5 Reasons to Visit le Jardin des Plantes in Paris
The Jardin des Plantes, or the Botanical Garden of Paris, is a large garden ground that takes up a significant portion of the 5th arrondissement. It is situated right up against the Seine on the Left Bank and is a popular tourist attraction in this neighborhood.
So what exactly is the appeal of this park compared to say the Bois du Boulogne or the Tuileries not far away? Paris’ Botanical Garden is over 357 years old. It was founded in 1640 for the sole purpose of being a land on which the official doctor of the king of France could grow medicinal herbs for said king.
It served this purpose for well over a century. In commemoration, the Paris School of Botany was constructed on these grounds and still exists here today.
I’ll talk more about the plant life in a bit — for now here are a few other reasons to make your way to this gem in the 5th.
1. The Museum of Natural History at le Jardin des Plantes in Paris
The Museum of Natural History boasts one of the largest collections of minerals, fossils and natural specimens in the world. The museum has a total of fourteen premises’ throughout France, three of which exist within Paris.
The Botanical Gardens are one of these vicinities. The building was opened just after the Revolution and the collection is extensive. It is also officially the largest herbarium in the world with over 11million specimens recorded at the property.
This is a great place to take children after a day in the gardens. One wing features full sized dinosaur skeletons suspended from the ceiling.
The property is big and virtually impossible to cover in a single day. Download the museum map before arriving and begin isolating the sections you want to see most.
2. The Menagerie at le Jardin des Plantes in Paris
Over 200 species of animals are housed here between indoor and outdoor structures, some of which dating back to the Revolution days. In total there are over 2000 animals within the park at one time — one third of these being on the endangered species list!
Zoos are precarious things. One can never be sure if the animals are happy or being treated fairly behind closed doors. The Menagerie is an institution dedicated to the betterment of animal life on the planet and extensive research takes place daily on the property so that handlers can properly understand & adhere to the needs of the animals.
This is another wonderful place to bring children after a day of sightseeing around Paris (Read more about our walking tours on Discoverwalks.com).
3. Jogging, Skating and Biking at le Jardin des Plantes in Paris
If museums and animals aren’t your thing but you’d still like a reason to enjoy the Botanical Gardens for yourself then you might consider making use of the many exercise trails that are available.
The Botanical Gardens take up a total of one hectare of land, thats 10,000m squared. Naturally this brings about many pathways, roads, pavements and walkways so that visitors can get from one end to the other with ease.
Joggers find solace taking their afternoon run through the soft greenery; skaters (boards and roller skates) take advantage of the paved routes and bridges that provide the right surface for their hobby; and biking is a popular past time within the garden especially as a shortcut through the 5th arrondissement.
Most of the road are wide enough so that the above sportsmen and the general public can coexist without much conflict. There is ample space for all at Paris’ Botanical Garden.
Occasionally one will also find public yoga taking place on one of the grass patches; or a group exercise class. I imagine there would be Facebook or Instagram groups for these online somewhere if you’d be keen to get involved!
4. The Plant Life at le Jardin des Plantes in Paris
As mentioned, the extensive history of the plant life here is what we owe much of the gardens existence to. The 1800 species of herbs that were initially planted for the king eventually spread their genes around the space allowing more lush and more exotic species to grow as well.
The ground is unfathomably fertile; being such an attraction to the 5th you can rest assured that there is a well formulated team of horticulturists who maintain the garden at all times.
For all the species that they could not get to grow in the outdoor Parisian climate… there are the greenhouses.
These elaborate structures live on the garden grounds and are home to plant species from around the world. Tropical vines from Australia, cacti from Mexico and desert trees from the Sahara are just a few that you can observe inside the domes.
Once inside you’ll also be able to learn the origins of each plant and the ecosystem in which they flourish. Just another highly educational part of the Botanical Garden.
5. Picnic at le Jardin des Plantes in Paris
Finally, when you’ve done the jog, seen the museum, smelt the plants, done the free guided walking tour; it comes time to kick back and simply enjoy the ambiance and the Parisian sun.
Bring your picnic and blanket to the Botanical Garden and settle in for an afternoon on the green grass. The space is big enough so that privacy is attainable if you so desire — romantic picnics are common at this attraction.
Vendors aren’t common within the space but you will pass the occasional trolley where water, snacks and sometimes crepes are available.