Every cobblestone and curve of Paris’s winding streets can lead you to a new discovery in this beautiful city, with the promise of an exciting new experience or neighborhood to explore. While urban adventures are excellent, those who have sufficiently explored the concrete jungle of France’s capital may be compelled to seek out greener pastures and enjoy exploring Paris gardens.
The Luxembourg garden, the Tuileries and the Parc Monceau—these Paris gardens offer the tired traveler a respite from visiting museums, shopping and bar- and restaurant hopping. Upon the arrival of sunshine in Paris, parks hit their peak in popularity, with picnics and pop-up football matches taking over every bit of available grass.
If you’re looking to avoid crowds and to have a unique Paris garden experience, why not visit one of the city’s many community gardens? Scattered across the city, these gardens provide Parisians with the opportunity to get their hands dirty and take part in some urban gardening.
The city of Paris encourages city dwellers to create community gardens in their neighborhoods by repurposing abandoned lots or other unused space into green spaces. The gardens are grouped under a city-sponsored charter called “la Charte Main Verte,” which stipulates that the gardens must contribute to community outreach and also be open to the public for certain periods of time.
Many of these gardens are active agricultural sites, with gardeners growing all types of leafy greens and herbs and even the odd tomato. Other gardens are more wild and natural, a refreshing response to the French tendency to tame and control greenery in more formal gardens.
Les Jardins du Ruisseau (110, rue du Ruisseau, in the 18th Arrondissement), located on the northern edge of Paris, is on the site of abandoned railroad tracks that have been out of use for more than 30 years. The raised-bed garden takes up part of the former platform, with spaces left for picnic tables and spots for lounging in and enjoying the sunshine. Neighborhood cats weave their way among busy gardeners and enchanted visitors, who are welcome to explore the garden as long as the gate is left open for them.
Aimed at education and outreach, les Jardins Passagers de la Villette (Parc de la Villette, in the 19th Arrondissement) welcomes visitors from late May to mid-September on Saturday and Sunday, from 3 p.m.–7 p.m. Give yourself a self-guided trip of this vibrant Paris garden, with a living prairie, varieties of fruit trees and sprouts of all sorts, throughout the warmer months. Check out the regularly updated list of green thumb–inspiring classes and activities suited to the whole family.
Le Jardin d’Alice (40, rue de la Chapelle) is a squat/community garden in the 18th Arrondissement. Ring at the door and wait to see if you’ll be welcomed by one of the artists in residence. This spot attracts the politically engaged and musically inclined, with a solar-powered residence taking center stage in the garden and an affordable basement rehearsal space rented out by the hour.
If you’re in the 11th Arrondissement and looking to feel some grass between your toes, stop by le Jardin des Jeunes Pouces, where the wild grass grows. This easygoing Paris garden is open to the public on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons for two-hour periods. Stop by to see how street art meets freshly sewn seeds in this quintessential community garden, where even the avowed urbanite will enjoy the feel of grass between his or her toes.
Les Jardins du Ruisseau
Les Jardins Passagers de la Villette
Le Jardin d’Alice
Le Jardin des Jeunes Pouces
Editor’s note: Have you heard about the GG2P Travel Club yet? There are three levels at which to join—and the first one is free!