An afternoon at the Parc de Bagatelle

An afternoon at the Parc de Bagatelle

Il était une fois Bagatelle… Once upon a time, Bagatelle, a modest château surrounded by beautiful gardens, on the western edge of Paris’ 16th arrondissement. Tucked away inside the expansive Bois de Boulogne (twice the size of New York’s Central Park,) it is easy to miss. Many visitors do, because they don’t know about it. Even if they have heard of it, they may forsake a visit when they find out only two city buses (or a car) will take you there. After all, if you have seen les Tuileries, le Palais Royal and the Luxembourg gardens, you have seen the greatest Parisian gardens, right? Wrong. 

Bienvenue aux Jardins de Bagatelle, the Parisian park who once inspired a fragrance by the iconic French perfume house, Guerlain. Welcome to a magical place, a lush haven a few minutes away from one of the world’s busiest cities. The story is too good not to tell: Le château de Bagatelle was born out of a bet, between Louis XVI’s brother, le Comte d’Artois, and his famous sister-in-law, Marie-Antoinette. In 1775, the Count needed a modest residence, a hunting lodge, or, as he came to call the place, “une bagatelle,” (a trifle, a sweet nothing.) The Queen argued her brother-in-law’s “folly” could not be built in three months. He proved her wrong and with the help of renowned neoclassical architect François-Joseph Bélanger (1744-1818) completed construction at great expense in 63 days. The King and Queen were invited to a lavish inaugural party two years later. 

Le Château de Bagatelle today,
“Parvus sed aptus” (Small but able)
Visitors admiring the back of the castle and the French garden

The château was interesting enough, but it is the surrounding park that captures the visitor’s heart. Designed in the naturalistic Anglo-Chinese landscape style (a walk in the Bagatelle gardens reminded me of favorite London parks,) the 59-acre property offers water gardens, complete with a waterfall and a grotto, a pavilion of love, a pagoda, and expansive grassy areas lined by gravel pathways where visitors stroll or pause on green benches. Some sections of the gardens were completed in the 19th century, as Bagatelle’s successive owners  left their mark on the estate. Some favorite spots include…

Le Château de Bagatelle seen from the waterlily pond
(inspired by Monet’s gardens in Giverny)
The grotto and waterfall
This pathway circles the park. Inviting benches beckon visitors…
The Pagoda 

I hardly met any tourists as I explored the grounds. To experience a true Parisian promenade, visit Bagatelle in the middle of the week when only a few locals are present, strolling, meditating, or just lounging on the comfortable benches, and in grassy areas. After a few minutes, you will forget you are just a few minutes away from downtown Paris.

A park patron… 

As the estate grew, buildings were added throughout the 19th century. Today, many visitors admire the classical Orangerie (an elegant garden house where exotic trees can be overwintered, transported in gigantic planter boxes.) 

L’Orangerie
French-style gardens: geometric planting beds
where different plants and color combinations are introduced every year

Gardeners from around the world flock to Bagatelle year round to enjoy seasonal themed gardens near the potager (kitchen garden.) 

The Potager pavilion 
Scented geranium (Pelargonium) display 

Finally, la pièce de résistance: A world-famous roseraie (rose garden,) created in 1905 after the City of Paris officially acquired the Bagatelle gardens. Since 1907, an annual international rose competition has rewarded the creators of new hybrid rose varieties. I was almost too late last week. Most roses had already bloomed, but there were still enough varieties left for a colorful and fragrant display. I had fun walking around la Roseraie and reading the name tags on many bushes (they are dedicated to celebrities and French icons past, and present.) 


Late afternoon, as I was looking for a shaded place to sit down and regroup (this was an unusually hot day for this chilly Parisian early summer,) I walked past another local attraction: the gastronomic restaurant les Jardins de Bagatelle. 

My favorite summer drink, la menthe à l’eau, had never tasted so refreshing, as I admired the building and grounds. I could just picture the inviting terrace on a warm summer night.

Served with no ice, à la française…


The first time I posted photos of the Parc de Bagatelle on French Girl in Seattle’s Facebook page a couple of years ago, and asked readers to identify the place in Paris, I did not receive a single accurate answer, not even from a few Paris-based readers. 

This clearly shows what a special place Bagatelle still is. So why don’t you stray away from le Palais Royal and les Tuileries next time you visit Paris? Don’t hesitate to ride that bus through the affluent Neuilly-sur-Seine neighborhood: You will be rewarded when you walk through these gates, that’s a promise.

A bientôt.

