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How Did Paris Get So Many Green Spaces?

How Did Paris Get So Many Green Spaces?

Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris, written by Richard S. Hopkins, is an LSU Press publication exploring the green spaces in Paris.  For the avid gardener and garden designer/planner, this could be a great book to learn more about Paris’ parks. Many people may think parks and gardens were created just to look at.  But, the government influences more than people’s eyes.

Emperor Napoleon III wanted to make Paris an international capital.  And, what an emperor wants, who can deny?  Along with his great recreation of Paris, he wanted to include green spaces in each of the city’s sections.  So, while Hausmann was tearing down ancient buildings and creating wide boulevards, gardens were being planned and planted all over the city.

Certainly, urban planners in the second half of the 1800s faced similar issues as those of today.  First of all, how do we create green areas and their facilities that will attract visitors?  Also, how do we serve the people living nearby and be good looking?  Like today, building gardens and public gathering areas was a way to build communities and provide identity to the neighborhood.

This detailed book explores the history behind green spaces in Paris.  Green spaces were public works projects.  Many people were employed to construct and maintain the parks.  This maintenance has continued for hundreds of years.  So, it seems the parks succeeded at that goal.  And, other goals were accomplished too.  We, as visitors, are certainly the beneficiaries of this great nineteenth century project!

Praise for Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris

Planning the Greenspaces is a fascinating read and a welcome addition to the scholarship on Paris and on urban greenspaces that could work well as a supplemental text in an upper-division course on Paris or France.”—American Historical Review

“This concise and elegant book reflects rigorous archival research rendered in readable prose. . . . Geographers will appreciate the author’s attention throughout to scale as an analytic tool, and his sustained analysis of the social production of urban space through a dialectic of design and use.”—Journal of Historical Geography

“Richard S. Hopkins’s book Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris serves as an important reminder that the development of acres of parks and gardens were also central to the project of creating a modern European capital. . . . [An] insightful and enjoyable text.”—Canadian Journal of History

Read more for yourself in Richard S. Hopkins’ book.  He is an assistant professor of history at Widener University.  The only part that I would have liked more is to have had illustrations of some of these green spaces.  Sadly, there are none.

Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris, by Richard S. Hopkins.  Order here.

Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries)

Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries)

Between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, you will find the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries).  Since the 1500s, this grand park has been a cultivated respite.  First the respite was from court life, or maybe as part of court life?  Then for fashionable Parisians.  And, eventually, for throngs of tourists and locals alike.

Enter from the Louvre Side

On the Louvre side of the garden, the Louvre and its pyramid will dominate the horizon.  However, just think, a palace once stood that would have blocked your view – the Tuileries Palace.  Originally built in 1564 under the direction of Catherine de Medici, the palace stood on the site of old tile kilns.  In French, these places for making tiles were called, tuileries.  Hence the name, Tuileries Palace and Tuileries Garden.  The Louvre is gargantuan today, but imagine with another entire wing enclosing a giant courtyard!!!

Tuileries Palace

Tuileries Palace, photo taken around 1860.

Okay, back to the garden.  Although the gardens were created in the mid-1500s, royalty demanded a makeover after 100 years.  Who could remake them?  The most famous garden designer ever, of course!  André LeNôtre, Louis XIV’s gardener, was commissioned in 1664 to redesign the gardens.  Soon after, in 1667, the Tuileries Garden was the first royal garden to be opened to the public.  Just for reference, in 1667 in North America, Charles II was King of England.  That means he was the monarch of his subjects in the colonies in what would one day become the United States.

There is so much history, it is hard to focus on the gardens!  The Tuileries are filled with trees, shrubs, lawns, basins, fountains and lots of crushed granite!  You can walk up and get close to inspect nearly any plant in the garden.  Beautiful and substantial ironwork fences line the street sides of the garden.  But, there are so many entrances, the fencing is purely decorative at this point.

Enter from the Place de la Concorde Side

Enter from the other side of the garden, and you will find a crêpe stand just between the Place de la Concorde and the entrance.

Find a bookstore to the left, appropriately named, Librairie du jardin des Tuileries, that specializes in garden books.  Then, up the ramps for horses (now for pedestrians), you will find the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Jeu de Paume museums on either side.

Tuileries entrance from Place de la Condorde

Entrance from the Place de la Concorde side – not much changed since this photo was taken.

