garden, most of them date back to the reign of Louis-Philippe (19th C.) who wished to add to the romantic character of the site.

The statues of the Queens of France

This is the case for the famous statues of the “Queens of France and famous women” (Reines de France et Femmes illustres).

King Louis Philippe (reign 1830-1848) launched the project in 1843 which gathered some of the greatest sculptors of the time.

It is a series of 20 sculptures in white marble set out on the right and left terraces around the great basin. Each statue measures between 2.30 and 3.80 metres in height and stands on a stone pedestal which indicates the name, its function, and the dates of birth and death of the person.

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Statues of the Queens of France © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Statues of the Queens of France © French Moments

Here’s the list of the 20 queen and famous women:

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.

… and their locations around the central basin:

Queens of France Statues at the Luxembourg Garden © LPLT - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

© LPLT – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

But someone’s missing, don’t you think?

What about Joan of Arc?!

Interestingly the series originally included a statue of Joan of Arc by François Rude. As it was considered too fragile to remain outdoors, authorities had it moved to the Louvre in 1872. Instead the French government commissioned a new statue from Taluet: Margaret of Anjou, completed in 1877.

The Statue of Liberty

The most unusual statue in the park, placed there in 1906, is arguably that of the Statue of Liberty. The replica is a donation its sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

Replica of the Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Garden, Paris © French Moments

Replica of the Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens © French Moments


Jardin du Luxembourg: a leisure centre

Jardin du Luxembourg in Spring © French Moments

Luxembourg Gardens in Spring © French Moments

The Luxembourg Gardens house several facilities which bring joy to children and grown-ups alike:

  • the real tennis court (jeu de paume),
  • the French bowls ground (pétanque),
  • the childrens’ playground,
  • the wooden merry-go-round and
  • the famous Guignol puppet show…
Jardin du Luxembourg circa 1900 - Séeberger frères : Centre des monuments nationaux

Jardin du Luxembourg circa 1900 – Séeberger frères : Centre des monuments nationaux

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Playground at the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

French boules at the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Kiosk at the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

In the far south-west of the garden, a beehive produces a few hundred kilos of honey per year. Originally established in 1856, the beehive was rebuilt in 1991.

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

The beehive of the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Not far is an orchard containing more than 700 apple and pear trees as well as grape vines.

The bandstand dates back to 1879 (contemporary with the wooden merry-go-round). From time to time it continues to host concerts for brass bands.


Paintings of the Luxembourg Gardens

Here’s three paintings representing the Jardin du Luxembourg:

Vincent Van Gogh: Allée dans le jardin du Luxembourg (1886), Clark Art Institute, Williamstown.

Henri Rousseau: Jardin du Luxembourg. Monument de Chopin (1909), Ermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg.

Brasilian painter Eliseu Visconti: Jardin du Luxemburgo (1895).


Jardin du Luxembourg: find out more!

Here’s a short selection of websites about the Luxembourg gardens:

How to get to the Jardin du Luxembourg

  • Closest métro stations: Vavin (line 4), Saint-Sulpice (line 4), Notre-Dame-des-Champs (line 12)
  • Closest RER station: Gare du Luxembourg (RER B)

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Discover the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments Discover the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments


 

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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