Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes (76)

The Jardin des Plantes is the oldest in the city and was created in 1626 as a medicinal garden for Louis XIII, and later a botany, natural history and pharmacy school was established there. In 1640 it was opened to the public. It did not become what it is today, however, until 1739, when the naturalist Georges Buffon was named director. His big, ambitious plan was to bring together all the forms of nature. 

Under the direction of Buffon the garden became a great scientific centre. Here worked all the great French naturalists, who have streets named after them in the surrounding area. In 1793 the National Museum of Natural Sciences was established. 

The zoology gallery was closed to the public in 1965 and did not reopen until 1994. After an important restructuring process it became the Grand Gallery of Evolution. With spectacular lighting, the experience of entering this gallery is like entering into Noah’s Ark. All over the centre of the building parades a group of animals. On the lower floor, the marine animals are hanging as if they were swimming in the sea. You can see a massive whale skeleton here.

The upper galleries are devoted to evolution, the environment and pollution. The discoveries room is dedicated to ensuring children are able to understand natural sciences.

In the park stand two spectacular greenhouses, built in 1834. One of them, called the Australian, contains Mediterranean and Australian plants inside. The other greenhouse, known as the Mexican, contains several thousands of cactuses and tropical plants from Africa and Madagascar.

To the north are the Ménagerie and a maze from 1640 that leads to a bronze bower called Gloriette de Buffon, the oldest metallic structure in the city. Next to the maze stands one of the oldest trees in Paris, an enormous cedar of Lebanon planted in 1734.

One of the most out-of-the-way and quietest corners is the Alpine Garden, which is three metres below the rest of the garden. Here a curious microclimate has been created where the temperature oscillates between 7 and 8 degrees, where some one thousand different species of mountain plant grow, from Corsica, Morocco, the Alps and the Himalayas.

The Ménagerie is one of the oldest zoos in the world. It was opened in 1794 with animals fro the royal collections. It reached its height in popularity in 1827, when a giraffe was exhibited for the first time. It was the first seen ever in France. The old facilities allow us to see what a zoo used to be like, although some parts of the park have a rather ruinous appearance. The complex has recently been declared an artistic monument. It stands out for its research work into the breeding of rare species and those in danger of extinction.

So what began as a garden with medicinal plants is today one of the largest parks in Paris and our advice is not to miss all the things you can see here.

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