You will also see Antoine Coysevox’ famous equestrian statues carved in 1699.  Replicas now stand in for the originals that are protected in the Louvre.  Sometimes called the Marly statues, they are imminently famous and named the Marly statutes because they were moved from Louis XIV’s estate, Marly, to the Tuileries for decoration.

Huge and Enjoyable

Do not be fooled by looking at the garden on a map.  The gardens cover a tremendous expanse.  Walking across the garden will take you a while – from any direction.

tuileries garden from the air

It is expansive! Those are people walking around down there.

Take a break while crossing at one of the garden’s café’s.  Under the trees, enjoy an expensive baguette sandwich and citron pressé – a lemonade that you make yourself from lemon juice.  It is brought to you in a tall glass of ice, along with a bottle of sparkling water that you mix sugar from packets into the lemon juice to make lemonade just to your liking.

Along with hosting the annual Jardins, Jardin exposition, the garden brings out lots of children in the summer sailing wooden boats, joystick-ing motorized boats, all while sun worshipers get their vitamin D.

The Tuileries Garden is in the heart of Paris and will be a reference point for your visit.  Take advantage of it at any time of year.  Even in the dead of winter, it is marvelous to walk in the Tuileries and absorb the history and beauty of Paris.

Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries)

Nearest Métro:  Multiple Métros provide access to the Tuileries Garden.  Tuileries and Concorde on the Tuileries side of the Seine; On the opposite bank of the river, but still close, look for the stations of Assemblée National and Musée d’Orsay.
Arrondissement:  1st
Admission:  Free to access the garden.
Official website:

Exhibits at The Met – Gardens and Versailles

Exhibits at The Met – Gardens and Versailles

Are you thinking Paris is too far away for the weekend?  Then head to New York City to explore exhibits on French gardens and Versailles.  That’s right, through the end of July, go see Paris in New York City!  Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence and Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789.  Both mounted in the halls of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and full of treasures from France.

Exhibition #1 – Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence

In Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, The Met, “explores horticultural developments that reshaped the landscape of France and grounded innovative movements—artistic and green—in an era that gave rise to Naturalism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau.”  All of these artistic movements are well-represented through works presented in this exhibition.

Past urbanites are no different from today’s.  People living in developed cities flock to gardens and parks to be outdoors, enjoy the air, stretch out in the wide open space and delight in the beauty of nature.  To illustrate this love of gardens, the exhibition features a wide range.  Sections include Parks for the Public, Revival of Floral Still Life, Portrait in the Garden and Private Gardens.

Exhibits of Ceramics, Drawings and Paintings to Photography

Choosing works from its extensive holdings, The Met displays drawings, etchings, paintings, glassware, ceramics and even early photographs.  Although the objects show gardens and parks in other parts of France, the majority is focused on Paris and surrounding areas.  Garden lovers will delight in seeing works depicting Fontainebleau, Parc Monceau, Bagatelle, Jardin du Luxembourg, Tuileries, Versailles, along with many other well-known and even less well-known gardens.

Love still life paintings of flowers and garden scenes?  Then this exhibition is for you.  Works by heavy hitters like, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, August Renoir, Eugène Atget, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt and many more hang from the walls.

Do 18th century Sèvres porcelain vases with garden scenes painted on them get you going?  What about Art Nouveau glass with elegant flower designs in the glass?  Do you enjoy the details of garden plans and garden furnishings?  Then this is exhibit is also for you!  They are all there in cases and on the walls.  Really, anyone who is at all interested in gardens in Paris and in France would enjoy this exhibition.

Even if you cannot make it to New York to enjoy the show in person, the exhibition features an accompanying catalogue.

Exhibition #2 – Visitors to Versailles

In Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789, The Met, “highlights the experiences of travelers from 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, to 1789, when the royal family was forced to leave the palace and return to Paris.”  The objects demonstrating this experience range from souvenirs for the visitors to gifts to the royalty and what the visitors wore and saw.

Sections of the exhibit include, Incognito and Private Visitors, To See the King, Getting Dressed for Court, the Gardens and Going to Versailles.  The dedicated rooms in the museum present men’s suits and hunting clothes, women’s court dresses, riding habits, shoes, ball gowns and fans, sculpture, tapestries, rugs, miniature portraits in diamond surrounds, hats, swords, military outfits, furniture, porcelain and objects of art.  Also, very interestingly, paintings of visitors.

