The Jardin des Plantes is Paris’ main botanical garden, built in the 17th century under the orders of King Louis XIII’s personal physician. It’s located in the 5th arrondissement, across the road from the Gare d’Austerlitz train station.

Known for its ancient flower gardens, exotic vegetation greenhouses, a tiny zoo (the only one in the city) and a handful of small scientific museums, this famous park in Paris is a popular place for visitors of all ages to spend an hour or even an afternoon.

Jardin des Plantes in Paris - one of the highlights of 12 Best Parks in Paris (Read all about Paris here)

History of Jardin des Plantes

The Jardin des Plantes was originally created in 1635 by King Louis XIII’s physicians to house the royal medicinal herb garden and overseen by them for His Royal Majesty. For centuries, doctors and botanists used the garden to cure the ails of the nobility. It also helped them better understand the properties and virtues of the numerous herbs and plants which were cultivated here.

After the French Revolution, the garden was opened to the public and became part of the larger scope of the Natural History Museum which now counts over a dozen different sites here and elsewhere in Paris.

The smaller museums here are called “galleries” and are located in buildings strewn throughout the garden, each with its own specific area of interest and temporary exhibitions with a very specific theme.

What are the highlights of Jardin des Plantes?

The 28-hectare garden, built next to the River Seine and Paris’ famed literary Left Bank, is ideal for a leisurely stroll or an afternoon of curiosity in its various small museums, all dedicated to different aspects of evolution. Browse the collections of dinosaur skeletons, rare gems and meteorites, or visit exotic animals in the menagerie, the only zoo within Paris city limits.

The most popular attraction of the garden is the Grande Galerie d’Evolution. Located in the Natural History Museum, it's where you’ll find one of the great children’s museums in the city, the Grande Galerie. Explore its collection of stuffed animals from the African savanna, South America and Antarctica (the giant blue whale suspended from the ceiling is especially impressive), which draw families and school groups throughout the year.

The menagerie (La Ménagerie) is the other popular spot to visit. The charming zoo was first established in 1794 – it's the world's second oldest. The zoo has over 600 exotic animals, including many endangered species that were born there. Visitors can view them in a series of early 19th-century buildings as well as in outdoor spaces and a tranquil garden setting. Long-time favourites include the Big Cat House, the Reptile House, and the Monkey House for primate shenanigans.

Although the National History Museum and zoo are the big draws, don’t miss out on the rest of the garden and smaller museums during your visit. The rose garden here is Paris’ most impressive, with more than 170 different varieties of flowers from throughout Europe. The Alpine Garden, set on a hillside, is home to more than 2,000 different plants from Europe, North America, and the Indian subcontinent.

Good to know about Jardin des Plantes

The Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy has over 600 plant and animal fossils from more than 500 million years ago. It also has some impressive dinosaur fossils, including Triceratops, ancient giant alligators and a 20-metre-long whale. Next door, the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology is one of the most prestigious in the world, and always wows with its giant crystal collection and rare meteorites.

Jardin des Plantes in Paris

Location: 57 rue Cuvier, 75005, Paris, France

Open: Daily from 7.30 am until 6.30 pm

Phone: +33 (0) 1 40 79 56 01

Adrian Moore | Contributing Writer