7 Artfully-Hidden Gardens in the Marais

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7 Artfully-Hidden Gardens in the Marais

Concealed within the courtyards of historic mansions, sequestered behind high walls, down alleyways, these Parisian gardens are invisible to the casual passerby, which makes their discovery that much more delightful. 

When in need of a break after a day of shopping, taking in a museum or two, or people-watching in a café, nowhere offers a better respite than a garden. 

They are also perfect for strolling, sitting, picnicking, appreciating horticulture, or simply pausing to be present to the aura of the Marais. 

I stumbled across each garden on this list by chance within the first couple of years after I moved to Paris, seven-plus years ago. I find it particularly gratifying when I can introduce, not just visiting friends, but lifelong Parisians, to one of these hidden treasures.

Square Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur – Pauline Roland garden. Photo Credit: Lionel Allorge/ Wikimedia Commons

Square Saint-Gilles-Grand-Veneur-Pauline-Roland 

This may be the most secret garden of all and somewhere you’d be unlikely to find on your own. I might not know about it even now had I not been shown a rental apartment within its precincts when I was first looking for somewhere to settle. Though situated within a private residential square behind the imposing town residence of King Louis XV’s master of hounds (le grand veneur), the public is nonetheless welcome during the daytime. 

The garden is at its most beguiling in summertime when the rose arbors are in full bloom, which is not to say it’s not charming during the rest of the year. 

And Pauline Roland? A friend and contemporary of George Sand, she was an early socialist and militant feminist, who was eventually sent into exile and imprisoned for her political views. Victor Hugo paid homage to her in a rather florid poem upon her untimely death. Her name was added to the garden in 2010. 

9 rue du Grand Veneur, 3rd arrondissement

Clos des Blancs Manteaux. Photo credit: Ralf treinen/ Wikimedia commons

Clos des Blancs Manteaux 

The Clos des Blancs Manteaux, named after the order of monks who inhabited the quarter in the 13th century, is a community garden (un jardin partagé) where volunteers from the 4th arrondissement cultivate medicinal herbs, plants for dying, vegetables, flowers and other ornamentals. The patchwork pattern of individual plots is, in fact, reminiscent of a monastery garden.  

Even though the space abuts the rear of the building where I live, it still took me a couple of months to realize it was there. One day while walking my dog, I saw an open door with greenery in the distance and then noticed a sign indicating that dogs on the leash were allowed — not the case in the majority of gardens in Paris. Inside I found an open space where locals bring their pets to run around and fraternize. The garden itself is up a few steps and altogether much calmer. 

The garden was dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, shortly after her death, which some find puzzling. since she had no special connection either to the Marais or to horticulture. 

21 rue des Blancs Manteaux, 4th

Jardin des Archives Nationales 

France’s National Archives are housed in the Hôtel de Soubise, a majestic 18th-century mansion in the classical style, completed towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV. It’s always amusing to see tourists sitting and socializing on the curbside lawns in front of the building, clearly unaware of all that inviting green space next door… 

Because, at the end of the Cour d’Honneur, or forecourt, an inconspicuous passageway on the right leads to four interconnected gardens. I find the first one, the Jardin d’Assy, with its meandering paths and small pond in the center, to be the most inviting, but I’m also a fan of the two small, vine-covered pergolas on the border of the Jardin de Fontenay. 

If you’re seeing this before March 29, 2024, the gardens will be inaccessible to the public until at least that date.  

A fifth garden, the more formal Jardin de Rohan, is also closed and not scheduled to reopen for at least two years. 

60 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 3rd arrondissement

Archives Nationales gardens. Photo Credit: daryl_mitchell

Jardin des Rosiers—Joseph Migneret 

It is believed that rosebushes (rosiers) were first planted along the rue des Rosiers in the 13th century. This was also the moment that King Philip Augustus ordered the construction of the first defensive wall to encircle the city. Few vestiges remain, but a base fragment of one of the stone turrets is still visible within the garden. 

To find it, enter from the rue des Rosiers. First, however, you’ll pass a small patch of flowers commemorating both the Jewish children of the quarter deported during the Nazi occupation of France, and Joseph Migneret, principal of a local school, who was actively able to rescue a few of those poor souls.  

The rest of the garden — really, three gardens — has lawns, benches, flowering shrubs, an educational vegetable garden, various fruit trees, including an enormous creeping fig, and a terrific children’s play area. If you’re wondering where to enjoy your sandwich from l’As de Falafel, look no further.   

