0 Love It
Save it

Jardin des Plantes guide

The best restaurants, bars and things to do around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Paris

© Benh Lieu Song

Paris’s Royal Botanical Gardens – or the ‘Jardins des Plantes’ – are really quite special. Inaugurated by Louis XIII’s official doctor as the royal medicinal plant gardens in 1626, they were opened to the public in 1640 and in the four centuries since have draw in millions of Parisians, who still come here in droves to relax in their time off. You can see the appeal: with its labyrinthine maze, the winding paths in its alpine garden and 10,000 species of plants that permanently live here, the Jardin des Plantes, which is sandwiched between two avenues of trees that run parallel to the Rue Buffon, really feels like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

The gardens aren’t the only thing worth seeing around here, of course – there’s also the Ménagerie (a small zoo and farm) and the terrific Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, which forms part of the larger Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle. In fact, this southeastern corner of the Left Bank is also packed with many other impressive historic sites, as well as a plethora of impressive bars and restaurants. See below for our pick of the very best.

Recommended: The ten best parks in Paris

Activities and things to do near the Jardin des Plantes

Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

Heads famously rolled during the Terror of 1793-4, leaving many an aristocratic animal collection without a home. This ménagerie became the solution in 1794. Nowadays, its inhabitants include vultures, monkeys, orangutans, ostriches, flamingos, a century-old turtle, plus another one rescued from the sewers, a lovely red panda and lots of satisfyingly scary spiders and snakes. There’s a petting zoo with farm animals for small kids, and older ones can zoom in on microscopic species in the Microzoo...

Read more
5e arrondissement
The greenhouses

The greenhouses

Those who fancy seeing exotic flowers rarely found on the European continent should head straight to the impressive Mexican and Australian greenhouses which were renovated here in 2010. With the help of heating, special electrical lighting, and humidifiers, optimal conditions have been created for the growth of various unusual tropical plants. Though there are some particularly fetching plants on show, they’re not just mere decoration. Thanks to its extensive, diverse plant populations, the greenhouses at the Botanical Gardens have become easily the capital’s most important resource for biological research...

Grande Galerie de l'Evolution

Recommended

One of the city's most child-friendly attractions, this is guaranteed to bowl adults over too. Located within the Jardin des Plantes, this beauty of a 19th-century iron-framed, glass-roofed structure has been modernised with lifts, galleries and false floors, and filled with life-size models of tentacle-waving squids, open-mawed sharks, tigers hanging off elephants and monkeys swarming down from the ceiling. The centrepiece is a procession of African wildlife across the first floor that resembles the procession into Noah's Ark...

Read more
5e arrondissement
Advertising

Arènes de Lutèce

This Roman arena, where wild beasts and gladiators fought, could seat 10,000 people. It was still visible during the reign of Philippe-Auguste in the 12th century, then disappeared under rubble. The site was rediscovered in 1869 and now incorporates a romantically planted garden. These days, it attracts skateboarders, footballers and boules players...

Read more
Quartier latin

La Grande Mosquée de Paris

Some distance removed from the Arabic-speaking inner-city enclaves of Barbès and Belleville, this vast Hispano-Moorish construct is nevertheless the spiritual heart of France's Algerian-dominated Muslim population. Built from 1922 to 1926 with elements inspired by the Alhambra and the Bou Inania Medersa in Fès, the Paris mosque is dominated by a stunning green-and-white tiled square minaret. Enjoy shisha (€6) and mint tea (€2) in the modest courtyard... 

Read more
5e arrondissement

Restaurants near the Jardin des Plantes

Foyer Vietnam

Recommended

A few blocks from the Arènes de Lutèce and the Jardin des Plantes on the Left Bank, traditional Vietnamese canteen the Foyer Vietnam specialises in cheap, simple, yet high quality moreish food. The menu doesn’t diverge significantly from your standard Parisian Vietnamese restaurant menu, though every month there are one or two new specials to discover which are usually a bit more out of the ordinary...

Read more
Quartier latin

Chez René

Located next to the Tour d’Argent, Chez Rene is a quintessential Parisian bistrot complete with white cotton tablecloths, worn mosaic flooring, leather banquettes and welcoming staff. The menu offers all the staples of classic French brasserie fare, cooked and seasoned with flair and know-how – prime beef, kidneys, andouillette and saucisson. Ffor dessert, make sure you try the mythical chocolate mousse – it's a dense, strongly-flavoured, legendary pudding...

Book now Read more
Jussieu

Le Terroir Parisien

In this modern bistro designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, you’ll find one of the best ideas in Paris’s recent restaurant history. Simply, it offers historic Parisian recipes, cooked using products from small regional producers – sweet peppers with vinaigrette, Crécy vegetable soup, croque-monsieur, eggs with tripe, gratinée des Halles, whiting from Bercy. It’s a simple idea, but one requiring an enormous labour of sourcing and selection...

Book now Read more
Jussieu
Advertising

Strada Café

The well-known Strada Café has extended its delicious coffees, pastries and decadent brunches over the Seine to the left bank, opening a second venue of the same name on the Rue Monge in late 2014. Simple yet charming, it’s a great place to sit with a coffee and a laptop, or to come with friends for an extended brunch at the weekend. Most of the staff are English speakers: Australians, Americans and Canadians happily doing a stint in Paris...

Read more
Quartier latin

Les Papilles

Recommended

In the Latin Quarter, down the street from the Jardin du Luxembourg, this quaint little bistro is a safe bet for lunch or dinner in an otherwise touristy neighbourhood. It has a playful yet old-world ambiance, with colourful mosaic floors, wooden curios and a zinc bar. The 38 tables crammed between the bar and a wall of wine are filled with English-speakers early on in the evening, but that doesn’t detract overly from the experience...