And, it is convenient that the garden exhibit in another section of the museum is on at a similar time.  Gardens at the palace were a major part of court life.  You will see multiple illustrations of gardens.  Royalty wanted to be outside too.  Versailles had unending garden delights for royalty and visitors.

Everything is Over the Top, In a Good Way

Like Versailles itself, nearly everything on display is over the top.  Many things are gilded, handmade items have the most intricate detailing, master craftsmen used precious stones and rare and exotic materials – it is all here.  Just take a look at a set of ivory buttons decorated with scenes of Versailles and the gardens – talk about limited edition.  The description explains that the buttons, “intended for a man’s coat may have appealed to tourists.”  Of course, they would!  Fascinating.  And, beautiful.

Along with many items focused on the multiple kings called by the name, “Louis,” Marie Antoinette figures in the exhibition.  Likewise, multiple objects depict the visitors to Versailles.  For example, a Tunisian ambassador, several Asian dignitaries, and would be Americans, like, Benjamin Franklin!  Paintings of Ben and even some of his clothes are on display.  From 1776 until 1785, Benjamin Franklin was the representative to France of the American colonies that revolted against England.  He was at the French court all the time.

Adding to master works from The Met’s holdings, more than 50 lenders, including the Château de Versailles, offered works to the show.

Don’t miss the statue of a monkey riding a goat!

Like Exhibition #1, even if you cannot make it to New York to enjoy the show in person, the exhibition features an accompanying catalogue.  On the cover is an illustration of the gardens of Versailles and visitors enjoying their time in the landscape.

Praise for the exhibition:  ” A fascinating window into how the court would have appeared to foreigners and day trippers alike…. ” -Artnet

Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence

Where:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met Fifth Avenue)
Address:  1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028
When:  March 12 – July 29, 2018
Admission:  Entrance fee for museum which includes exhibit
Official website

Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789

Where:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met Fifth Avenue)
Address:  1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028
When:  April 16 – July 29, 2018
Admission:  Entrance fee for museum which includes exhibit
Official website

Spring has Sprung with Jardins, Jardin

Spring has Sprung with Jardins, Jardin

Jardins, Jardin is a unique event in the heart of Paris.  Locals and visitors get to squeeze as much as possible about gardening into a long weekend.  The nonprofit l’Association Jardins, Jardins, in partnership with the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, puts on this amazing plant show right in the middle of the Tuileries.  For the 15th annual event in 2018, both professionals and lovers of urban gardens and outdoor design convene here to learn and share information and new ideas about gardens, plants, landscape design, the environment and more.

Professionals, Garden Lovers and Casually Interested

The official website claims 24,000 visitors to the 30 artistic displays that create huge gardens spaces, balconies and terraces.  Professional landscape designers and new talent create these installations for public view.  They range in size from about 500 square feet to over 2100 square feet.  The garden spaces are astounding!

Plus, there are 100 vendors who display and sell garden art, books, furniture, plants and everything to do with gardens.  Think you may need an urban hen house?  Maybe take a look at the farm life you can have on a less-than-backyard scale.  What about water fountains for your courtyard?  See ones like you have never seen before.  Pots and garden statuary, lighting and irrigation, all like you have never imagined.

Here are some of the exhibitors:  Mama Petula, Les Fermes de Gally, la Ferme de Saint Denis, Horticulture et Jardins, Aquaphyte Design, Stèphane Cachelin et ses Chapotelets, Olive Delanoy, Botanique Ėditions, C’juste, Hortus Focus and many more.

Turning the Tuileries into an Exhibition Hall

It is really an extraordinary feat to make this experience happen in the middle of historic gardens originally created by Marie de Medici in the 1500s.  Above all, Jardins, Jardin claims to be a laboratory of ideas with experimental work and ideas to exchange.  Innovation is encouraged and rewarded with prizes.  The event is respectful of the past in Paris, but looking toward the future – and we all get to benefit.

Along with garden installations and shopping, Jardins, Jardin features workshops, demonstrations, family activities and enjoying the beauty outdoors in Paris Spring time.  Even more, eat from a Parisian food truck!

