Although the City of Light has no shortage of amazing things to do and see, it can be refreshing to take a pause in your Paris itinerary and check out the wonderful sites that lie just beyond its borders.
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Get ready to lose yourself among box parterres, topiary, pathways, sculptures, blooms and more – we’ve rounded up some famous French gardens that are the perfect distance for a day trip from the capital!
Domaine de Villarceaux
The remarkable Domaine de Villarceaux, nestled in the depths of Val d’Oise countryside, is home to a stretch of meticulously kept French gardens full of medieval charm. The estate, which encompasses a majestic château that was once a fortified 13th-century castle, has been home to a number of historical figures that have added to its notable Renaissance flair. The grounds encompass over 42,000 acres – well worth an afternoon strolling through – and include fabulous parterres and an impressive herb garden.
Parc Bagatelle, a famous French garden on the outskirts of Paris, is a wonderous place to visit in any season. This botanical park and its château were built in just 64 days – the outcome of a bet between the Count of Artois and Marie-Antoinette. Redeveloped in 1905, it now contains over 10,000 roses (over 1,200 different types) that magnificently flower each springtime. These mesmerizing gardens will capture the attention of keen horticulturalists and simple wanderers alike.
Champ de Bataille
Another famous French garden (complete with a stately château) is Champ de Bataille. Located in tranquil Normandy, it is a visual feast that measures over 100 acres. A tour de force of incredible landscaping, it remains enchantingly beautiful throughout the seasons. These remarkable gardens are thanks to a collaboration between much-fêted architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia and gifted landscaper Patrick Pottier. An amazing feat of trompe l’œil design, find surprises at every turn: impeccable box parterres, cube-shaped yew topiary, an alleyway of topiary sphinxes and more.
Gardens of Versailles
The famous royal gardens of Versailles, which encompass nearly 2,000 acres, are a horticultural triumph well worth exploring. A labor of love by the iconic landscape designer and principal gardener of Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre, it took almost 40 years to complete. Stroll through the sprawling grounds and admire elaborate topiary art, perfectly symmetrical winding paths, head-turning parterres and myriad groves. Free and open daily to the public, it also features musical performances and impressive fountain shows accompanied by soothing baroque melodies.
Claude Monet’s Gardens at Giverny
A living impressionist painting in a dreamy kaleidoscope of color. The late artist Claude Monet’s famous flower gardens, a thrill for all the senses on their own, are enhanced by a backdrop of his enchanting riverside maison, with its aesthetically pleasing mix of flamingo pink walls and vivid green shutters. Located in the small village of Giverny on the border of Normandy, the Master of Impressionism called this much-loved place home for over 43 years. Cross the gardens’ Japanese bridge – covered with a froth of wisteria – to watch water lilies dance on the lake below.
Jardin Agapanthe, designed by landscape architect Alexandre Thomas, is an enchanting garden of splendid contrasts, where you can amble through a maze of waterfalls, terraces and more. Within this famous French garden, sky-blue agapanthus bob their heads along winding paths lined with masses of hydrangeas. Perfectly pruned foliage give structure to this serene space, which is tucked away in the heart of Normandy. It is open to the public, and – if you’re lucky – you’ll catch a musical event on a spring or summer evening, wherein the gardens become magically illuminated.
A stunning, Impressionist-style French garden with a distinctly contemporary feel. Le Jardin Plume, close to Rouen, was lovingly created by Sylvia and Patrick Quibel in 1996 – its name translates to “the Feather Garden,” given by the couple due to the wispy, gentle movement of the many plants. There are a number of sections to discover, including the marvelous flower garden and gorgeous orchard garden, with its abundance of fruit trees incorporated into a parterre.
The 17th –century property of Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, located in Maincy, is simply astonishing. Its famous French gardens are designed by André Le Nôtre and are known for being the prototype for the gardens of Versailles. These formal gardens are a masterpiece in theatrical design, characterized by linear lines, changing vistas and elegant fountains.