Originally known as the Jardin du Roi, the Jardin des Plantes was founded in 1626, and was used as King Louis XIII’s personal herb garden. Today, the expansive botanical garden is the largest and most important in France. It encompasses several gallery spaces, a zoo, numerous garden areas and hothouses, and a working botany school.
Located along the Seine in Paris’ 5th arrondissement, the Jardin des Plantes is an oasis-like green space that makes for a perfect urban retreat. Covering a total of 69 acres (28 hectares), it’s the largest botanical garden in France, and it has been a registered Historic Monument since 1993. The Jardin des Plantes comprises numerous individual gardens that showcase both native French species as well as exotic specimens from around the globe. Additionally, it houses several museum spaces (including the Gallery of Evolution, the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology, the Gallery of Paleontology, and the Gallery of Botany, and the Children’s Gallery), as well as a botanical school and the Ménagerie, a zoo.
You can admire the Jardin des Plantes on a river cruise down the Seine; although it’s free to enter, guided tours provide detailed insight about what’s before you.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Jardin des Plantes is free, although the Ménagerie is ticketed separately.
- The garden’s collection comprises more than 10,000 plant species, and it’s home to one of the oldest and largest herbariums in the world.
- The majority of the garden spaces are wheelchair-accessible; while the Jardin des Plantes doesn’t have its own parking spaces, there are lots nearby.
How to Get There
The nearest station to the Jardin des Plantes is the Gare d’Austerlitz, a major transit hub that’s served by Métro lines 5 and 10, by the RER C, and by numerous SNCF trains. It can also be reached by the 24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 89, and 91 bus lines. As with the majority of Paris’ centrally located attractions, it’s also easily accessible by foot, by car, or by Vélib’.
When to Get There
The Jardin des Plantes is open daily from 7:30am–8pm in summer, and from 8am–5pm in winter. While the majority of its garden spaces are open during that period, some (like the Alpine Garden and the Irises and Perennials Garden) have shorter hours. Depending on your interests, it’s worth researching individual opening times in advance of your visit; the garden complex also hosts temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year.
Having opened in 1694, the Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes’ is one of the world’s oldest zoos. Following the French Revolution, the first animals were transferred here from the Palace of Versailles, where they had been kept by French royalty. Today, the Ménagerie is still home to thousands of animals, ranging from orangutans and red pandas to snow leopards and crocodiles.