Perfect chairs for tanning, palm trees, and boats, one may think they have escaped the busy streets of Paris in the Luxembourg Gardens. Tucked in the middle of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, the Luxembourg Gardens is a place for leisure, movement and history. Similar to the Tuileries Palace, a Medici Queen, Marie, designed the main palace.
In 1615, Marie de Medici wanted to create a palace that reminded her of her Florentine home, the Pitti Palace. Salomon de la Brosse created the 8 hectares structure of the palace and the many fountains around the property. The most famous of the fountains is the Medici Fountain, originally named the Luxembourg Grotto. It is a rectangular shaped fountain with three mythological characters: Polyphemus, Galateais, and Acis from the story of Polyphemus. The only aspect of Marie de Medici's plan of the garden that remains is the Medici Fountain. Today, the Luxembourg Palace serves are the French Senate. (Pierre)
Directly behind the palace is the Musée du Luxembourg. At one point in time, this museum had works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Van Dyck and Rembrandt to name a few. In the early 19th century, these works were transferred to the Louvre, which is how the Musee du Luxembourg became known as a contemporary museum. After the Senate gained control of the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens in 1879, they decided to reconstruct the museum which was built between 1884 and 1886. The first Impressionist exhibition held by a national museum was there with works by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and many more. Sadly, the museum closed in 1938 after a national museum of modern art was built, but the doors to the Musee du Luxembourg reopened in 1979 to promote France’s heritage. In 2010, the Senate delegated the management of the Museum to the Public Establishment of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and of the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées that works to raise awareness of France’s strong heritage. Today, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and of the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées present around forty exhibitions each year at the Musée du Luxembourg (Musée du Luxembourg).
In 1642, Gaston of Orléans, the younger brother of Louis XIII, opened the Luxembourg Gardens to the public after he became holder of the property. At first, visitors were locals: bourgeois, clerics and intellectuals. Today, the space is used by people of all ages and all classes. The main area of the garden is the octagonal basin in the center which was built by the Architect Le Nôrte, where children race boats they can purchase in the garden (Pierre). The water basin is not the only place for children and adults alike to play. There is a playground in the garden, that has an entrance fee because it is so extravagant, and courts for both basketball and tennis. On the outskirts of the garden is a running path and on a beautiful day it is often quite crowded.
The park is certainly not just for activities as there are large spaces of grass throughout the garden where people can picnic or sunbathe from dawn to dusk. The greenery throughout the park is quite similar to the Tuileries as much of it is ornate and perfectly kept. The Medici Fountain is not the only piece of art throughout the gardens. There are sculptures throughout the gardens that often contain either historical significance or are greek mythological figures. In the Garden you can find a sculpture of Paul Verlaine, a French 19th century poet, the Statue of Liberty or Le Triomphe de Silène.
The Luxembourg Gardens are in many ways quite similar to the Tuileries Garden. There are places for children to play, chairs you can tan in, ornate trees, and an overall clean feeling. Of course, history is a part of the gardens, but not as much as the Tuileries. There is also a feeling that not many tourists come to the Luxembourg gardens, but people who know the area. It is full of Parisians who need to do work on a blanket or clear their head on a run. There is also plenty of space for people to relax, which is not the case at the Tuileries. The Tuileries is full of vendors selling you trinkets or people on their way to the Louvre. In the Luxembourg Gardens, there are not tourists, but families and friends meeting. In the Luxembourg Gardens, there is a sense of quietness and leisure, that is not felt in the Tuileries Garden.