Discover a taste of the Great Trees of Paris Map with author Amy Kupec Larue, a Paris-based expert of all things plants, trees and gardens.
Larue, who regularly gives gardens tours of Paris, along with gardens from Normandy to the South of France, provides us here with tree-focused exploration of the 5th & 6th arrondissements of Paris from St Germain des Près to the Jardins du Luxembourg. The walk highlights majestic trees – as well as patisseries, all-day lunch spots and cultural sights to see along the way.
Photograph: Creative Commons
Let’s begin the tour on the Place de St Germain des Près (Métro line 4). Pass in front of this historical church and turn left onto the rue de l’Abbaye and then left onto the rue de Furstemberg, named after the area's 17th century abbot. The painter Balthus had an atelier at no. 4 in the early 1930s, and at no. 6 is the Eugene Delacroix museum, with his former atelier and a secret garden. Claude Monet and Frédéric Bazille also shared an atelier on the floor above Delacroix’s apartment.
At no. 5 you will find a remarkable Paulownia tomentosa or Foxglove tree. The tree species was imported from China by the Dutch East India Company, where it was traditionally planted at the birth of a girl. Its lavender coloured flowers smell like violets and attract many insects. This genus of trees was named for Anna Pavlovna, daughter of the Tsar Paul I and later queen consort of the Netherlands.
Turn right onto the rue Jacob and then take your first left onto the tiny rue de l’Échaudé which joins the rue de Seine. Many interesting galleries and shops line this street as you make your way towards the Seine. The Square Gabriel Pierné on your right was created in 1938 and has an impressive Catalpa tree along with a row of graceful Japanese cherry trees. The fountain predates the square by over a 100 years and was designed by Alexandre Fragonard.
As the road bends to the left in front of the tiny Square Honoré Champion, take the narrow passageway on your right onto the Place de l'Institut. You can admire the Institut de France, the Louvre and a Weeping Willow from the Pont des Arts footbridge or continue along the quai and step down into the Square Vert Galant. You will find yourself very close to the river, at the level of the Roman city Lutèce, 2000 years ago and 7 metres below today’s city!
Photograph: Barnabé Moinard for Blue Crow Media
The Weeping Willow or Salix babylonia ‘Pendula’ is known for its elongated leaves and dangling branches and is one of the 400 plus species of willow trees. This fast growing weeping version is a cultivar which originated in China. While Willows need lots of water, the square and all its trees have found themselves submerged by the Seine river on several occasions since its creation in 1884.
Cross the Pont Neuf towards the Place Dauphine and admire some of the remaining 17th century brick and stone facades. You may catch a game of bocce on the square, depending on the time of day. Walk the length of the Ile de la Cité towards Notre Dame and cross the Petit Pont onto the Quai de Montebello. Enter the Square René Viviani and you will find the oldest tree in Paris next to one of its oldest churches, St Julien le Pauvre, from the 12th century.
This tree is a Robinia pseudoacacia or Black Locust tree (Image: Creative Commons), a member of the Fabaceae family that produces bouquets of edible white flowers in May/June on its mature branches.
In France these flowers are battered, deep fried and served as donuts with a lovely floral note. A fragrant honey is produced by the bees and sold under the name of “Miel d’Acacia” if you’d like to try some, however its leaves, seeds, and bark are all toxic!
Exit the garden on the eastern side and cross the street over to the rue Lagrange. If you need a coffee break there is Bertrand’s cafe with his colourful meringues and other goodies. Continue onto the rue Monge after crossing the Bd St Germain and the well known Maubert Mutualité market place. Two more pastry shops await with the Aux Merveilleux de Fred serving cloud-like meringue creations and Eric Kayser’s breads and baked goods.
Cross the Bd St Germain after passing the charming flower shop and enter the Square Paul Langevin. In addition to the stately Black Walnut tree, there are some mature Magnolia grandifloras abutting the former Ecole Polytechnic and Japanese cherry trees lining the rue Monge.
Interesting sculptural elements also punctuate the square including a 1716 fountain from the St Germain Abbey, two Renaissance niches from the original City Hall, pieces of a frieze from the 1889 World’s Fair and a small rustic pavilion of armoured cement, made to look like tree branches.
The Black Walnut tree (Image: Creative Commons) has the scientific name of Juglans nigra. Juglans is a contraction of the Latin words jovis for Jupiter, the god of all the Roman gods and glans which mean gland while nigra refers to its valuable, dark wood. A yellow dye can be made from its roots and the pulpy hulls around the walnut. The shell of this walnut is particularly difficult to crack, requiring a hammer or in the case of the squirrel, very sharp teeth!
Exit the square and continue west along the rue des Écoles. A very nice lunch, early or late, can be had at La Petite Périgourdine, 39 rue des Écoles, as they serve throughout the entire day. Continue along the rue des Écoles, past the 19th century facade of the Sorbonne University, turning left at the rue de la Sorbonne and then crossing the pedestrian Place de La Sorbonne with its shaded cafés and refreshing fountain. Cross the Bd St Michel on to the rue des Vaugirard, the longest street in Paris. Now part of the Trianon Rive Gauche hotel is a 1930s building with decorative gold and black tiles on its balconies. Cross the rue Monsieur le Prince, and continue along rue Vaugirard past the back facade of the Odeon theatre and enter the Jardins du Luxembourg via the gate opposite the rue Rotrou.
(Image: Creative Commons)
A silver maple tree (Acer saccharinum) is on your left, before you reach the verdoyant Medici fountain and behind the Monument aux Étudiants Résistants. The slightest breeze will reveal the silvery-white undersides on the leaves of this ornamental tree. While sugar sap can be obtained from this tree in cooler climates, it is not practised on a large scale as it produces it earlier and is not as sweet as the sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum).
Explore the rest of this historic garden with its colourful flowerbeds, shaded winding avenues, extensive collection of sculptures and celebrated orchard in the southwestern corner.
If you enjoy exploring Paris, check out some our other Paris city maps such as the Brutalist Paris Map, the Paris Metro Architecture & Design Map, and our book Brutalist Paris. The Great Trees of Paris Map is the third in our Great Trees series, all available to purchase here.
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