When it comes to cherry blossoms, Paris might not rank alongside Japan or South Korea in most people’s minds but it nevertheless puts on a marvelous show from mid-March to late-April. Our guide tells you exactly when and where to head to see the best of the pink and white displays, from tiny squares in the city center to dedicated groves in its surrounding parklands.
The cherry trees of the Champ de Mars aren’t planted as a grove but randomly distributed among the shrubbery. Nevertheless, the creative photographer or Instagrammer will be able to pick out the best ones around for that coveted picture of the Eiffel Tower, emerging from fluffy pink and white clouds of blossom. Probably the most photogenic of all the trees is at the corner of the Avenue Gustave Eiffel and Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur. Luckily, the trees all bloom at different times, starting in the last two weeks of March and continuing until the middle of April.
The best grouping of cherry trees that central Paris has to offer can be found in front of the south façade of Notre-Dame de Paris. However, given its location, it also tends to be one of the busiest spots and so perhaps not the most relaxing. If you can’t get a seat beneath the bright pink canopy in the Square Jean XXIII, head across the Pont de l’Archevêché to the far less crowded Quai de Montebello. Here you’ll have a great view of the trees as well as the famous rose windows above them. Notre-Dame’s trees tend to blossom towards the end of the season in mid-April.
Paris’ most famous English language bookshop has its very own cherry tree, which blooms a glorious pink outside its door in the middle of April. Just around the corner in the Square René Viviani, which is now overlooked by the recently opened Shakespeare and Co. café, there are four more blossom trees, which are among the earliest in the city to flower at the end of March. The square also contains the oldest, and by most people’s reckoning ugliest, tree in Paris, an ancient yew, as well as a Merovingian cemetery, where early kings of France were buried.
The peristyle, or central courtyard, of the Petit Palais is one of Paris’ undiscovered treasures. The Grand Palais across the road attracts the biggest exhibitions and the largest crowds, but the smaller of the two galleries is arguably the more beautifully designed. Its manicured garden, which is surrounded by Beaux-Arts architecture and a mosaiced terrace, is filled with palm trees, fountains and a handful of early flowering cherry trees. There’s also a café so you can sit back with a coffee and enjoy the display on the trees at the end of March, or on the surface of the ponds after the petals fall.
Tucked down a quiet back street on the Left Bank, this small square, named after a French composer and organist, packs a serious punch when it comes to cherry blossoms. The park is hidden behind its nearest neighbor, the prestigious Institut de France, regulator of the French language, and few people even know that it exists. In addition to the blossom display which tends to arrive in the second week of April, the garden also contains charming book-shaped stone benches, a fountain that’s on the city’s list of historical monuments, and one of France’s most remarkable trees.
As you’d expect from a botanical garden, the Jardin des Plantes has the most diverse selection of cherry blossoms in the city. The season begins in the last week of March or the first few days of April with the flowering of the white petalled prunus shirotae, known as ‘Snow White’ or ‘Mount Fuji’. Following this, each week brings fresh blossoms to one or more of the park’s mature standalone trees, ending with the largest of them all, the ‘Pink Whale’, which bursts into color in the third week of April and typically marks the end of Paris’ blossom season.
The Jardin Tino Rossi is perhaps the most underrated garden in Paris. Most people walk straight through it on their way from the Île Saint-Louis to the Jardin des Plantes, or vice versa, without taking the time to stop and enjoy the park in its own right. Occupying a significant stretch of the Left Bank along the Quai Saint-Bernard, this riverside park has a number of mature cherry trees which put on their show in the middle of April. The park also boasts an impressive array of sculptures, workout equipment and benches with panoramic views.
Tucked away behind the bohemian quarter of Belleville, and very much off the beaten path for most tourists, is the Square des Saint-Simoniens. Locals of the 20th arrondissement flock to this little park in springtime to sit under the canopy of blossoms or to let their children play on its grassy knolls. The trees in this garden, which was named after Henri de Saint-Simon – a proponent of utopian socialism, normally come into bloom in the first week in April.
The city’s largest graveyard (discounting the Catacombs de Paris) might not be the first place that springs to mind for a pleasant April afternoon stroll but dotted among the tombs and mausoleums are some truly dazzling blossom trees. The most photographed of these lies at the entrance to Division 5, though be warned that the cemetery maps are notoriously difficult to read, not to mention sparsely distributed, and you will spend most of your trip walking in circles and fighting off the creeping suspicion that you may never make it out of there alive. But don’t let that put you off!
The largest collection of cherry blossoms in the region is a few minutes’ ride out of the city center on the RER B. The Parc de Sceaux’s magnificent château was built for Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance and the expansive grounds were designed by André Le Nôtre, the landscape architect who also worked wonders at Fontainebleau and Versailles. They contain two large cherry tree groves, the Bosquet Nord and Sud, where the flowers are pink and white, respectively. The Tsungari Taiko Center holds its annual Hanami au Parc de Sceaux in the second week of April and the blossom usually persists for another week after this.