Among the many parks and gardens of Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden) is certainly one of the favourite green spaces of Parisians, students and tourists. Fascinated by this oxygen bottle in the centre of the capital, visitors enjoy the greenery punctuated with a multitude of statues, playgrounds and the famous Guignol puppet show.
Jardin du Luxembourg: Situation Map and general description
Comprised mainly of formal gardens, the Garden of Luxembourg (in French: Jardin du Luxembourg) is a gathering site of Parisian high society which also offers a resting space thanks to the English garden located along the rue Guynemer and rue Auguste-Comte. This space is enhanced by orchids and vines.
Situated in 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.
In the formal garden area, situated in the axis from the Luxembourg Palace to the Paris Observatory, an open space created by Le Nôtre is organised around an octagonal basin.
History of the Garden of Luxembourg
The Luxembourg Garden was created in 1617 and owes its name to the Duke of Piney-Luxembourg, landlord of a domain which was later acquired by Maria de Medici, widow of the King of France, Henri IV. 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. The construction of the palace (current Luxembourg Palace), opening onto a park comprising 8 hectares, was entrusted to Salomon de la Brosse. More than 2,000 elm trees were planted and large flower beds were laid out. The fountains were fed by the recently built Arcueil aqueduct.
The most famous fountain is the Medici fountain, which dates back to the 1630s when Maria de Medici Florentine commissioned its construction by engineer Thomas Francine. Initially named “Luxembourg Grotto”, it features an Italian-style portico to which was added a fountain and a lengthened basin. Several alterations were made: in 1863, Auguste Ottin decorated it with a group of three mythological characters:
“Polyphemus catching Galatea by surprise in the arms of Acis”.
In a niche, the story of Polyphemus in love with Galateais is unveiled. Crouched down, the cyclops is about to crush the young and beautiful goddess of the sea in the arms of Acis.
When the rue de Médicis was interrupted by the great city planning works of Baron Haussmann in 1862, the fountain was moved to its current site. The basin in front of the fountain reveals a wonderful green setting and the shape of the basin gives the illusion of a water setting. The Léda Fountain, previously located on the corner of rue du Regard and rue de Vaugirard, was replaced against the rear of the portico.
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. From the garden designed for Maria de Medici, almost nothing remains apart from the orangery and the Medicis Fountain of Florentine inspiration. From 1810, the green area of the park was extended to the South by the gardens along the avenue de l’Observatoire.
In 1642, the Luxembourg Garden was opened to the public by Gaston of Orléans, 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.
The statues of the Garden of Luxembourg
The multitude of statues scattered in the park since the reign of Louis-Philippe add to the romantic character of the site. The famous statues of the “Queen of France and illustrious women” were sculpted under the reign of Louis-Philippe (circa 1843) by some of the greatest sculptors of the time. This series of 20 sculptures in marble was set out on the right and left terraces above the great basin in front of the Luxembourg Garden.
The most unusual statue in the park, placed there in 1906, is arguably that of the Statue of Liberty donated by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.
The Luxembourg Garden: a leisure centre
The Luxembourg Garden houses 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.
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. It is surrounded by an orchard containing more than 700 apple and pear trees as well as grape vines.
The bandstand was built in the park in 1879 at the same time as the wooden merry-go-round, according to the plans of Charles Garnier. Concerts for brass bands are always playing under the bandstand.