Ask me which garden in the world is my favorite and I won’t hesitate to reply, “The Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris!” Also known as the Luxembourg Gardens. the park and garden is renowned for its beautiful long rows of large shade trees, array of individual chairs visitors are welcome to move around, its collection of formal fountains, and the network of golden paths of decomposed granite. This public space is as comfortable as it is beautiful – my definition of excellence in design.
Well, during another trip to Paris I may have discovered another fave: Jardin du Palais Royal, aka Palais Royal.
I had heard about this place before, but missed it during previous trips. I was reminded of it again recently while watching the movie Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant – a movie with a climax staged amongst the arcade columns of the Jardin du Palais Royal at night. I was also reminded of the park by Lauren Elkin’s newly released book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. In her book dedicated to the “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk,” she cites the Palais Royal as one of her favorite destinations to walk in Paris.
The Jardin de Palais Royal – like the Luxembourg – also includes rows of large shade trees, but has fixed benches, and is surrounded by a tall arcade supported by columns. This structure provides shelter for walking and window shopping along the adjacent high end stores, while also covering outdoor diners at the adjacent cafés.
During a beautiful spring afternoon I observed people picnicking in the open area. Some were playing a wood bowling game of sorts. It was such a great outdoor communal space for relaxing and people watching.
Attached to the Jardin is a smaller courtyard to the south with a reflective ball sculpture at the center of a fountain. Another more interesting courtyard is further south, one that contains Daniel Buren’s 1986 installation, “Les Colonnes de Buren.” Buren placed 260 black and white vertically striped columns in a grid varying in height. Though formal in their layout, these columns in their unique material and heights allow for a more playful and fun take on the very regimented and formal spacing and material of the 17th century columns that surround the courtyards. These Buren columns prove to be very attractive for climbers of all ages!
I am grateful that these Parisian gardens, designed and built hundreds of years ago, are maintained to retain their beauty. They continue to be enjoyed by so many visitors many years after their creation, the sign of great landscape design.