Jardins de Bagatelle
Bois de Boulogne
Route de Sèvres à Neuilly et 
Allée de Longchamp – 
Paris 16e arrondissement.
Metro: Porte Maillot +
Bus: 244 or 43
Open 7 days a week
Entrance fee: 6 Euros

 
All photos by French Girl in Seattle.
Please do not use without permission.
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24 Responses to An afternoon at the Parc de Bagatelle

  1. Well now I know where to take my garden loving belle mère when she visits in a couple of weeks time! Thank you for revealing yet another Paris gem on my doorstep that I knew nothing about. Beautiful photos too!

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Bagatelle is one of the great gardens in the Paris region. You took some stunning pictures and really capture its beauty. And thank you for explaining its origins. I had no idea….

    Anothergarden which is not all that well known is out here in Versailles. No, not the formal castle gardens but the le Potager du roi (the King’s kitchen garden).

    All the best,

    Victoria

  3. i really can never convey truly how much i ENJOY your posts it really is like being there…i adore the cabana style eating space shaded, semi-private and perfectly situated to the space pleasing to a weary vistor’s eye-i hope you found all well upon your return and life hectic summmer’s pace is feeling normal-have a wonderful week-

  4. You really did a maximum of the three weeks you had in France! I’m not surprised, you seem always to be full of energy and ethusiasm! … and I know these beuatiful gardens (have even posted about them a few times)! You are absolutely right, definitely worth the visit, even if it may take some time to reach them.

  5. Excellente idée que d’attirer tes lecteurs hors des sentiers battus (et rebattus?..) de la capitale! Quel endroit magique! Les roses y sont sublimes! et quelle tranquilité!..
    Dans la même veine, connais-tu la Fondation Albert Kahn?Autre jardin sublime et ignoré de tous , aux portes de Paris, avec en prime des expos photos fabuleuses.

    • Merci Marie. Je pensais bien que ce poste te plairait. J’ai pris une photo des bancs du parc que je t’enverrai ce matin. 🙂 Je ne connais pas encore la Fondation Albert Kahn, alors merci pour cette suggestion. Bonne semaine a Nice !

  6. So beautiful. The rose garden looks stunning. We’ll have to jump on the Metro for a visit the next time we’re in Paris!
    PS- Aren’t you glad the Seattle weather improved while you were away?

  7. I have been to Paris quite a few times but have never been to this garden or for that matter ever heard about Jardins de Bagatelle. Your pictures are beautiful and we will definitely make a trip out there when we are next in Paris. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wait, that was built in 63 days?!? Sheesh. That’s pretty freaking incredible. He must have really wanted to win that bet! If a house was built that quickly here in the US, I think a heavy wind would be able to knock it down in a second, much less have it still be standing hundreds of years later haha!

  9. I am familiar with the gardens that you mentioned at the beginning of your post but not the wonderful Bagatelle – so much to admire. I was mesmerised by Monet’s gardens at Giverny and I know that I would be impressed by this beautifully maintained garden. Already added to my ‘Paris List’ – thanks for the introduction and of course for your stunning photos!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

  10. Such wonderful pictures and descriptions! I must confess, during my time in Paris, I did not make it to the Bagatelle gardens – for precisely the reason you said: I had no idea it was there! But next time I go to Paris, I will most certainly pay it a visit!

  11. Though I lived in the 16th for 8 months as a student, and ventured into the Bois de Boulogne many times to go read a book, I never stumbled on the Bagatelle… will have to rectify that “lacune” one of these days !

  12. Audrey Hepburn did a fantastic presentation of the famous rose show here as part of her ‘Gardens of the World’ PBS series:
    Here’s a trailer for the series that she recorded on a number of continents shortly before her death. I watched the series over and over….just outstanding…esp the rose tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6ArElsvCUA

    Thanks for the lovely reminder and your gorgeous photos, Veronique!

  13. What a stunning garden – and yes French Heart, I remember the Audry Hepburn film. I just love some of the details, for example those signs that indicate the names of the roses. Aren’t they just wonderful! Not to mention the roses themselves.

    The story of the building is extraordinary and I just love your photography. Oh well done, dear Veronique. And I note the Vittel Menthe -even tho it’s an Evian Menthe. This, thanks to you, has become my favourite drink – when I’m not drinking wine, that is!

  14. Absolutely Love your fantastic photos from the gardens. I missed this on my trips to Paris. My daughter and her husband will be in Paris in Feb. I am sure it will look much different, but the history is fascinating.

  15. Veronique,
    It’s so pretty! I love the chickens and peacock roaming around. I have never heard of this park either but thank you, now it’s on my list for when we visit Paris this fall. The kids will love it.
    I hope you’re happy being back in seattle, not missing home too much and that sharing your trip with us helps you to keep it alive in your heart.
    i just don’t get the menthe. esp with no ice. you Frenchies!
    bisous,
    aidan

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