The Luxembourg Gardens are one of the world’s great places. They’re beautiful and iconic of Paris, they’re full of history and contain plenty to do and see. Built along with the Palais du Luxembourg in the 17th century by a heartbroken Marie de Medicis, after the assassination of her husband Henry IV, the park is typical of the time with its formal layout of avenues of trees, the central fountain and vista of the palace.
These days the Palais is the seat of the French Senate and you can go inside and watch a session for free. The building is based of Marie’s home in Florence, the Pitti Palace, with an updated, more French look to it. The 60 acre (25ha) gardens themselves are very popular with both Parisians and tourists. French children grow up pushing boats in the central fountain, Grand Basin, and you can rent the small sailing boats and launch your own.
Other activities in the Luxembourg Gardens include tennis, pony rides, and a puppet theater, Les Marionnettes du Luxembourg. Times of puppet shows vary throughout the year but you can find them listed here, under Les Programmes. The puppets and pony rides are generally on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays but more frequently during the spring and summer months with several performances each day. The park is great for kids with a classic carousel, Manege, and a very clean playground (parc a jeux). There is a fee to enter the playground but it is filled with activities divided into age-specific sections.
When you get hungry there is a café and other food vendors dotted around the park. In line with Parisians’ aversion to sitting on the grass you can hire chairs, which you may move to wherever you like. Don’t miss the baroque Fontaine de Medicis to one side of the palace building; it’s beautiful and tranquil. The park is free and closes at sunset each day.