One of the real beauties of France is its many gardens open to the public. They surround medieval castles, baroque palaces, and museums, and are a delight to explore and enjoy. Here we list some of the loveliest gardens to visit in France – a garden tour de France, you might say!
Scroll down to check out the gardens in the French regions you'll be visiting. We hope that these beautiful photos will convince you to visit some of them!
IN AND AROUND PARIS
Jardins des Plantes downtown Paris
If you want to escape the city without actually leaving the city, we recommend taking a visit to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.
Located on the left bank of the river Seine in Paris’s 5th Arrondissement, the main botanical garden in France forms part of the National History Museum and covers 28 hectares.
Botanical enthusiasts will enjoy a vast collection of plants which have been carefully cultivated in varied climatic conditions in the different micro-climate zones within the gardens.
Nature-lovers will enjoy losing themselves among the trees and flowers, and children will surely love the little zoo.
Make a day of it and visit the fascinating museum while you’re there. This truly is one of the loveliest gardens to visit in Paris.
Even on a grey day the colors in the Jardins des Plantes in Paris are vibrant (Benh LIEU SONG - CC BY 3.0)
Versailles Gardens at the Palace
The gardens of Versailles probably need no introduction. Designed by André le Nôtre, considered by many to be the greatest French landscape architect, in the 17th century, the gardens cover 800 hectares, including 300 hectares of forest as well as the 'Grand Trianon' palace and the 'Petit Trianon'.
This is the formal French style of gardening at its best. After marveling at the immaculately trimmed topiaries and some of the garden’s 600 fountains, stroll along the Grand Canal and head towards the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s hamlet).
The hamlet was built as a retreat for Marie Antoinette in 1783, and its original rustic buildings are still standing today, including the Queen’s house, her boudoir, the mill and the dovecote and guardhouse. Each building has its own garden or orchard which visitors can wander through. The hamlet creates a feeling of being deep in the countryside rather than within the confines of Versailles, which is exactly want Marie Antoinette wanted.
As the gardens and park are so vast, you may like to consider hiring a golf-cart, or getting a ticket for the little hop-on-hop-off train which stops at various points in the park.
Tip: On weekends from April to October, you can enjoy the Musical Fountains Show and the Musical Gardens, and on Saturday nights you can get tickets for the stunning Night Fountain Show, a spectacular and unique event not to be missed!
Hameau de la Reine in the gardens of Versailles (Moonik - CC BY-SA 3.0)
Vaux le Vicomte
Another masterpiece from celebrated architect André le Nôtre, the Vaux-le-Vicomte castle gardens are the perfect example of French gardens (Jardin à la française), an aesthetic movement of formal gardens which swept across Europe in the 17th century.
Nicolas Fouquet, French finance minister in the early years of the reign of King Louis XIV, gave complete creative freedom to le Nôtre, who sculpted the gardens from 40 hectares and created a stunning setting for the castle.
The strong lines and the nobility of the garden’s design, its changing vistas and hidden charms and the symphony of fountains all combine to create a picture of majesty.
The chateau has created suggested routes for exploring the gardens so that you won’t miss a single detail, and there’s a treasure hunt for children – a visit for the whole family to enjoy!
Tip: If you're looking for romance, visit Vaux-le-Vicomte at night between May 6th and October 7th to enjoy the gardens by candlelight and a firework finale!
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens (Olga Khomitsevich - CC BY 2.0)
Saint Jean de Beauregard
Another treasure from the 17th century and just 30 minutes south of Paris, this splendid architectural complex retains all the charm and elegance of its era. In fact, it is one of the few castle kitchen gardens to have survived intact. In these gardens you’ll find rare vegetables being cultivated alongside rare and forgotten flowers, creating a harmony of beauty, practicality and perhaps a touch of nostalgia.
