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21 Lesser-Known Parks of Paris

One of the many things the French do well is to enjoy their leisure time, especially when it means being outdoors under the sun. With almost 500 parks, gardens and squares in Paris alone, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of a beautiful day. If you know anything about Paris, you've probably heard of or even been to the well-known parks and gardens such as the Parc Monceau, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Place des Vosges - and you should; they're all beautiful and worthy of your time. This article, however, highlights 21 parks which tourists (as well as some Parisians) often overlook or are unaware of. Some are hidden, some are in plain sight, some are small and some are large. I've arranged them by arrondissement and have indicated the closest métro stop(s) to each one. Pour a café au lait or a glass of French wine and enjoy this stroll through some of Paris's leafiest areas.

1st Arrondissement

Square du Vert-Galant

15 Pl. du Pont Neuf

Métro: Pont Neuf, Line 7

Chances are that if you've taken a boat tour on the Seine, you've noticed this little park wedged into the extreme eastern tip of the Ile de la Cité. You can reach it by walking down the stone steps behind the statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf. It's a good place to watch the Seine traffic!

3rd Arrondissement (le Marais)

Square du Temple- Elie Wiesel

Métro: Temple, Line 3 or Arts et Métiers, Lines 3 and 11

This lovely, small square sits at the northern edge of the Marais. Designed by Baron Haussmann in the mid-19th century, the square occupies the location of a fortress built by the Knights Templar in the 14th century. Today a plaque is inscribed with the names of 87 Jewish children from the 3rd arrondissement aged 2 months to 6 years "who didn't have time to attend school" and were deported and killed between 1942 and 1944. The name of Elie Wiesel, and American professor, author and Holocaust survivor, was added as the name of the park in 2017. Have lunch at the nearby Marché des Enfants Rouges, then spend a few quiet minutes here.

Square Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur - Pauline-Roland

9 rue du Grand Veneur

Métro: Chemin Vert, Line 8

The name of this picturesque square is longer than the square is big! And it's tucked away so well that you actually have to look for it, but once you find it, you're rewarded with peace, quiet and beautiful surroundings.

Square George Cain

8 rue Payenne

Métro: Chemin Vert, Line 8

Missing your four-legged family members while you're in Paris? Head over to this park just about any day of the week to watch the dogs enjoy their time under the sun as much as their humans do. It's always a fun break while in the Marais.

Jardin Lazare-Rachline

9 rue Payenne

Métro: Chemin Vert, Line 8

Walk across the street from the Square George Cain and you'll find yourself in a beautiful formal French garden with a very different feel from the one you just left. Surrounded by stately hôtels particuliers - or mansions - this is a perfect spot to eat lunch or enjoy a sunny afternoon.

4th Arrondissement

Square Barye

2 Bd Henri IV

Métro: Sully-Morland, Line 7

If you think of Ile Saint-Louis as an oasis in the middle (literally) of Paris as I do, the Square Barye is an oasis on an oasis. Tucked into the extreme eastern edge of the island, it's often overlooked by visitors who don't venture to this end of the island. It's a lovely spot from which to quietly enjoy the Seine.

Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret

35-37, rue des Francs-Bourgeois, or 10, rue des Rosiers

Métro: St. Paul, Line 1 or Hôtel de Ville, Lines 1 and 11

I have a soft spot for this park; it was this one that gave me the idea of writing about lesser-known parks in Paris. I was walking along the VERY busy rue des Rosiers one day, saw the sign and walked in. The Marais seems to get busier each year, but this park remains a peaceful retreat every time I visit it. It was also the first park in which I saw a plaque to honor the children of the Marais who were deported and killed during the Holocaust. Be sure to spend a few minutes there the next time you're in the Marais and don't miss the beautiful fig tree!

Jardin de l'Hôtel de Sully

62 rue Saint-Antoine or 5 Place des Vosges

Métro St. Paul, Line 1

The Hôtel de Sully, a "hôtel particular", or mansion, was built in the early 17th century and it was soon bought by Maximillien de Béthune, the Duke of Sully. It remained in the family into the 18th century and still bears the family's name. Today the building is home to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux or National Monuments Center which conserves and restores historic buildings in France. The interesting thing about the garden is that while it's next to the very busy Place des Vosges, you'd never know it was there by either passing by the building on the rue St.-Antoine nor from the Place des Vosges. If you enter from the Place des Vosges, the entrance is at the extreme southwest corner.

5th Arrondissement

Square Danielle-Mitterrand

Rue de Bièvre

Métro: Maubert-Mutualité or Cluny la Sorbonne, Line 10

Otherwise known as the Latin Quarter, the 5th arrondissement is one of Paris's busiest areas. You wouldn't know it now, but a canal from the Bièvre River once flowed under this street and emptied into the Seine. This narrow, quiet street bears the name of the ancient river. This calm little square is named after the wife of François Mitterand, who served as the President of France from 1981 to 1995 and lived on this street. Take a minute to enjoy the quiet as you stroll through this quarter.

Below is rue de Bièvre looking south toward the dome of the Panthéon. Also note the old engraved street name next to the modern one.