Jardins, Jardins

What makes it special:  Living creations by famous and regular gardeners that push the boundaries of gardening.
Where:  Tuileries
Nearest Métro:  Place de la Concorde, Tuileries, cross over the Seine from Musée d’Orsay (also RER C at Musée d’Orsay)
When:   May 31 – June 3, 2018
Open:  10am to 7pm


Palais Royal Gardens (Jardin du Palais-Royal)

Palais Royal Gardens (Jardin du Palais-Royal)

All of the excitement of the Louvre and rue de Rivoli! Seeing the glinting gold statues of the Palais Garnier in the distance from the busy intersection of avenue de l’Opera and rue Saint Honore can be overwhelming.  So much beauty. So many people going to and fro.  Cars whizzing by, performers performing….  But, just a few paces away, you can duck into one of the most serene places in Paris – the Palais Royal gardens which are surrounded by solemn arcades and stoic buildings.

Cross the Place Collette with its Metro entrance decorated with open work domes made of multi-colored balls – the Comedie Francaise theater will be in front and a cafe or two will be on the right.  Go through the arches and enter a paved courtyard with a controversial (what’s new in Paris?) sculpture by Daniel Buren. It was installed in 1986 and is known as ‘les colonnes de Buren.’   This collection of black and white striped octagonal columns of different heights beg for children of all ages to sit on them, to jump over them and to generally enjoy them before crossing an arcade into the gardens.

18th Century Revisited at Palais Royal Gardens

Once inside the magnificent courtyard, admire the buildings around the garden that are the epitome of 18th century style and begin a stroll through the gardens themselves which exemplify subdued elegance.  However, this was not always the case.  In the 19th century, ladies of the night waited in the arcades to entice those looking for love – or at least a bit of fun, while gambling casinos lured those hoping to beat the house.

Palais-Royal facade and arcade


Today, the arcades house a few shops and a famous restaurant, Le Grand Véfour.  It is the first grand restaurant in Paris which opened in 1784.  Symmetrical rows of lime trees soothe and beckon visitors to linger and enjoy the shade.  In the spring and summer, the middle gardens come alive with lush, nodding rose blossoms, the water fountain sings in the background, pigeons fly and coo, people dot the benches and a quiet calm prevails.  In winter the gardens are no less enticing.  The leafless trees and the staid surroundings inspire introspection, reflection and allow those who visit a moment to collect their thoughts.

What do you think of the Palais Royal Gardens?  One of your favorite spaces?

Palais Royal Gardens

What makes it special:  Quiet space near many monuments and places of interest.  Great place to enjoy a snack or baguette lunch.  Enchanting garden.
Nearest Métro:  Palais Royal Musée du Louvre (Lines 1 and 7) or Pyramides (Line 14)
Arrondissement:  1st
Suggested time to visit:  During daylight hours
Official website:


Enchanting Gardens in Paris

Enchanting Gardens in Paris

Paris is filled with enchanting gardens.  They lurk around corners, occupy the widest expanses and are perfect for picnics!  Gardens are the subject of intense discussion (and often heated debates) by those who plant them, tend them and enjoy them.  From the most mild mannered passerby to the petanque players at their daily games to the horticulture groups that tour gardens rattling off every plant’s name in Latin.  Everyone has an opinion on gardens. It seems this is because the Parisians want the gardens to be the best they can be.

Once, in the early spring, workers input plants in the freshly turned beds.  They discussed the plantings, then broke for lunch.  When they returned, the men stood back, hands on hips, scrutinizing the locations of each plant. Pointing and talking, moving themselves left and right for different vantage points.  After talking some more and contemplating the spacing, they moved some of the plants around.  Then, when completely satisfied, the shovels came out and they began digging holes for the new plants.

Gardens are Serious Business in Paris

That example illustrates that gardens are a serious business to Parisians.  Gardens provide respite from the heat, a green space for children to run and ponds for sailing miniature boats.  They can be a shortcut to briskly cross to the next destination.  Or, a place to find a chair in which to relax and soak in the sunshine.  Gardens can be plant-filled beds for ambling by and admiring flowers, or shaded paths to walk under and softly discuss matters of love.  Some have fountains to drown out the noise of cars and other people, or a bench from which to contemplate the next season.  Ask any Parisian why a garden is important, and these are only a few of the reasons that may be given.

Paris has so many gardens, who knows if anyone but the government has a real list?  Write in with your favorite Parisian enchanting garden and explain why it is enchanting to you.