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A single rose can be my garden, someone said. And in the city of Paris there are plenty of “roses” to choose from. Find yours among the 418 gardens, 15 parks and 132 walkways of different kinds in the French capital.

The meaning:   “le jardin” =   a garden

The history: The classical French garden is more than “a garden”.  It’s a symphony, a canvas and an architectural masterpiece. Its style is based on the principle of imposing order over nature, thus celebrating the universal laws of symmetry. This type of garden (jardin à la francaise) reached its peak in the 17th century, with the creation of the most prominent French gardens of all times, those of Versailles, which became so popular that soon all the courts of Europe tried to imitate them.

Versailles, painting by Pierre Patel, 1668

Detail of Jardins de Versailles

The record: The oldest public garden in Paris, Square Jean XXIII, is now located right behind the Notre Dame Cathedral. The square integrated benches and relaxation areas for the first time in the city’s history and was declared “the first public garden entirely dedicated to Parisians” in 1844.

Square Jean XXIII – the oldest public square in Paris

The curious fact: It was not until 1789, during the upheaval of the French Revolution, that common people saw the splendor of the private royal gardens for the first time. Until then, they were unable to access them, so they had to break through the castle walls to possibly imagine the extravagance and copiousness that lavished within.

People enjoying the light of the fading day in Parc de Reuilly, as seen from the bridge of the Promenade Plantée

Not to be missed: The Luxembourg Gardens and The Tuileries Garden will always be “the evergreens” of Parisian public parks. And yet we’d like to introduce you to something rather more unconventional.

Jardin du Luxembourg

The Planted Promenade (La Promenade Plantée) is Europe’s sole elevated park, and also, one of the most original ways to explore eastern Paris. A 19th century railway viaduct was transformed into an elevated greenway and that’s how the most extraordinary park in Paris was formed. This unusual “emerald corridor” runs the entire length of Paris’ 12th district, connecting the Opéra Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes.

Promenade plantée

A part of it rises 10 m above ground and runs on top of the Viaduc des Arts, whose arcades have been transformed into stylish restaurants, cafés, galleries and craftsmen’s workshops.

Viaduct des Arts, under the Promenade Plantée

Designed by landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux, the parkway is embellished by water basins, tunnels with artificial waterfalls and vigorous greenery, comprising cherry trees, limes, roses and lavender.

It is a wonderful place to take a high-level walk, read a book, ride a bike or enjoy your morning jog. Some say that you can even practice the curious hobby of bat-watching in one of the decorative cavernous tunnels.

Two of the Promenade tunnels where you could watch out for Batman in the warm summer nights

Or indulge in sight-seeing from an unusual “bird’s-eye-view” angle. The oddest thing you could observe while walking over the Viaduc des Arts, are the atlantes[1] adorning the police station on avenue Daumesnil.

The curious figures on avenue Daumesnil, image by Eric K. Washington, reproduced with permission

Those unlikely figures, inspired by Michelangelo’s sculpture “The Dying slave”, act as dividers between the balconies of police officers’ apartments.  What can we say? Paris will never cease to amaze us…

How to get there: Metro lines: 1, 5, 8

Metro stop: Bastille

The parkway is accessible by stairs and escalators from avenue Daumesnil (Look for the red brick archways of the former viaduct – it is located right on top)

Open from: 8:30 am till 8:30 pm (in September)

[1] In architecture, the atlantes are supporting columns, sculptured in the form of male figures. Their female counterparts are known as caryatides.