7th Arrondissement

Square Boucicaut

1 Rue de Babylone

Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Lines 10 and 12

Worn out by shopping at the amazing Bon Marché department store? Walk across the street, deposit your bags and spend a few minutes in this lovely park. Named after Aristide Boucicaut, the entrepreneur who founded the Bon Marché in the mid-1800's, this park boasts over 100 trees as well as a playground.

Jardin Catherine-Labouré

29 Rue de Babylone

Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Lines 10 and 12

A short five-minute walk down the rue de Babylone will bring you to this garden with an interesting history. The garden was the "potager" or kitchen garden of the Daughters of Charity convent which occupied this spot beginning in 1633. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to the nun whose name it bears and who lived in the convent in the 19th century. Today visitors can walk among the vines and berry bushes and there's a playground for children.

Jardin du Potager

29 Rue de Babylone

Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Lines 10 and 12

Continue walking through the Jardin Catherine-Labouré to the expansive Jardin du Potager, the vegetable garden to the former Hospice des Incurables founded in 1634 and now a national monument recognized by the French Historic Monument Society.

8th Arrondissement

Jardin de la Nouvelle France

Corner of Cours-la-Reine and Av. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Métro: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lines 1 and 9 or Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau, Lines 1 and 13

This beautiful gem isn't the easiest to find, but it's well worth looking for. Once inside, you'll be swept away from the hustle and bustle of the area by the lush greenery. Stone steps will take you down a level which is equally lovely and peaceful. The garden was created in the 17th century by Marie de Médicis and it boasts a pond, a waterfall and a footbridge (pictured above) in addition to the greenery and a beautiful sculpture dedicated to the poet Alfred de Musset. Seek it out and spend a few minutes here; you won't be sorry!

11th Arrondissement

Square Maurice Gardette

2 Rue du Général Blaise

Métro: Rue Saint-Maur, Line 3

One of the high points of my visits to Paris is going to L'Atelier des Lumières. On my way, I always stop in the charming Square Maurice Gardette, just a block away. It's surrounded by stately Haussmannian buildings and there are usually a few people from the neighborhood reading or playing with children. It was built in 1872 on the site of an old slaughterhouse and acquired its name from a city councilman who was killed during WWII. Fortunately, there is no trace of the "abattoir" that previously occupied the land!

12th Arrondissement

La Coulée Verte (aka La Promenade Plantée)

1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont

Métro (at the western end): Bastille, Lines 1, 5 and 8

La Coulée Verte is a 4.5 km green path that follows the old railway line between Place de la Bastille and Varenne-Saint-Maur. It extends from just southeast of the Bastille métro station to the Bois de Vincennes at the eastern edge of the city. It's a lovely walk on a sunny day.

Unlike most other Paris parks, the path is elevated above street-level along much of the way and the view of buildings along the way is as interesting as the path itself.

The building in the photos below caught my eye. This is the police headquarters of the 12th arrondissement and the sculptures are based on Michelangelo's Dying Slave. How many other police headquarters do you know that are so artistically adorned?

Before you start your walk, take a while to explore the shops at the Viaduc des Arts at the entrance to the Coulée.

15th Arrondissement

Le Jardin Atlantique

Atop the Gare Montparnasse

Métro: Gare Montparnasse, Lines 4, 6, 12, 13

Ever heard of a park on top of a train station? Well, now you have. I had to experience this one for myself after I heard about it. It's an 8.4 acre park on top of the very busy Gare Montparnasse in central Paris -- and there's even a tennis court! You need to take a rather sketchy-looking elevator to reach it, and as some French gentlemen I met remarked, the park is "mal-indiqué" (not well-signed). But if you look closely enough, you'll find it. There were several people, including a mother and child in the park when I was there as well as a pair of tennis players.

16th Arrondissement

Jardin du Ranelagh

1 Av. Prudhon

Métro: Le Muette, Line 9

This is one of my favorite parks. At 15 acres, it's one of the largest in this article. I discovered it the first time I visited the Musée Marmottan-Monet many years ago. On the weekend it's full of families. It was built by Baron Haussmann in 1860 and children can even enjoy a puppet show on the weekends!

It's even beautiful in the winter after a rainfall!

18th Arrondissement

Parc Marcel-Bleustein Blanchet

1 rue de la Bonne (immediately behind Sacré Coeur Basilica)

Métro: Abbesses, Line 12 or Anvers, Line 2 then take the funicular

Many visitors to Montmartre don't see this view of Sacré Coeur. That's because they never venture behind the basilica to this lovely little park tucked in its shadow. It's a pleasant spot to wander through or to sit and enjoy the beautiful basilica or watch the children play.

Square Suzanne Buisson

7 bis Rue Girardon

Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt, Line 12

This park, just a five-minute walk northwest of Sacré Coeur, highlights two very different figures in French history. The park's namesake, Suzanne Buisson, became a political activist at the age of 16. She joined the SFIO, the precursor to the modern Socialist party, and during WWII became active in the Resistance. As a French Jew, she was discovered by the Gestapo, arrested and deported to Auschwitz where she died at the age of 60.

The other figure, prominently displayed in the park, is Saint Denis who is known as the first bishop of Paris. He was martyred for his faith by being decapitated in the 3rd century. The legend is that he carried his head while walking through Paris and he is most often depicted as in the photo below.