There is a second entrance in the rue des Francs Bourgeois, though it is sometimes locked. Go into the courtyard of the old Hôtel de Coulanges (birthplace of Mme. de Sévigné) and follow the arrows pointing left. 

10 rue des Rosiers and 35 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 4th arrondissement

Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph Migneret. Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut/ Flickr

Jardin Anne-Frank 

The Anne Frank Garden lies at the end of an alley, diagonally across the street from the Pompidou Center. Just inside the entrance is a large and thriving horse chestnut grown from a graft of the original tree in Amsterdam that Anne Frank used to admire from her attic window and wrote about so poignantly in her diary. 

Further along, the path leads into an open area with views, on one side, of the 17th-century Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, which today houses the Musée d’art et d’histoire de Judaïsme and, on the other, a trellised arbor similar to those in the gardens of Versailles, under which you can relax on one of the stone benches.  

The final part of the garden includes a well-equipped playground and a community garden. Here, as in so many gardens in Paris these days, biodiversity is the watchword. I was particularly taken by an instructive poster for children (and adults) with step-by-step illustrations on how to build an insect hotel, mounted right next to an intricately constructed example of the real thing. 

14P Impasse Berthaud, 3rd arrondissement

Jardin Anne-Frank. Photo Credit: Philippe Alès/ Wikimedia Commons

Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sully 

Most visitors to Paris are familiar with the Place des Vosges, but it’s easy to overlook the discreet door at the southwest corner of the vaulted arcades edging the square. Others might be shopping along the rue Saint-Antoine and breeze right past the stone archway of the Hôtel de Sully, which today is headquarters to France’s Centre des Monuments Nationaux. If one does pause to look through, all that’s immediately visible is a paved courtyard with a few parked cars (although there is a very nice art bookshop tucked away on the left). 

Both of these passageways lead to the Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sully which, to be honest, is the least secret of the gardens on this list — a lot of locals seem to use it as a shortcut. 

The garden itself is well-manicured and geometric in the formal French style, with benches in both sun and shade. Spanning the far end is the elegant 17th-century Orangery, which these days is sans oranges. The space is mostly closed, except for events such as Paris Design Week in September. Last year’s installation was Think Pink. Irreverent and contemporary; it totally worked. 

5 Place des Vosges and 62 rue Saint-Antoine, 4th arrondissement

Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sully. Photo Credit: jean-louis Zimmermann/ Wikimedia Commons

Jardin des Combattants-de-la-Neuve 

Don’t be confused by the name, which pays homage to a company of Spanish Republicans who fought during the liberation of Paris at the end of WWII; this really is the garden of the Hôtel de Ville. The walled garden is flanked on the north by the neo-Renaissance façade of the Hôtel de Ville and, on the south, by a monumental equestrian statue of Etienne Marcel (provost, or mayor, of Paris in the 14th-century) gazing out at Nôtre Dame, directly across the Seine 

Past the iron gates, are lawns, paths for promenading, shaded nooks and a playground. Once upon a time, there were rabbits and chickens, tended by neighborhood school children, but their enclosures now are empty. All that food just sitting there was irresistible to the hungry rat population, for whom the City of Paris has zero tolerance. 

The garden is open to the public on weekends only. 

2 place de l’Hôtel de Ville and 1 rue Lobau, 4th arrondissement

Jardin des Combattants Espagnols de la Nueve, City Hall. Photo Credit: Guilhem Vellut/ Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Roses in Paris. Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut/ Flickr

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A native New Yorker, Joy first visited Paris after her junior year in college, returning countless times over the years, before eventually putting down roots in the Marais. A veteran travel writer and editor, her original focus was on family travel, later turning to business travel. Having traveled to many corners of the globe, both independently and on assignment, it turns out that Paris is “the one”. How do you beat morning strolls along the Seine before the crowds arrive; weekend shopping at second-hand markets in undiscovered corners of the city; stepping back into history in museums, churches, or just out on the street; being constantly tempted by the delectable works of art showcased in patisserie windows, and so forth? There is always more to be embraced in Paris.

Comments

  • Stephanie Feingold
    2024-03-22 12:28:41
    Stephanie Feingold
    It’s too bad that people will now know about the Joseph Minaret garden. It I’ll become overly populated.

    REPLY

  • Lisa Kelly
    2024-03-22 03:31:19
    Lisa Kelly
    Outstanding article. This will be helpful for our upcoming visit to Paris!

    REPLY

  • Beth Gersh-Nesic
    2024-03-22 02:55:36
    Beth Gersh-Nesic
    What a fabulous article, Joy! The Marais is my favorite place to stay in Paris. Thank you for adding to the pleasure. Beth

    REPLY