At the back of the castle, the remarkable vegetable garden extends over two hectares. It was originally created in the 17th century and restored by the current owners in 1984, thanks to the discovery of the original garden plans in the chateau’s archives. Among the paths which branch out from the central pond you’ll find greenhouses, a fruit cellar and an impressive grape storage chamber. This exceptional garden is the perfect destination for garden lovers to include on their itinerary.
The castle hosts a couple of interesting festivals. If you’re traveling to France in the spring, try to make it to the Perennials Festival (Fête des Plantes Vivaces) and if you’re around in the fall, check out the Forgotten Fruits and Vegetables Festival (Fête des Fruits et Légumes Oubliés).
St Jean de Beauregard gardens (Poudou99 - CC BY-SA 3.0)
Monet's Garden at Giverny
When artist Claude Monet caught his first glimpse of the village of Giverny from the window of his train in 1883, it was love at first sight. It was to become his home and an inspiration for some of his most famous masterpieces.
Just over an hour from Paris, Monet's garden is stunning from April through October. Starting in the spring, the flowers come into bloom one after the other, a process of ever-changing color.
The high season is typically May through June, and summer is a great time to see the garden in full bloom, especially the water lilies. The months of September and October bring with them a spectacular display of fall colors.
Enjoy walking through the flower gardens (originally landscaped by Monet himself), and gaze at the water lily pond and the rest of the garden in all its glory from the iconic Japanese bridge.
Tip: We advise arriving first thing in the morning to avoid the tourist crowds!
The Japanese bridge in Monet's garden (CC0)
THE LOIRE VALLEY
The gardens at Villandry give a unique insight into the architecture and gardens of the Renaissance. The Château of Villandry, at the heart of these terraced gardens, was the last of the great Renaissance châteaux to have been built on the banks of the Loire River.
The castle’s gardens spread across three terraces; these include kitchen gardens, a combination of flowers and vegetables in a checker-board design, a water garden, and an ornamental garden.
The ornamental garden is a picture of symmetry and true perfection, with musical symbols, hearts, spirals and butterflies sculpted into the landscape. You may also enjoy finding your way around the maze on the second terrace!
The gardens are constantly being renewed and replanted, so from season to season there is always something new to see. This makes the gardens at Villandry some of the best gardens in France to visit again and again.
Villandry gardens in the Loire Valley (Jean-Christophe BENOIST - CC BY 3.0)
Jardins de Valmer
The pride and joy of the Chateau de Valmer has to be its gardens and its wines. Here you can visit some Italian style hanging gardens from the Renaissance, landscaped terraces of flowerbeds, boxed hedges, vegetable gardens, Florentine fountains, statues and moats.
There is also an extensive 17th century park to explore and a rare troglodytic chapel dating back to 1524. What makes a visit to the Chateau de Valmer really special is its gastronomical workshops, so you can combine a tour of the gardens with a delicious food and wine experience after.
Unfortunately we do not have photos of Chateau de Valmer and this photo does not do the gardens justice! Visit the Chateau de Valmer website to see how beautiful the gardens really are.
Gardens at the Chateau de Valmer (ManuD - CC by SA 3.0)
The recently restored French gardens at Chambord Castle opened in March 2017. This exciting garden project was based on original drawings of the garden from centuries ago, and the result of years of architectural and archeological research.
The gardens cover 6.5 hectares across the north side of the castle, including more than 600 trees, 800 shrubs, 200 rosebushes and 15,250 plants along the garden borders.
This was the largest garden project of its kind within the last 20 years, and we always recommend a stop at Chambord Castle for all our travelers visiting the Loire Valley.
The recently restored French gardens at Chambord Castle. Photo © Krzysztof Golik CC BY-SA 4.0
Seventy hectares of garden and forest surround this 16th century chateau. This is another stop we recommend to our travelers who are driving through the Loire Valley. Even though the castle is one of France's most popular tourist attractions, receiving around 800,000 visitors each year, it is still worth a stop for the rose gardens and French gardens, which are famous all over the world.
Chenonceau castle is also famous for its flower arrangements and has four full-time flower arrangers. All year long, they create beautiful arrangements from fresh flowers. You'll find the most beautiful arrangements there at Christmas time.
