Photo by BAOOKUN
With over 2 million permanent residents in Paris and upwards of 15 million tourists per year, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the city feels crowded at times. Yet every year when spring arrives and the sun finally comes out, beckoning winter-weary urbanites to soak up some Vitamin D at an outdoor terrace or park bench in their quartier, the sheer mass of people vying for a spot in the sun never ceases to amaze. While the richness and diversity of Paris are dependent upon the constant circulation of visitors and new arrivals, it’s normal to want to break away from the crowd and find a quiet space of your own.
Since Paris is magical and full of surprises- as well as over 400 municipal parks- a hidden garden is never far away, you just have to know how to find it. A keen eye and an ability to get off the beaten track, even just slightly, are key to finding a refuge from the crowds as you explore the city. Here are some tips on finding your own secret garden in Paris.
Look Behind the Scenes
If you’re visiting Paris from abroad it’s normal to want to visit the monuments and traditional tourist sites. However, we all experience burnout while traveling- especially when on a mission to cross things off our bucket list- so if you need a breather after visiting Monet’s water lilies or a pause after trekking to the top of the Tour Eiffel a bit of respite in a green space will do a world of good. Luckily there are many natural settings to discover tucked away near Paris monuments.
Hidden in the heart of Paris is Le Square du Vert Gallant, a Seine-side park and perfect picnic spot that is mere minutes away from the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Hotel de Ville (which also has a charming park nestled along the side of it). Head down the steps to this shady space that visitors rarely notice from street level.
Most people appreciate the view of Sacre Coeur from the front, but if you cross over the butte to the other side of Montmartre you’ll find plenty of pleasant gardens for a respite from the crowds. The Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent will give life to those who need to nourish their wild side while those who are practicing being Parisian will enjoy the Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet where locals let loose, rolling up their sleeves and taking off socks as soon as the sun shows up.
Le Sacré Coeur, by Nicholas Bartolotta
Visit the Outskirts of the City
La Petite Ceinture, the long-defunct commuter railway that encircles Paris, has slowly been going green as neighborhood associations reclaim parts of the railroad and turn it into gardens and gathering places. The mother of the movement is arguably Les Jardins du Ruisseau, a community garden and gathering place for locals with a green thumb or a need for nature (the garden’s unofficial mascot, the Hedgehog, is among the fauna you might spot while exploring this untamed space).
In the years since Les Jardins du Ruisseau opened, the petite ceinture has been populated by similar ventures such as the 1.3 kilometer promenade that features wildflowers and other flora in the 15th arrondissement and the various train stations along the line that are slowly being renovated and converted into community spaces and cafés, such as La Recyclerie– whose outdoor dining space and urban chickens and goats will give you a farm life experience on the edge of Paris.
Les Jardins du Ruisseau
Think Outside the Square
Paris is magical, but not always accommodating. Many a Parisian has seen their picnic plans washed out by an unexpected downpour of rain and, whether it be spring showers or the occasional August storm, it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B in the city. Luckily, there are several havens to enjoy some greenery without getting wet.
The covered dining room of Hotel Amour is hidden away and adorned with leafy plants thriving in the greenhouse setting, making it a green oasis in the middle of Pigalle! Further north, in the 18th arrondissement, you’ll find Le Très Particulier, which treats customers to a charming, discrete, garden terrace where you can order cocktails that incorporate herbs and aromatics grown on site in the bar’s garden.
Le Très Particulier
The cure to a rainy day is unfailingly a good café, the recently opened 5 Pailles coffeeshop combines both secret garden and excellent coffee in the 10th arrondissement, where you’ll find a hidden dining room once you make your way past the narrow front of the house. Decorated in floral wallpaper with fresh flowers in vases adorning each table, this charming café is the perfect consolation for a rained-out day.
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After you’ve finished exploring the hidden parks of Paris, wander over to Cook’n with Class Paris for a French cooking class.