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Best Small Museums with Cafés and Gardens

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One of the best ways to enjoy the Parisian art scene is to visit the more intimate collections housed in smaller museums in the city. Often located in historic buildings, until recently, the gardens surrounding these museums were neglected. In our post covid-world, museums have now recognized that their gardens are assets to them and to the public. Some more famous venues, like the Musée Carnavalet, the Palais Galleria and the Petit Palais, have added either ephemeral or permanent cafés where visitors can enjoy the gardens over an alfresco lunch, yet the real benefit of the renaissance for museum gardens is enjoying the flowers. Paris’s gardeners dedicate considerable time and significant expense to maintain the cities’ gardens, often cultivating plants that enchant the eye and scintillate the nose. Enliven all your senses by stopping in at our favorite café-gardens in the city.

Musée Delacroix, DRAC Ile-de-France

Musée Delacroix

Bordering the church at Saint-Germain-des-Prés and set on the historic Square Furstemberg, the apartment and studio where Eugène Delacroix lived between 1857 until 1863 is an ideal place to enjoy the calm on the Left Bank. Nestled within the buildings and facing the the Romantic artist’s studio, this secret address in Paris is where the most dedicated art lovers take the time to enjoy this sublime hidden garden dotted with blooming fruit trees, tulips and benches.

6, rue de Furstemberg, 75006 Paris

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Musée de la Vie Romantique / Facebook

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Down a shady path leading to the former Scheffer-Renan home, now housing the Musée de la Vie Romantique, a lush garden awaits the visitor. Rosebushes, lilacs, and a sea of violet bellflowers both enchant and hint at the importance of flowers in 19th century life. The former garden grotto, designed by Émilie Bonaventure, is home to a café run by the renowned Rose Bakery, and excellent example of reconverting a historic space into a temple of healthy treats.

 16, rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris 

Musée de Montmartre

Perched on the crest of the hill, just a stone’s throw from Place du Tertre, the Musée de Montmartre and its three gardens charm visitors to this historic site. The gardens are dedicated to the memory of Auguste Renoir, who had a studio in the complex in the 1870s. Boasting heritage roses and fruit trees, the gardens feature an abundance of other flowers, notably iris and peonies, inspired by Renoir’s paintings. One the three gardens includes a soaring view over the Clos Montmartre, the largest vineyard in Paris with over 1,700 vines. Since 1934, these have been celebrated every October during la Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre. Overlooking the main garden is the Café Renoir, where you can savor sweet and savory dishes before visiting the studio of the other artists who lived on this site: Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo. The Museum is included in our Montmartre tour, learn more about it at this link.

12-14, rue Cortot, 75018 Paris

Maison de Balzac

Maison de Balzac

Maison de Balzac

Hidden from view on the Passy hill in western Paris, Honoré de Balzac’s former home and gardens are an emerald anomaly. The writer lived there between 1840 and 1847 to escape the debt collectors and write part of the Comédie Humaine. His personal belongings are on display beside works annotated by the author.  Peppered with linden and fruit trees, the graceful garden spans almost 7,000 square-feet. It also hosts a Rose Bakery café, where you can pick up a teatime treat to be enjoyed in the garden along with splendid views of the Eiffel Tower.

47, rue Raynouard, 75016 Paris 

Musée Zadkine

Musée Zadkine / Facebook

Musée Zadkine

A quiet street off of rue d’Assas hides a little-known Zadkine Museum, the former house and studio where one of the masters of cubism lived between 1928 and 1967. Bathed in light, the gallery spaces and glass front overlooks a pastoral garden. The small garden, where several of the artist’s work are nestled amidst the greenery, is an oasis of calm and little visited gem.

100, bis Rue d’Assas, 75006 Paris,

Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac / Facebook

The Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

Wondering where to go after a visit to the Eiffel Tower? Located on the banks of the Seine, the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac exhibits 3,500 works of art from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. Its original and imposing architecture was designed by famed French architect Jean Nouvel and includes a green wall by botanist Patrick Blanc. The garden, created by the ecologist-landscape architect Gilles Clement, who also designed the nearby Parc André Citroên, promotes an ecological naturalism. Clément uses no chemicals, no supplemental watering and no noisy, energy-wasting machinery. To complement the museum’s collections, his design is dominated by grasses. Extend your visit with a snack at Café Jacques, found within the garden, or a more sophisticated meal at Les Ombres, the museum’s rooftop restaurant which has panoramic views of la Tour Eiffel.

Interested in combining art and gardens on your next trip to Paris? We have a range of tours designed to achieve this. Read more about them here or contact us to plan the perfect tour to suit your interests.

