Secret gardens, charming courtyards and breathtaking terraces for the old souls and hopeless romantics in all of us… this is our Paris City Guide for Flâneurs. We’re all just waiting for our own Nora Ephron moments, am I right?
Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur (3ème) Climbing roses and charming Parisian facade views may characterize this modest public garden in the Marais, but the real treat is the obscurity. Few people know about this petite green hideaway as you won’t just stumble upon it. Take either Rue de Hesse or Rue des Arquebusiers to access this particularly pretty spot!
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (19ème) Well-known by locals, but off-the-beaten-path for visitors, this lovely park may just hold the title for Europe’s most romantic. Starring undulating profiles of grassy lawns and winding paths reminiscent of English gardens, the park was constructed atop massive quarries of gypsum and limestone. Visitors will also notice inspiration taken from Italian gardens, from the fanciful grotto with a cascading waterfall to the bubbling fountains dotted throughout. An artificial lake encourages a wide variety of birds to hangout alongside the traditional patrons, who are often found in a trance as they admire the Temple de la Sibylle (a miniature version of the ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli). Long story short, this oft-overlooked retreat is a wonderful excuse to break from the hustle + bustle of the innermost arrondissements.
Ralph’s (6ème) Go for the wrought-iron garden furniture crowned with mismatched cushions in a thousand shades of blue. Stay for the burger. That exceptionally classic American burger. More on this beloved Saint-Germain-des-Prés gem here.
The Maison Russe Terrace (16ème) Decadence is the name of the game for this enchanting summer garden replete with scalloped wrought iron chairs, floral chintz cushions, white lattice trellises and vintage-inspired lanterns sitting comfortably snug inside a halo of rosebushes, jasmine and lush vegetation.
Épicerie (7ème) No visit to Paris is complete without a lazy picnic on the Seine. And this gourmet food labyrinth tucked inside Le Bon Marché is the perfect place to stock up on supplies from cheeses and baguettes to olives and wine!
Square Louvois (2ème) A lovely place to sit and read for a spell (the fountain is an absolute smash), this tucked-away green space traces its lineage back to the 1700s. Even so, it remains fairly untouched by tourists. Get there before the school day ends if you can. Unless you love the chaotic sounds of afternoon musings from 5-8 year olds.
Tea Garden at the Grand Mosque of Paris (5ème) If you’re lucky enough to frequent Paris during wisteria season or if you’re already visiting nearby Jardins de Plantes, then a quick stroll inside these tranquil + serene courtyards is a must. Set within the oldest mosque in mainland France, this urban oasis marries turquoise tiles with floral motifs so typical of Islamic artwork and serves up ambrosial hot teas alongside croissants, baklava and miscellaneous Northern African snacks + delicacies.
Parc Monceau (8ème) This park has been inspiring artists since the 18th c. Built by a cousin of Louis XVI, it’s pure Belle Epoque Paris. Amble through this bucolic park following a perfectly Parisian lunch at the adjacent Le Valois – an unpretentious brasserie that always seems to be the hive of activity for locals in the area.
Apicius (8ème) If it’s a sumptuous garden aperitivo near the Champs Elysées you’re after, then pull up one of the contemporary chairs shaded by centuries-old chestnut trees and enjoy a sublime cocktail whilst serenaded by live acoustic music at the Apicius garden terrace. Check out some of The Paris Society’s other scenic eateries with scrumptious fare (and just really good design) throughout the city while you’re at it: Loulou, Girafe and CoCo.
Marché des Enfants Rouges (3ème) A concentrated assortment of fresh produce, meats, cheeses and other market ephemera, this 400-year-old covered bazaar inside the bustling Marais is a labyrinth we’re always happy to get lost in. You’ll find a hodgepodge of multicultural food stalls here as well, hawking everything from Moroccan couscous and Lebanese sandwiches to Italian deli specialties and Japanese bento boxes. While each stall is a tour de force in its own right, some of our favorites include Chez Alain Miam Miam, Le Traiteur Marocain, and Chez Taeko.
Canal Saint Martin (10ème) A wonderfully dynamic quartier buzzing with trendy cafés and charming boutiques, this area is the perfect setting for strolling, lounging and meeting up with friends – especially when the sun is out. Grab an artisan coffee from Ten Belles and a mini-pavé filled with savory ingredients like cheese or veggies from legendary boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées before settling into your bankside perch for a spell.
The Saint James Terrace (16ème) Looking for Heaven on Earth? Cue the newly opened Saint James Paris. The Laura Gonzalez designed interiors are enough of a reason to spend an entire day here, but venture out into the terrace for one second and you’ll suddenly forget any + all reasons to leave. With Versailles-green latticework punctuating the gazebo and trellises, this garden pergola is easily among the most romantic spots in Paris. A controversial claim, I know. From here you can admire over 5,000 square feet of gardens teeming with hydrangeas, rosebushes, and Japanese maples amidst wicker furniture and a breathtaking mosaic fresco. There’s truly no place we’d rather be.
Jardin du Luxembourg (6ème) For locals and tourists alike, this Saint-Germain-des-Pres park is the place to be at all times of day. Aesthetically, this iconic fixture of Paris combines Italian, French, and English landscape design, but most people know it for its effortlessly romantic and incomparably relaxing vibe. Here you’ll find les enfants launching petite wooden sailboats from the fountain’s edge, families gathering to watch impromptu puppet shows, joggers embarking on their morning run, businessmen stopping for a crêpe at one of the striped kiosks, lovers enjoying a quiet stroll along the gravel path allées, friends sprawled across the iconic green garden chairs (casual picnics or bottles of wine in tow, of course)…
Père Lachaise Cemetery (20ème) An unusual stroll, we’ll admit, there’s something incomparably peaceful about walking amidst the auras of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison, to name a few. Layers upon layers of history endure here, and any initial spookiness you may experience is quickly countered (and overcome) by the stunningly ornate architecture of 70,000-some tombs.
