Summer afternoons in Paris can only really be spent in one manner – whiling away the time in one of the many parks scattered around the city. Whether you prefer large or small, green or gravel, with water or without, there really is a park to suit every taste or activity.
I know that for dramatic effect I should build up to my favourite park but I’m going to start with it because if you only visit one park in Paris, make it this one:
Parc des Buttes de Chaumont
One of Paris’ largest and probably its most beautiful parks, Parc des Buttes de Chaumont is in the North West of Paris and at its heighest points has a wonderful view of the city. I could easily spend whole afternoons wandering along the various pathways in the company of a good friend, or exploring the magnificent Chinese gardens with their cliffs and waterfalls. Parc des Buttes de Chaumont is always full of people getting up to all kinds of things, from relaxing picnics to energetic jogging. For my part, I love this park because of it’s vast open spaces and although it’s landscaped, I feel as though I have been transported out of the city and into a more natural environment.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Although for a long time I failed to see the attraction of this park as a place to ‘hang out,’ it’s a favourite among my friends at the Sorbonne. Its central location and close proximity to the university makes the Jardin du Luxemburg easily accessible and its various activities for children make it a popular afternoon stop for families. The park with it’s gravel pathways and geometrically arranged lawns, is laid out in an Italian and French style in front of the Palais du Luxembourg (French Senate building). I personally do not understand why it is such a popular picnic destination, as only a small section of grass is ‘authorised’ to sit on so it is often over-crowded however, I do think that the fountains are worth a visit and the octagonal pond in the centre is very charming in the summer as children can often be seen playing with boats.
Jardin de Tuileries
In my opinion this park has a similar feel to the Jardin de Luxembourg with its gravel walkways, Italian Renaissance design and numerous ponds and fountains. Another of Paris’ larger parks and possibly its most renowned, it serves as an elaborate walkway between Place de Concorde and the Louvre museum. For me the Jardin de Tuileries is a short-cut to the Seine and a welcome break from the metro as I usually just pass through on my way to and from miscellaneous destinations, however I have occasionally found time to stop for a while on a bench or rest beneath the sun on one of the many chairs left out for the public.
Bois de Vincennes
Located on the South-Eastern outskirts of the city it is perfect for making the most of the ‘velib’ – in other words: it’s a great spot for a bike ride. The park is landscaped in the traditional English manner which basically means there are lots of grassy open spaces and nature is almost left to run its course. The Bois de Vincennes is actually around four times larger than Hyde Park in London so I must admit to only having visited a small portion of it, although I hope to return before leaving Paris because there is even a zoo and of course the Château de Vincennes.
Square de la Tour Saint-Jacques
A small park right in the heart of Paris surrounds the 16th century gothic tower which is all that remains of an ancient church. This park is one of my favourites yet its charm is often over-looked by passers-by. Situated by the busy metro station of Chatelet, a frequent evening meeting place for my friends and me, I often wander in for half an hour or so while I’m waiting. The history of the tower is quite interesting and the park itself is so peaceful considering the hustle and bustle of the world beyond it’s black gates. Square de la Tour Saint Jacques like many of Paris’ secluded little parks is perfect for reading a book, people watching, or simply taking a five minute pause from the city. I once saw a beautiful, big, black cat disappear into the hedges around the park and I have been enchanted by this petite place ever since.
In any case wherever you are in the capital, don’t forget to take a break from the hasty movement of city-life and take in the quiet surroundings of one of Paris’ countless hidden gems!