Not so much a visit, more of a stroll around one of Paris’ most delightful colonnaded areas and its gardens.
It’s odd that the Palais-Royal, while situated right in the centre of historic Paris, is so often missed by visitors. One reason for that, perhaps, is that it’s not easy to spot, surrounded as it is by other famous buildings and the fact it’s now used for French government offices.
The garden of the Palais-Royal is the only garden in Paris classified as “Remarkable Garden” by the French Ministry of Culture. Bordered by the Palais-Royal and the adjacent arcaded galleries, the garden is a peaceful haven in the French capital, not far from the busy thoroughfares of avenue de l’Opéra and rue de Rivoli.
How it all began
Back in the 1630s, Cardinal Richelieu, at the height of his powers as Louis XIII’s Chief Minister, commissioned a mansion for himself, to be built on land just across the street from the royal palace of the Louvre. The mansion was named after him, Palais-Cardinal, but he was only able to enjoy it for three years before he died in 1642. Richelieu bequeathed his house to Louis XIII and over the next 150 years it passed through the hands of various members of the French royalty,
Over the decades the Palais housed many notable royals, including the wife and daughter of Charles I of England after that king was deposed and executed in 1649. Henrietta Anne, his daughter, married Louis XIV’s brother and it was she who created the famed gardens of the Palais Royal. During her lifetime the Palace was famous throughout France for its grand parties and royal affairs.
Just before the French Revolution, Palais Royal passed to Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, a man famous for both womanising and being short of cash. Thinking he could add to the gardens some rent-paying properties, he built uniform blocks of apartments around three sides of the garden, with arcades and shops at ground level. He also opened the gardens to the public.
Duke Louis’ other work included building a new Paris Opera to replace the previous theatre that had been destroyed by fire. After that replacement opera, too, was razed by fire, it in turn was replaced by what became the two most important French theatres of that and subsequent eras — Théâtre du Palais-Royal and Comédie Francais, which are still there today.
During the French Revolution Palais Royal was temporarily renamed Palais de l’Égalité, Palace of Equality. After the Revolution the palace regained its place in the centre of Paris social life and the most popular cafés were to be found around it.
Today it’s the home of France’s Constitutional Council and of the Ministry of Culture. The gardens remain open to the public and are a great place to spend a perfect spring day. It’s located across from the northwest wing of the Louvre, on Rue Saint-Honoré.
The Palais-Royal Garden
The garden covers a surface of 20,850 sqm and was created in 1633 by Pierre Desgots. Later, in 1674, the great landscape architect André Le Nôtre redesigned it. Then, Duchess Henrietta decided o make it one of Paris’ most beautiful ornamental gardens.Today it contains some 500 trees, including four double rows of lime trees planted in the 1970s and red horse chestnuts planted in 1910.