“Hotel” Gardens in Paris

While in Paris in August, I stayed in an area called the Marais, which straddles the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Scattered here and there, within easy walking distance, are buildings called “hotel particuliers,” many of which have large, imposing facades fronting on the street. For example, the Rodin Museum, subject of an earlier post, is housed in the Hotel Biron.

Behind their facades, most hotel particuliers have a courtyard, and sometimes, like at the Rodin, a garden behind the building.  Closest to our apartment was the Musee Carnavelet, two “hotels” that now serve as the museum honoring various periods of Paris’s history. Passing through the outer gates, I found a courtyard embracing a statue of Louis XIV, and the entrance to the museum. Cretin that I am, I breezed through the museum in record time, in search of the “garden” of the hotels, which I had seen in a book before I left home. Le voila!

Carnavalet Museum, Carnavalet gardens, hotel particulier, Marais, Paris

A view of the garden of the Carnavalet Museum in Paris, from above. The French do love boxwood parterres. There is a second, smaller vegetable garden area, in a different part of the site.

Carnavalet Museum, Carnavalet Museum garden, Marais, Paris

Summer annuals softening the boxwood parterre plantings.

I liked the way the summer annuals helped brighten up the otherwise very formal boxwood parterres. I’m not always a fan of a mix of really strongly-colored plants together – but in this case it worked.

This approach was also in evidence when – earlier in my stay – I visited the Hotel de Soubise during a walking tour of the Marais. Formerly the residence of French dukes and princes too numerous to count, it’s now the Museum of French history.  The courtyard, or “cour d’honneur,”  somewhat stark in the winter, sported brightly blooming swaths of summer annuals when I was there. The Verbena bonariensis was an especially nice addition.

Hotel de Soubise inner courtyard

The Cour d'Honneur of the Hotel de Soubise, with the ubiquitous yews and swaths of annuals

Hotel de Soubise courtyard, Paris, Museum of French History

Verbena bonariensis contrasting with other annuals in hues of yellow, red and orange

The one other “hotel” garden I visited was that of the Hotel de Sully (also in the Marais).

Hotel de Sully facade, Marais, Paris

A portion of the facade in the first courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, with beautifully intricate carvings.

Unlike the Soubise or Carnavelet sites, here I found no annuals to liven up the conical yews and boxwoods. But in their place, something even more interesting: in a classical formal garden, a freestanding stone lattice on the right side as you enter,  and a “sculpture” of a mole (or badger?) encased in soil. There was no sign or any kind of information about the piece, which I can only assume is temporary.

Hotel de Sully orangerie, Paris, the Marais, hotel particulier

The circular lattice and the earth-bound mole (?) in the Sully's orangerie.

For a look at another art installation in this garden, called “Bee’s Dance,” which apparently I missed (more’s the pity), click here. And be sure to explore these hidden gems if you’re in Paris in the spring, summer or fall! Next post – on to Oxford.

Explore posts in the same categories: landscape, photography, Travel

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6 Comments on ““Hotel” Gardens in Paris”

  1. Anita Mac Says:

    Very cool – I had no idea about the “secret gardens”.
    When traveling in South America, I marvelled at what was hidden behind the heavy doors of various establishments – I wonder if they had wonderful “secret gardens” too!
    Next time in Paris…..

    • Melissa Says:

      Anita, thanks for stopping by! I can also attest (in case you haven’t visited there) that in places like San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, there are lovely gardens behind the beautiful wooden doors we see on the streets – check out my post on Casa de Luna from last fall.

  2. Elizabeth Lynne Pou Says:

    Beautiful pictures, Melissa.


  3. Beautiful pictures. I so love Paris!

    I think the French do beds of mixed annuals better than anyone.


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