We Found These 5 Secret Gardens in Paris Just for You
Flowers growing at La Petite Ceinture railway (Photo: Calliope/Twitter)
Nobody thinks they’ve “gotten” French art just because they’ve seen the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre. The same goes for the masterpiece gardens of Paris. Strolling through the famous green-and-gravel expanses like Luxembourg and Tuileries gives you a clear idea of how kings and queens once frolicked (as well as a horde of new less-appealing newcomers).
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The lush, quiet, intimate gardens of the city not only give you an undisturbed place to rest and read and picnic, but also show you the more dreamy, playful side of the elegant capital. Consider them the amuse-bouches of the decadent feast that is the City of Light.
The Elevated Garden
Back in the 19th century, a 17-mile-long steam railway known La Petite Ceinture Railway served as the public transportation system of Paris. Abandoned once the metro was built, the route was taken over by vines, trees, and wildflowers. Eventually the old rails and tunnels turned into a beloved — if illegal — spot for locals to take a stroll through different quarters of the city. In 2008, a section of it was reopened officially for walkers in the 16th arrondissement, and last summer, a mile-long section in the 15th was landscaped into forest, prairie, and woodland habitats, then opened to the public (on Rue St. Charles; look for the elevator). My favorite part of this historic greenway is not just its unforgettable and unexpected views of the city from its elevated sections (check out the Eiffel Tower from the section opened in the 15th) but also the outfits that the Parisians wear in the overgrown sections — many of them sporting backpacks and ski poles as if they were venturing into the wilderness.
The Jardin de Bambou (Photo: Wolfgang Grossman/Flickr)
The Bamboo Garden
Parc Villette has always been a favorite of artists and schoolchildren (both excellent judges of character, in my opinion). Designed and constructed in 1982, the park was designed to be a vision of the future, with an IMAX theater, a science museum, a symphony hall, a permanent circus, and a meadow where sheep now cut grass. The Jardin de Bambou is the most worth seeing — and hardest to find, as it spirals below ground in a snail-like maze lined with lush bamboo, only to spit you out into a zen-like sound sculpture where piped-in music plays. For architects, the garden is quite famous because of its designer, Alexandre Chemetoff, who won the National Grand Prize of Architecture in 1980. For the rest of us, it’s an unexpected green temple of calm.