The weather is officially getting colder here in Paris. Winter is just on the horizon, which means Christmas markets, mulled wine, and tartiflette are all just around the corner. I know most people use the cold weather as an excuse to nest indoors. And I must admit that I do my fair share of nesting every winter. But I also love bundling up and going for a walk in one of the many parks of Paris. And when the winter approaches and the air turns brisk, there’s one park in particular I always have to visit. The Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement.
The Botanical Garden of France
The Jardin des Plantes was founded in 1635 on the orders of King Louis XIII. Initially, the garden was under the authority of the king’s physician, and it quickly became a centre of learning for botanists, pharmacists, geologists, and many other types of scientists. During the reign of Louis XIV, medicinal plants were cultivated within the park’s grounds, and an amphitheatre was built to host medical demonstrations, lectures, and dissections.
The French Revolution in the 18th century resulted in the Jardin des Plantes being removed from royal ownership. The new government decided to completely redesign the park, including adding several museums and a zoo. These institutions were opened to public, but they also continued the park’s long tradition of being a centre for scientific learning. Animals, plants, and specimens from all over the world were brought to the Jardin des Plantes to be studied.
Today, the Jardin des Plantes spans 28 hectares and is bordered by both the Seine and the Latin Quarter. It is home to the National Museum of Natural History, the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology, the Gallery of Botany, and the Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy. It is also home to several gardens and greenhouses, which together house thousands of plant species. And remember the zoo that was built in the 18th century? It’s still in operation, with dozens of animals to discover.
A Winter Tradition at the Jardin des Plantes
As you can imagine, I love the Jardin des Plantes for its concentration of museums alone. But why do I specifically like to visit this park when the weather turns cold? Well, that would be because of the Festival of Lights that is held in the park every winter. I first discovered this event back in 2019, and I immediately knew I had to make it a part of my winter traditions. This year’s festival opened last week, and I’m looking forward to walking among the illuminated animals once more.
If you find yourself in Paris between now and January 15th, I highly recommend you add a visit to the Jardin des Plantes to your list of things to do in Paris. Whether you go at night for the festival of lights or during the day for a stroll through the gardens, the Jardin des Plantes is a sight to behold.
The Festival des Lumières runs nightly until January 15th, 2023. Tickets can be purchased here.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.