As we've said before, Paris is deep — there seems to be a lot of everything, some of it better known than others. This certainly applies to gardens — we all know about Luxembourg and the Tuileries and the Bois de Boulogne, but maybe haven't heard of some of the more… curious gardens, like those below. The Paris Explorer takes you where no gardener has gone before!
Just outside the wall of Père Lachaise in the 20th Arrondissement is a unique Paris garden — one that has been left grow on its own, without gardeners or planting. Surprisingly, it feels natural, not just a bunch of weeds growing at random. There's a pond where newts and tadpoles live peacefully, and even ducks hang out here. There is explanatory signage to help you understand the flora and fauna.
Tucked away in the Marais between busy Boulevard Beaumarchais and Rue de Turenne is a calm oasis at Square Saint-Gilles-du-Grand-Veneur. In fact, this rose garden is truly hidden from the nearby streets and the only way to find it is to make your way down narrow alleys. Once you arrive you can enjoy the serenity of the rose arbor as you relax on a park bench with a lovely view of the rear facade of Hôtel du Grand Veneur (1646).
To get to the square from Boulevard Beaumarchais find Rue des Arquebusiers (halfway between the Metro stations Chemin Vert and Saint-Sébastien-Froissart) and walk down to its corner (Rue des Arquebusiers takes a right angle). There you will find the gateway to the narrow Rue de Grand Veneur, which leads you the the rose garden.
From Rue de Turenne take Rue Villehardouin (which also takes a right angle) to its corner to find the gate to Rue de Hesse with access to Square Saint-Gilles-du-Grand-Veneur.
This isn't a garden, but it's close to one! When you leave the rose garden of Square Saint-Gilles-du-Grand-Veneur turn right (north) on Rue de Turenne and make a visit to the church of Saint-Denys du Saint-Sacrement to take a look at La Pietà, a Delacroix from 1844, which he painted in only 17 days. It's up on the wall in the first chapel on the right inside the church. French poet and art critic Baudelaire said this little-known work is a "masterpiece that leaves in the spirit a deep groove of melancholy". (It sounds better in French.)
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Un Jardin sur le toit — Perhaps best known for its iconic carrés, or square scarves, Hermès produces other luxury goods (think the Birkin bag), including perfumes. On the top of Hermès headquarters building on Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré is a garden where the company's parfumeur grows the plants that he used in a recent Hermès perfume, Un Jardin Sur Le Toit.
Malheursement, the garden is not open to the public, even though we did show up wearing our Hermès carré. However, you can just see the garden if you walk down Faubourg Saint-Honoré a little ways (following the traffic flow) and crane your neck.
The 9th Arrondissement is not known for having large green spaces, but in the quartier called Nouvelle Athènes is a pleasent park called Square Alex-Biscarre. Like other of these gardens, it's a bit hidden away from the hustle and bustle of life in the busy 9th. From the benches you have a lovely vista of the surrounding buildings, most notably the mansion of Adolphe Thiers, president of France in 1871. (The house was destroyed during the Commune uprising of that year, but quickly rebuilt.)
Access to Square Alex Biscarre is from Rue Notre Dame de Lorette at Place St George and it very convenient to Metro Saint-George. By the way, you can request a visit to the Thiers hôtel (which is officially called l'Hôtel Dosne-Thiers).
The Trocadero gardens are known to the millions of visitors who come to Place du Trocadero for the glorious view of the Eiffel Tower just across the river, then walk down the steps, past monumental sculpture and the massive fountain, to cross the Pont d'Iena to the Tower.
But, not many take a side trip to the southwest corner of the gardens to visit a more obscure section. Here you find archways, a man-made grotto, and a narrow upper path with faux-wooden concrete railings. These all seem to be leftovers from the creation of the original Trocadero gardens built for the International Exposition of 1878, along with a Moorish-inspired, ornate palais at the top of the hill. The concrete foilies found here are of the same style found at Parc des Buttes Chaumont, built in 1867.
By the time of the Exposition of 1937 the originals seemed outdated and were replaced with the current palais and gardens, when the massive central fountain was also built. (Interestingly, in 1937 the pavilions of Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union were facing each other across the gardens.) Today, it feels like a step back to a simpler time to wander through the remaining 19th-century part of the garden.
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