The Hidden Gardens of Paris

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Two hundred years ago, when Emperor Napoleon III transformed Paris into a modern metropolis, he singularly championed public parks. He gifted two former hunting grounds—the Bois de Boulogne at the western edge of the city and the Bois de Vincennes on the eastern periphery—to expand the city limits. Linking these parks to the historic Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens, he provided Parisians and tourists alike with places to stroll, rest and play throughout the year. Less well known, is the fact the Napoleon III tucked small squares and gardens into each of the twenty arrondissements, so that every Parisian has his or her own favorite local paradise. Nestled into corners, off beaten paths, these lesser known gardens of Paris are not necessarily secret, but hidden.  They each offer unexpected treats, a place to watch birds, discover heritage roses, or a quiet place to read while waiting for a train. The trick is to find them. Here’s a guide to our favorite spots so that you can enjoy the hidden gardens of Paris. Read more

Nature into Art: Wax Tulip Mania

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Mona Oren, Wax Tulip Mania

The second of our series dedicated to reappraisals of picturesque—how nature becomes art—reviews an exhibition at the Avant Galerie Vossen entitled From the Tulip to the Crypto Marguerite. The show suggests that art is a constantly fluctuating value, linking today’s bitcoin speculation to the tulip mania that consumed seventeenth-century Europe. While the tulip is the subject of many of the works in the show, including several painted works, Mona Oren’s Wax Tulip Mania project particularly addresses how natural materials morph into digital formats.   Read more

Surprising Stories: Chantilly Cream

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Chantilly cream is a crowd-pleaser: from a dollop on fresh summer berries to a transformative spoonful that makes a cup of coffee into a tantalizing dessert, Chantilly cream is a world renown gastronomic delight. This week’s Surprising Story looks at the history of this Chantilly cream—whipped milk combined with sugar—and how it was concocted for celebrations at the most famous garden parties in seventeenth and eighteenth century France.

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Surprising Stories: Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais: Resistance and Sacrifice

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The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin at the Rodin Museum. Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr

Today, perhaps more than any other time in recent history, we are aware of the fragility of the human body. The ongoing Covid pandemic and the worldwide protests against police brutality, makes it clear that how we view our bodies is changing how we view the world. This week’s Surprising Story looks at Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of the Burghers of Calais from 1895, one of his most inspiring monumental works of public sculpture that epitomizes how artists cast the human form to inspire social change.

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Surprising Stories: Fragile Flowers: Redouté, Prints and Porcelains

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Rosa Gallica Pontiana and Rosa Centifolia Foliacea by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

For most of Spring 2020 many of us have missed being able to see, touch and smell beautiful flowers up close. We can look wistfully beyond closed garden gates to try to catch a glimpse of blooms or instead settle for virtual bouquets. Long before Instagram, many artists attempted to capture the ephemeral beauty of flowers, however, few succeeded as well as Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Often called the “Raphael of flower painters,” the Belgian artist is still admired to this day as an international master of botanical illustration. Working for kings, queens, empresses and princesses, Redouté produced over 5,000 prints during his lifetime, but his recordings of Empress Joséphine’s flowers at the Château de Malmaison stand out as the most enchanting. This week’s Surprising Story looks at a lesser known aspect of Redoute’s work: his prints which inspired a rare and magnificent porcelain service dedicated to the Empress Joséphine. 

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Surprising Stories: The Buttes-Chaumont: A Model for a Green City

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Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Phil Beard / Flickr

As we leave our homes after two months of lockdown in Paris, our Surprising Story this week visits the Buttes-Chaumont, one of the city’s first public parks and urban renewal projects. Part of Baron Haussmann’s mid-19th century designs for modernized Paris, we’ll see how one of the most noxious places in Paris became one of its most picturesque.

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Surprising Stories: La Place Des Vosges: Fashion and Architecture in the Marais

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When King Henri IV arrived in Paris in 1594, after thirty years of war and destruction, he faced a momentous challenge: how to restart the economy and rebuild the capital city? A Renaissance prince with an eye for profit, he imagined a spectacular open square, la Place Royale, today known as la Place de Vosges. His project didn’t go entirely as he originally envisioned; however, it did forever change the fate of the Marais, the area surrounding his regal square. This week, our Surprising Story delves into Henri IV’s ambitious architectural and city planning project for the square which transformed the neighborhood into a center for French art and culture that has continued until today.  Read more

Surprising Stories: A Princely Wager at Bagatelle

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La parc de Bagatelle Photo: Patrick Giraud / CC

Many of the public parks in and around Paris were created over three hundred years ago by the royal family or wealthy aristocrats. These private gardens were designed as places of play and amusement where the owners indulged their tastes for the latest fashions, hiring talented landscape architects who created green lawns, a new innovation, surrounded by exotic flowers, trees and shrubs whose blooms perfumed the air. This week’s Surprising Story takes us to one of the most notorious of these gardens, the Parc de Bagatelle, which was born out of a costly royal bet, between prince and the queen, whose rivalry has left us two of the most remarkable historic gardens in France. Read more

Surprising Stories: Monet’s Water Lilies, from Giverny to the Musée de l’Orangerie

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With the arrival of spring blossoms and warmer weather, it is all the more challenging to be confined to our homes. It was the goal of many Impressionist artists to capture this moment of nature’s splendor and few achieved this as gloriously as Claude Monet. Dreaming of his radiant gardens can offer some respite from our newly restrictive daily lives, especially his meditative water lily panels. These masterpieces have made the Musée de l’Orangerie one of the most famous museums in Paris, however, few know that the museum would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Georges Clemenceau; then the Prime Minister of France and friend of Monet. This edition of our Surprising Stories series reveals how Clemenceau, one hundred years ago today, succeeded at this impressive feat.

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