Paris is one of the worst endowed cities in Europe when it comes to green spaces — so where can one steal away for a coffee, picnic or a bit of splendid isolation outdoors?
We asked FT readers to share their secret hideaways in the French capital. Here’s what you told us.
A world of styles at the Albert Kahn gardens
Paris has many parks that showcase French horticultural flair throughout history, from the royal topiary of the Tuileries to the ornate engineering of the Haussmann-era Buttes-Chaumont. But none is an adventure quite like the Albert Kahn gardens in Boulogne-Billancourt.
Named after their founder, a French banker and philanthropist, the gardens are a legacy of his ambition to archive the world. This legacy includes the accompanying museum, Les Archives de la Planète — an attempt to capture the world’s buildings and cultural practices in 72,000 early colour photographs.
The museum is currently closed for renovation (scheduled to reopen in 2021), but the gardens still delight. Begun in 1895, they are an immersive journey through French and English styles; Vosgienne forest; the Atlas Mountains; Japanese Zen traditions; and the wilds of the Americas. They are arranged in a series of scenes, each a carefully planted celebration of regional horticulture and vegetation.
This romantic escape was an appealing meeting place for the European intelligentsia, with Albert Einstein and Auguste Rodin among the strollers. However, Kahn’s ambitions for the project were ended with the loss of his fortune in the Wall Street crash, but the gardens, which became a public park, have been preserved as they were. Indeed, a master from Kyoto’s Urasenke school still leads Japanese tea ceremonies at the traditional pavillon de thé.
Until his death in 1940 during the Nazi occupation, Kahn continued relishing the gardens’ harmony — the effect is no less powerful for visitors today. Entry costs €4 for adults and is free for under-18s. It is also free for all on the first Sunday of the month.
— Patrick, senior cabinet officer, Sydney, Australia
Find peace at the Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph Migneret
The Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph Migneret is a small, peaceful garden near Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, the busy main street of the Marais district (there is an entrance at 10 Rue des Rosiers nearby). It is a memorial to Jewish children deported to concentration camps during the second world war. In addition to a small lawn, it has a vegetable garden and a few fruit trees. A perfect retreat from the bustle of the Marais, it is basically unknown to tourists. It was created by joining the gardens of the surrounding charming old hôtels particuliers (townhouses).
— Silvio Sandrone, aerospace executive, Bremen, Germany
Square Carpeaux: where locals get together
Square Carpeaux in the 18th arrondissement is a little corner of calm just beneath the butte, or hill, of Montmartre. With a small bandstand in the centre, a children’s playground and facilities for games such as table tennis and basketball, it is a gem known only to locals of the district. In summer, look out for live music and apéros. In winter, it is a coveted spot for nannies and children of the [bourgeois] bohemian population of this recently gentrified area.
— Brendan, talent manager, Paris, France
Far from the Marais bustle at the Hôtel de Sully
The Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sully is a hidden gem in the Marais. It is surprisingly peaceful and quiet, situated near the beautiful Place des Vosges. I stumbled on this small garden one day and was charmed by its serenity. On a warm day, it’s nice to read a book, sitting on one of the benches, and enjoy the view of the impressive Hôtel de Sully. A quiet stop for a busy day in the dynamic Marais.
— Merve Erdil, communications, Paris, France
Inspired designs from Rémi Hampartzoumian
Any garden by Rémi Hampartzoumian, especially his rooftop and private gardens. His use of teak flooring is inspired, and his book, Un vrai jardin à ma fenêtre, is available in paperback.
— Christian Thalacker, writer, Lexington, Kentucky, US
Sunny sides up on the Place des Vosges
The Place des Vosges in the Marais. Sit with a viennoiserie from Carette on the north side of the square and watch the light on the surrounding façades change dramatically as the sun shifts.
— H McPhail, consultant, London, UK
Dynastic tradition: the Hôtel Particulier Montmartre
The garden of the Hôtel Particulier Montmartre. The mansion was home to members of the Hermès fashion and Rothschild banking dynasties, but now this secret refuge has been transformed into the ultimate private hideaway. The 900 sq m walled garden, designed by Louis Benech (who worked on an overhaul of Le Jardin des Tuileries), offers a stylish sanctuary where the brunch is a must.
— Nicolas Chavotier, consultant, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
L’île aux Cygnes: a ‘true oasis’
L’île aux Cygnes is a slender artificial island in the Seine connecting the Pont de Grenelle and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, near the Eiffel Tower. Typically it is not crowded, and most people are usually passing through rather than sitting down on one of the many benches. It is a lovely place to sit and watch people, the Seine and time pass by — a true oasis in the chaos that is Paris. I usually end my run here. The view as you come from the Pont de Bir-Hakeim is exceptional, to say the least.
— Apoorv Swarup, management consultant, Paris, France
Lost in Romanticism: the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a public park in the 19th arrondissement and one of the largest green spaces in the city. Inaugurated by Napoleon III in 1867, it is in the Romantic style, with fake cliffs and mountain, bridges, caves and even a Roman temple at the top. A peaceful must-see.
— Benjamin Rosmini, press and communication adviser, Paris, France
Thriving biodiversity at the Parc de Bercy
The little vegetable garden at the Parc de Bercy in the 12th arrondissement is a lovely place to watch people, including children, learn to garden and preserve biodiversity. The whole park is a gem and I love that it is keeping history alive by referencing the old wine depot [which the park used to be] in the rose garden. The best place to enter is from the Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir footbridge over the Seine. If you’re lucky, you might catch the local traceurs (parkour runners) practising and be treated to all sorts of acrobatics. Finish your day with shopping and a cake at Bercy Village.
— Ann Morgan, baker, Worthing, UK
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