A highlight of the sixth arrondissement, the Palais du Luxembourg was built as a residence for former Queen of France Marie de’ Medici in 1625. Though the palace has lost none of its luster in the ensuing centuries, its purpose has changed: the once-regal address now houses the Senate, the upper house of the French parliament.
The Palais du Luxembourg has taken on numerous guises throughout its history. Originally created as a royal palace, it served as a prison during the French Revolution, housed senators appointed by Napoleon, and was occupied during World War II. Today, it houses the French Senate; as a result, you’ll often hear the building referred as “the Sénat.” Built in the Italianate style, and inspired by Florence’s Pitti Palace, the Palais du Luxembourg is also flanked by the Jardin du Luxembourg, a manicured public park that’s among the most popular in the city.
Generally, visiting hours are limited to days when the Senate is not in session (typically Mondays and Fridays) and group tours must receive advanced approval to visit. Otherwise, walking tours through the Jardin du Luxembourg are an excellent way to get acquainted with the site and admire the palace’s impressive exterior.
Things to Know Before You Go
For organized group tours of the palace, the Senate recommends requesting a reservation roughly three months in advance.
The Senate’s debates, typically held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, are open to the public, but visitors must obtain an invitation from a senator.
The Jardin du Luxembourg, modeled on Florence’s Boboli Gardens, contains numerous fountains, statues, greenhouses, and other attractions.
How to Get There
Take Métro lines 4 or 10 to the Odéon, Mabillon, or Saint-Sulpice stations, which are all located just a short stroll away. The RER B additionally stops at the Luxembourg station. Alternatively, buses 58, 84, 89, and 96 stop nearby. The site can also be accessed on foot, by Velib’, or by car.
When to Get There
During the third weekend of September, the Senate opens its doors to visitors during European Heritage Days. Otherwise, while the Palais du Luxembourg can be tricky for visitors to access, the Jardin du Luxembourg appeals to flâneurs year round.
The Musée du Luxembourg
Located just steps from the Palais du Luxembourg, the eponymous museum is also a worthy stop. Originally located within the palace walls, it moved to its current location (in the palace’s orangery) in the 19th century. Today, it hosts a changing roster of temporary exhibitions.