Brach (16ème) Four terraces spanning the ground floor to the rooftop boast magnificent views at Philippe Starck’s latest dreamscape that feels more like a stylish hangout than a five star hotel – though, rest assured, Brach is both. We can’t say enough good things about this energy-imbued watering hole featuring mid-century mod furniture, decorative pieces from Africa, South America and Asia and above all, a welcoming + neighborly atmosphere that invites you to let your hair down all day long.
Jardin du Palais Royal (1ème) In the center of everything (the Louvre, the Place Vendôme, the Opera) lives the Palais Royal – a black + white striped cliché of Paris that is most definitely worth embracing. Grab a cappuccino from Café Kitsuné and stroll these alluring garden paths to your heart’s content.
Le Voltaire (7ème) They say the perfect accompaniment to a good meal is people watching, and the opportunities at this Left Bank café situated right on the Seine are truly first-rate. Grab a seat at one of the café chairs on the front terrace, nosh on the irresistible pommes frites and watch life unfurl before you as the afternoon buzzes on.
Jardin des Plantes (5ème) Educating young botanists since 1683, this historic school has opened its doors to the public and it’s one of our favorite Old World style retreats in the middle of the city. Admire exotic species like banana trees, palm trees and climbing plants + trees from all over Africa, America and South East Asia inside one of the Art Deco style greenhouses on the grounds: the Jardin d’Hiver. Ramble on aimlessly until you stumble upon the bona fide menagerie displaying over 1800 animals – they had us at red pandas tbh. When you’re not discovering such wonders as the Alpine Garden, the Rose Garden, or the the Iris and Perennials Garden, find a vacant bench in the spacious Cedar of Lebanon allée and soak up the peaceful energy of the moment.
Bonjour Jacob (10ème) You’re in genuine Wanderer Territory at this modern take on the literary cafés of yore. The artisanal coffee itself is a dream, but we’re there for the rare magazines from all over the world that can be enjoyed in tandem with classics on vinyl.
Place Furstenberg (6ème) Technically a circular street, not an actual plaza, this photogenic enigma is resplendent with Parisian courtyard tranquility. The 6th site is spruced with four Paulownia trees, creating a feeling that’s at once open and concealed.
Square René Viviani (5ème) This square has been having a moment since the first tree in Paris decided to plant its roots here in 1601. Well, with a little help from Jean Robin – casually, the same herbalist and gardener who served Henri III, Henri IV and Louis XII. The square itself is small, charming and serene – definitely worth a visit if you’re taking a wander by the Notre Dame or Shakespeare & Co. It’s within easy walking distance from both! Pro tip: Square René Viviani boasts the dreamiest cherry blossoms in the last couple weeks of March and a darling Christmas market in the winter!
Galerie Véro-Dodat (1ème) Nestled in the heart of the city, this covered passage is a striking example of 19th c architecture. Within its wood-paneled, walls, you’ll witness a pretty spectacular assortment of modern luxuries and highly-coveted antiques. Even if you aren’t here for window shopping, sashay down the arcade’s original black + white tiled floor to get from Les Halles to the Palais Royal (or vice versa). The passage connects Rue de Croix-des-Petits-Champs with Rue de Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Musée de la Vie Romantique (9ème) Take a beat in the lovely courtyard tea salon of this storybook aesthetic home that was once frequented by the cat’s pajamas of mid-19th-century artists. Follow signs for the Rose Bakery (or just follow your nose). If the aromas of fresh-baked brownies and fragrant meadows are getting stronger, you’re heading in the right direction.
Square du Temple (3ème) Unfurling in the sun is always a good idea, but especially at this hidden oasis in the Marais. The English landscape garden is bejeweled with over 70 varieties of exotic trees including American honey locust, golden rain, ginkgo biloba, Turkish hazel and a 17 meter tall Japanese pagoda tree. The square’s garden wingmen include a waterfall cascading over rocks brought from Fountainbleu and an ornamental pool that glistens beautifully in the summer.
Japanese Garden of the Buddhist Pantheon (16ème) Steal a few minutes of meditation in this zen Tokyo setting hidden just behind Alfred Heidelbach’s mansion on Avenue d’léna. Visitors of the Panthéon Bouddhique itself are privy to an impressive collection of over 250 Japanese artworks from the collection of Emile Guimet. Shuffle across the small wooden bridges where the pond runneth below, as you make your way to the Tea Pavilion. Enjoy a cup of traditional tea (chashitsu) surrounded by the calming partitions of Japanese cherry trees, azaleas, dwarf bamboo, pines, nana gracilis and ferns.
We can’t help but celebrate these bucolic retreats that are shaping the way we want to live. Surrounded by beauty, grounded in heritage and alight with possibility, these courtyards, gardens, terraces and arcades are a testament to the indisputable romance of France. It’s our greatest wish that you use our Paris City Guide for Flâneurs in your unhurried meanderings to come.
Paris is perfect destination for stroller , with its charming streets, iconic landmarks and delicious food, I appreciate your ideas of explaining.