On our last day in Paris, we decided to forego the major attractions and just have a relaxing day. The idea of strolling through a local park away from the beaten path felt right after days of maneuvering through traffic and tourists. We discovered the Parc Floral de Paris was relatively close to our flat, and it had quite good reviews. It is one of four botanical gardens in Paris, and hosts major flower shows annually. The nearest metro station to the park is Chateau-de-Vincennes.
We originally planned to visit the Bois de Vincennes, of which the Parc Floral de Paris is a small part. The Bois de Vincennes is the largest public park in the city and mostly woodland. Unfortunately, time did not allow us to explore this area of the park.
In the 12th century, the Bois de Vincennes had been enclosed by a wall and mainly used as a private, royal park and hunting ground. Following the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte turned the Bois de Vincennes into a training ground for his soldiers. Most of the Parc Floral’s woodland was cut down, and the area remained under military control until after the Second World War.
Tallest Medieval Structure In Europe
On exiting the metro, we immediately found the Château de Vincennes. This is a massive French royal fortress in the town of Vincennes, to the east of Paris. In the early part of the 12th century, Louis IX constructed a hunting lodge on the property. It was enlarged and fortified in the 13th century and again in the 14th century with the castle enlarged and replacing the earlier structure. The 52 meter high, donjon tower is the tallest, medieval fortified structure in Europe.
Not being quite sure how to get to the Parc Floral from here, we asked at the gate if we could get there through the Château courtyard. I don’t think they understood and motioned we could go through without buying a ticket. Unfortunately, without a ticket, one cannot get into any of the buildings in the courtyard. You also can’t get out at the other end. We ended up coming back and walking around the outside perimeter walls to get to the park.
While in the courtyard, we stepped into the chapel for a few minutes and walked up to the donjon. Without tickets, we couldn’t go in. Thinking back on it, we should have bought tickets because it is a really interesting place. Next time.
Parc Floral de Paris
We walked around the Château, hovering over the walls to look at the moat as we strolled. It’s about a ten-minute walk to get to the entrance of the park. It was the park’s 50th anniversary having opened in 1969. Extending over 31 hectares, the park features four distinct landscape spaces and is popular with the locals and not as much with tourists. This makes it a great place to simply stroll and relax. Check out the Parc Floral de Paris map to see all there is to enjoy.
There are numerous areas for kids of all ages to play, including mini-golf course with each of the 18 holes representing a Parisian monument. During the summer, numerous free and paid events are held in the park, including the Paris Jazz Festival, Pestacles, and Festival Classique au Vert.
We entered the park at the Château entrance and strolled clockwise following Allée des Pins. It was a beautiful day to meander. Not too hot. Not too cool. Very few tourists in the park. Mostly young mothers with their kids. It is not always like this. Apparently, during the festivals, the park can get quite crowded.
Just the Right Amount of Medicine
We passed by a display of native plants, and sculptures near the entrance. A little further down the path, we entered the garden of medicinal, condiment and scented flowers and plants. These gardens were well maintained and had a lovely fragrance. The butterfly pavilion is close by. It seemed small and didn’t have very many butterflies.
In the centre of the park is a lovely, man-made lake with ducks and sculptures. Across the lake sits a large, covered concert stage which hosts jazz and classical concerts in the summer. The soothing sounds of flowing and bubbling water emanates from a fountain and sculpture at the other end of the lake. I imagine concert-goers sitting, and picnicking, on the hills across from the stage during concerts in the park.
Time to Eat
In the heart of the park, just past the lake, you will find the Le Bosquet restaurant. Mostly self-serve style food and drinks. We had a slice of pie and Caffè Americano with milk. After four days in Paris, this was the closest thing we could find that resembled regular coffee in Canada. While eating, we noticed some locals coming in and filling their water bottles from the fountain next to the kitchen. We did the same before leaving. Seems to be a common practice here. Good to know.
We stumbled upon a vast wooded area of Corsican pines that appeared to touch the sky. Narrow, gravel paths allowed you to meander around. People were sitting on the park benches or laying on the ground just looking up at the tops of trees.
We could hear more and more children. Getting close to the playground, which is huge. It is said to be Paris’ largest play area. Not looking for that type of excitement today, we detoured around the area completely and wandered through some of the pavilions situated behind the concert stage.
Exquisitely Manicured Bonsai – An Unexpected Treat
The Japanese Pavilion was a real treat. Very well maintained with exquisite Bonsai trees perfectly manicured. The garden hosts over 60 manicured specimens. A quiet, zen-like atmosphere with the soft sounds of running water from the stream running throughout the pavilion. We spent quite a bit of time here and took many pictures. My favourite part of the park for sure!
The Parc Floral de Paris is a beautiful park that should not be missed when visiting Paris. There are numerous winding paths to explore and tons of flowers everywhere. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing afternoon, this park is highly recommended. This magnificent botanical park is definitely a highlight of our trip to Paris.