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Luxemborg Gardens

July 27th, 2007

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Luxembourg Gardens is another all-in-one recreation park urban travelers can find in major European cities. In Paris’s case, it must be. Luxembourg Gardens is central Paris’s largest park, in the heart of the Left Bank, close to government office buildings, the chic Montparnasse neighborhood, and the touristy Latin Quarter. Hotels and hostels are down intersecting avenues. Museums are inside the park, and the Sorbonne is two blocks away. All this means that Lux Gardens has a natural gravitational field pulling from every direction.

luxemborg gardens_1So the park is crowded, right? In, fact, it’s not. At least, it doesn’t feel crowded, even as there are always a lot of people in the park. You’ll see more people on Saturday & Sunday afternoons than Wednesday or Thursday, but that’s to be expected of any park. I like Luxembourg Gardens because it is big enough to hold tennis courts, children’s playgrounds, the Luxembourg Palace & Gardens, an art museum, cafés, leafy strolling paths, and quiet spots behind high hedges—something for everyone’s desire—without any of these encroaching on another. Hard to believe? No, given the design; yes, given its size. The scale is nowhere near Munich’s Englischer Garten or London’s Hyde Park. But that’s where Lux’s ingenuity comes in.

I suppose what brings most tourists into Luxemboug Gardens is the Luxembourg Palace and its formal gardens. The chateau is impressive, the gardens scintillating, and they take up the eastern half of the park. That’s good, because all of that is over there, and the rest of the park is more park-like. Take your time walking in the sun here, watch artists build a scene on canvas, see kids with grandmas & grandpas maneuver a rented toy sailboat over the pond, stop and smell a rose. And then go find a chill-out spot on the western side of the park.

luxemborg gardens_8At the park’s center are several public tennis courts. If you’re staying in a nearby hotel or hostel, they may have racquets and balls you can borrow or rent. Behind the courts is an outdoor café with tables beneath trees. Just south of this, across a path, is the children’s playground, fenced in and built on that safety padding material that’ll leave a scratch from a fall but won’t shatter little bones. These three areas are the sort-of noisy-active spots, good family activity spots, great for people watching, not great for sunning or book reading. Lots of leafy trees here and crosswalks, crushed stone paths, benches, scattered metal chairs you can move about to the spot you want to sit. It’s a part of the park I like to stroll after a set of tennis, grab a cold drink, see kids run like maniacs under mommy or daddy’s worried eyes. Good fun.

When it’s time to get away, the third half of the park lies just beyond hedges or denser stands of tall shade trees. The design here is meant to give a respite from that active center for the picnicking couples you’ll see along quiet paths, an old Parisian reading Le Monde in the sunshine, artists & writers finding inspiration on a warm breeze, and floral arrangements demanding attention. Yeah, chill-out spot. Grab a chair, there are dozens lying about.

A walk around Luxembourg Gardens will only take you 20 minutes or so, and you’ll see how its design works so well for a city park. Each entrance gate gives you a different feel as you walk in: the grand view across the palace gardens from the south; the dense foliage and intimate setting from the west. It’s really a fun park to move around in, find a quiet spot, move again to the bustle along the garden ramparts, hang about under the autumnal colors, and then once again get out onto the fabulous Paris streets.

(read more about Luxemborg Gardens’ highlights here

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