Read more
Quartier latin

Gelati d’Alberto

You come to purple and white Gelati d’Alberto for two things: the delicious ice cream and to watch the employees turn your scoops into a flower-shaped work of art before your very eyes. Once you’ve tasted the classic flavours, try the Nutella, green tea or even the vodka Red Bull varieties. The more flavours you choose, the prettier your ice cream flower becomes. On a sunny day, rows of expectant ice cream buyers snake their way along Rue Mouffetard, so be prepared to queue...

Read more
Quartier latin
Advertising

Ribouldingue

Recommended

This bistro facing St-Julien-le-Pauvre church is the creation of Nadège Varigny, who spent ten years working with Yves Camdeborde before opening a restaurant inspired by the food of her childhood in Grenoble. It's usually full of people, including critics and chefs, who love simple, honest bistro fare, such as daube de boeuf or seared tuna on a bed of melting aubergine...

Read more
Quartier latin

Lengué

Squirrelled away in a tiny street in the Latin quarter, Lengué is a real slice of Tokyo. There are huge bottles of sake lined up on the bar, dishes of the day pinned on the walls – in Japanese – and the service is polite, cordial and discreet. In the early evenings you'll find a few knowledgeable Japanese enjoying a glass of sake and some tasting dishes...

Read more
Quartier latin

L’Agrume

Recommended

Chef Franck Marchesi-Grandi, formerly at Pierre Gagnaire’s Goya, gave this ex-pizzaria a makeover, creating a contemporary setting around an open kitchen. With the calm and dexterity of an artist, he prepares dishes like saffron-tinted langoustine soup, risotto enriched with ladles of cream, and filet of cod in a tangy tomato sauce...

Read more
5e arrondissement
Advertising

Dans les Landes

Julien Duboué, the young chef at Afaria, has transformed the peaceful neighbourhood café Dans les Landes into a noisy and welcoming tapas bar. Some dishes will come to you on wooden boards, others on slates or even in a (clean, hopefully) wooden clog; this is a place for sharing, not selfish appetites. Among the best things that we tried were slices of pork with barbecue sauce, fried squid with sweet peppers, a pot of boudin (blood sausage) with apples, and prawns with grapefruit...

Read more
5e arrondissement

Bars near the Jardin des Plantes

Le Requin Chagrin

Recommended

At the Requin Chagrin, broke students laugh with pleasure as, unlike at the other bars in the area, having a few drinks here won’t break the bank. The cosy wooden bar is filled with tall round tables where students sip on pints of Guinness, Hoegaarden or Grimberger from a wide selection – a ‘tasting platter’ of a dozen beers is only €12. One could also opt for a whiskey, house cocktail, or rum punch...

Read more
Quartier latin

Le Rostand

Le Rostand has a truly wonderful view of the Jardins du Luxembourg from its classy interior, decked out with Oriental paintings, a long mahogany bar and wall-length mirrors. It's a terribly well-behaved place and you should definitely consider arriving in fur or designer sunglasses if you want to fit in with the regulars. The drinks list is lined with whiskies and cocktails, pricey but not as steep as the brasserie menu...

Read more
Odéon

Caveau des Oubliettes

Recommended

A foot-tapping frenzy echoes in this medieval dungeon, complete with instruments of torture, a guillotine and underground passages. Mondays are Pop Rock Jam nights with the JB Manis Trio, Tuesdays are Jazz Jam Boogaloo nights with Jeff Hoffman, and there are various other jam sessions during the rest of the week...

Read more
Quartier latin
Advertising

Le Crocodile

Prepare yourselves to hesitate at the moment of ordering your cocktail: the menu offers nearly 300. We’d advise you to check out the happy hour (6pm-8pm) so as to not break the bank – you’ll still have to rub shoulders with your neighbour to get hold of your glass (the bar is always packed), but that’s just part of the rambunctious atmosphere. In this slightly cramped tavern, we like the vintage posters and the crowded tables...

Read more
Quartier latin

Le Pantalon

A local café that seems familiar yet is utterly surreal. It has the standard fixtures, including the old soaks at the bar - but the regulars and staff are enough to tip the balance firmly into eccentricity. Friendly and funny French grown-ups and foreign students chat in a variety of languages; drinks are cheap enough to make you tipsy without the worry of a cash hangover...

Read more
Quartier latin

Le Teddy's Bar

Recommended

 Bars often show gregarious instincts, clustering together on one street. Exhibit A, the Rue Mouffetard, which seethes with Sorbonne students, college kids and tourists who pounce on anything beer-shaped after or between classes. Among the many bars strewn around here, we particularly like Teddy’s for its choice of beers and cocktails, its interminable happy hours (from 3.30pm til 8pm) and for its welcoming, low-key atmosphere...

Read more
Quartier latin
Advertising

Connolly's Corner

Recommended

The oldest Irish pub on the left bank, and one of the three oldest in Paris. Unlike many of its blander contemporaries, Connolly’s Corner could almost be mistaken for an authentic Dublin tavern. It’s squirrelled away on the Rue Mouffetard, an area that counts plenty of soulless pubs, so happy are those who find it, for it’s said to serve the best Guinness in Paris...

Read more
Quartier latin

Le Piano Vache

A useful address in the 5th arrondissement, where the majority of bars sport plasma screens and are filled with tourists, the Piano Vache is a relaxed student bar with a great happy hour from 6pm-9pm. The enormous venue includes three bars, and everywhere are huge wooden tables of the sort that your elbows stick to. Come here for the relaxed atmosphere and the regular programme of themed nights: Monday is live jazz manouche...

Read more
Quartier latin

Comments

1 comments
Huw O
Huw O

Have spent many brilliant afternoons in a mint tea the courtyard at the Grande Mosquée! Sooo chilled