Paris’s most popular park, the Jardin du Luxembourg, offers 55 acres of greenery between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter. It’s where parents keep their children amused on the weekend, students cram for their exams, and weary travellers splay out on manicured lawns in the summer heat. It’s also where, no matter the weather, you’ll find the city’s chess fanatics.
A little history
The name of the park dates from 1612 when the Duke of Luxembourg sold the land in 1612 to Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, who had been assassinated two years earlier. The queen was of Italian descent and grew up at the Pitti Palace in Florence, surrounded by the magnificent Boboli Gardens. Her childhood memories, plus the surge in popularity of the Baroque style, inspired the design of the Palais du Luxembourg, built at the northern end of the gardens between 1615 and 1627.
Chess in the Jardin
It was only around 30 years ago that the Jardin du Luxembourg became the Washington Square of Paris. Before then, the Jardin des Plantes, on the other side of the Latin Quarter, was the preferred venue for the city’s chess lovers, and no one’s quite sure what motivated the relocation. Nevertheless, the park guardians and the Senate are very happy to have them and the special charm they bring to the place.
After some concerns about the quality of the facilities at their disposal, the Senate invested in 12 new tables, five of which are fixed and the remainder being moved around the gravel terrain, tracking the sun as it moves across the sky. Designed by the authority’s Architecture Department and produced by Nature Art Planète de Vitry, they are made from enameled lava, the stone for which was extracted from volcanoes in the region of Auvergne.
While some of the more serious players won’t appreciate a challenge from an excited amateur, the more relaxed among them will take you on if you ask politely (in French). Otherwise, arrive early if you want to secure yourself a table. For other places in Paris to go for a game of chess, check out our dedicated guide.
Spread around the gardens are four spectacular fountains, the most famous of which is the Fontaine Médicis in the northeast corner. There are some 106 sculptures, including 20 of former French queens, and others honouring musicians and writers such as Chopin, Beethoven, Stendhal and Baudelaire, as well as scientists, politicians, activists, and mythological characters.
Other interesting features of the gardens are the ancient orchard, the orchid collection in the greenhouses, the orangery, and the apiary, where you can learn all about bee-keeping.
Most of the lawns in the park are off limits to sunbathers except for a wedge on the southern boundary, which is packed on most sunny days, but there are plenty of green metal chairs – icons of design since their creation in 1923 – which can be set up for a picnic in a quiet corner.
If you’re looking for a more active afternoon, you can also get involved with a game of pétanque, catch a performance at the music pavilion, or see a temporary exhibition on the outside of the park railings or at the Musée du Luxembourg.
For children, the vintage wooden sailboats which you can rent by the Grand Bassin are always a huge hit, as are the puppet shows at the Théâtre du Luxembourg and the ponies and large playground which you’ll find just beside it.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.