Home to thousands of plant species, the Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France, and forms one eleventh of the ‘Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle’ (No prizes for guessing it’s English translation). It’s also right over the road from the Grand Mosque of Paris so it’s easy to combine a trip to both places in the same afternoon.
It covers 28 hectares, and was opened to the public way back in 1640. Before this time it was apparently a medicinal garden for the king of France, and was known as the Jardin de Roi. Now it is home to a botanical school, training the botanists of the future, and a special ‘Alpine Garden’ which brings together a whopping 3000 alpine species from all over the world!
In 1795, just after the creation of the museum, the animals from the Royal Menagerie in Versailles were brought to the gardens to create a new menagerie which you can still visit today. Although the garden is free to wander, there is a charge for entry to the menagerie. I didn’t go in myself, but I think it was around €9 for a reduced fare. Some of the animals can be seen from the perimeter, such as the deer, who are very friendly and came up to the fences for a quick pat!
I absolutely adore this garden, and it’s a perfect spot for a picnic! You aren’t allowed to sit on some patches of grass, but there’s plenty of other spots and a sprinkling of benches dotted around. If bringing your own refreshments wasn’t part of the plan, there are three kiosks around and about too which serve food and drink at slightly higher than average prices (as you would expect)!
As much as I like looking around gardens and seeing weird and wonderful plants, there were some varieties that I’d never seen before, whose shapes and colours were fantastic!
On the southwestern side of the garden, you’ll find the rose garden/walk which apparently contains hundreds of different rose varieties. It’s also a pretty photogenic spot! In the background of the photo below, you can see the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, which is part of the museum complex.
To house more exotic species, two ‘hot houses’ were built which can also be visited. As with the menagerie, I didn’t visit on this trip but I’m sure I’ll be heading back in the near future. They are home to plant species from as far away as Mexico and Australia.
There’s always more to see in the garden, and I would really recommend taking the whole afternoon to explore the hundreds of little paths that weave through the trees to find the hidden corners.
Much like the Smithsonian, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle is formed from several smaller museums which surround the gardens, such as the Grande Galerie and the Geological Museum. So if it rains, you can always run to one for shelter. I’d say my favourite is the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, which you’ll find in the southern corner of the garden. I have actually visited this location and am currently working on the photos to upload at a later date.
If you’d like to find out more about the garden and the museum as a whole, their website can be found here.