Paris has parks like no other city I've seen, and depending on what you want to do, there are certain parks that will be better suited to match your activity. There are playground parks in just about every neighborhood where you can bring your kid to play or sit on a bench and take a load off, read a book or work on your laptop. There are parks well-suited for picnics and large groups; parks that offer long, broad paths perfect for strolling; parks where people-watching is the favorite activity and parks where you can find both lunch and the perfect spot to eat. Many of these parks serve as gardens for a much larger attraction, like a museum or zoo.
A bit ashamedly, I never spent much time going to parks when I lived in Paris. I mean, I spent a fair share of time picnicking, meeting up with friends and hanging around grassy lawns, but I barely took advantage of all the places to discover there. Now that I have a kid, I'm always wishing we had a convenient park or two around our house where we could pass the time - at least one one that isn't encircled by a road. When we are in Paris in May, I plan on spending as much free time exploring our favorite parks and searching for new ones to take Avienne.
Here are the parks we're fond of and hoping to pop into on our visit, along with some old photos I dug up of some of these spots. I'm sure I'll be adding some future favorites to the list after we've spent some time in Paris with a baby. (I've heard the Jardin des Plantes and Jardin des Enfants are really fun for toddlers and older kids, so we might be checking them out, too).
1. Parc des Buttes Chaumont : This place was always such a "grown-up" kind of park to me, probably because there are restaurants and a bar/dance club within the park grounds. It's full of foliage in the summer and walking around is more reminiscent of traveling through a magical woodland than a city park. The view of Paris can't be beat, either, and it makes you feel like you're on a cloud overlooking the city. We never spent much time here since it was on the opposite side of town from chez nous, but I'm looking forward to checking out the lake and waterfall that I somehow missed those few times I did find my way here.
2. Bois de Boulogne : It's definitely a travesty that we lived so close to this park and visited it no more than a few times. There is so much to do here, including canoeing, biking and visiting the Jardin d'Acclimatation which hosts a zoo and a whole load of attractions. I've heard some great things about all of the activities there, and now it seems I really have a good excuse to check it out. I think Avienne might still be too young this time to enjoy all it has to offer, but it will likely become a future favorite once she is old enough.
3. Jardin du Luxembourg : Always our go-to park, the Luxembourg gardens provided endless people-watching and prompted many a cat-nap on lazy summer afternoons. It's also the park through which I would cut to go to and from my French classes, barely having enough time to enjoy the sound of gravel underfoot during my commute. I don't think we'll bring Avienne here to picnic (it's usually pretty crowded and full of smokers), but I would love to stroll with her down the tree-lined colonnade and sit by the fountain to enjoy a bon moment of people-watching. I feel like that's just what this park was made for.
4. Jardin des Tuileries : I always feel so refined and classy whenever I'm in the Tuileries. Even if I'm eating chips out of a bag and drinking from a water bottle. It's such an elegant park with sculptures all around and just enough perfectly-hedged shrubbery to enjoy a bit of retreat from everyone else around. It's massive and spans the length of rue Rivoli from the Louvre to Place de la Concorde, which makes it the perfect park to pop into for a rest after wandering through the Louvre.
5. Le Champs de Mars : The champs isn't so much a park as a big field of trimmed grass, but I'm listing it here anyway because it's technically a park and we will almost definitely make our way there for a picnic on a sunny day in May. There might not be a better place to savor a baguette sandwich and drink from a plastic verre of wine in Paris than right in the shadow of La Tour Eiffel. Am I right?