The gardens at Chenonceau castle. Photo: pxfuel CC0
Located eight miles north of the town of Sarlat, Eyrignac Manor has been owned by the same family for 500 years, and boasts seven different gardens.
The French Garden, with its typically French-style parterres; the White Garden, with its beautiful fountains and white climbing and ground roses; the Spring Garden and Wild Flower Meadows; the Chinese Pagoda, reminiscent of the French East India and China Company’s glorious period in the 18th century, which brought the “Chinoiserie” style to France; the gardens of the Manor of Artaban; the Kitchen Garden and Flower Garden; and the Green topiary section containing beautifully sculpted yews, boxes, hornbeams, and cypresses, for which Eyrignac is most famous.
There are guided tours of the gardens which will help put each part of the garden into context and a restaurant offering a lunch made from local products. This is well worth a visit if you’re in Dordogne.
The Chinese Pagoda at Eyrignac Manor gardens (Calips - CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac
This is the most visited garden in the Périgord region and overlooks the entire Dordogne Valley. If for no other reason, it’s worth visiting for the spectacular panoramic views of Périgord.
The paths form three circuits that lead to the belvedere, a fabulous balcony over 400ft above the river. The boxwoods are a major part of the garden and date back to the 19th century.
You won’t find the symmetry present in many of the other gardens we’ve mentioned, but you’ll appreciate the rolling and flowing movement of the almost surrealist sculpted shapes. These contribute to the harmony of the hilly setting of the Dordogne Valley.
Tip: We recommend visiting for one of the candlelight evenings. It lends a real touch of magic to one of the best gardens in France.
The stunning gardens of Marqueyssac (pixabay - garnoteldelphine)
The bamboo gardens in Anduze
If you’re traveling through Provence we highly recommend visiting the lush and leafy Bambouseraie, a lovely park of towering bamboo forests, Japanese maples and bonsai trees, interesting tree-art, a Laotian bamboo village, a water garden and bamboo mazes.
The Bambouseraie was established in 1855 by the famous French botanist Eugène Mazel, as a home for the hundreds of species of bamboo and other rare plants he had collected during his travels in Asia. An audio-guide and signs will guide you through the park as you admire the plants and enjoy the pleasant and peaceful sound of thousands of bamboo trees rustling in the wind.
Bamboo gardens in Anduze (Airair - CC BY-SA 3.0)
THE FRENCH RIVIERA
Jardin botanique d'Èze
The exotic botanical garden in Èze on the French Riviera is about a half-hour drive from the city of Nice. After the second world war, the garden of Èze was founded by the town's major André Gianton and Jean Gastaud from the Exotic Botanical Garden of Monaco (just 10 minutes' drive along the coast from Èze).
The gardens stretch across the hills of this part of the French Riviera 400 meters above the sea with stunning panoramic views across the Mediteranean coast. The garden is famous for its cactuses and succulents, and is really worth a stop if you're driving between Nice and Monaco.
View from the Eze Exotic Botanical Gardens. Photo © CRT Côte d'Azur France
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Our favorite gardens on the French Riviera are at Villa Ephrussi, which we warmly recommend visiting. The villa was built by a banker, Maurice de Ephrussi for his wife, Béatrice de Rothschild, early in the 20th century.
The beautiful light pink and white villa is filled with the antiques, tapestries, paintings and sculptures she collected on her travels around the world.
As for the stunning gardens, there are nine themed gardens surrounding the villa, including French, Florentine, and Japanese gardens. As you explore, you might feel like you're stepping across the border from one country and culture to another.
You will be able to enjoy lovely views of the Mediterranean sea from the villa, and the trees in the garden offer shade and respite from the heat during the summer.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. Photo © CRT Cote d'Azur
We would love to hear from you!
Although these are some of our favorites, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the best gardens in France. If you’re interested in seeing gardens in a particular region, contact us and we’ll make sure that the best of the best is included in your itinerary!