One of my favorite places in Paris is the Parc de Bagatelle, a gated park hidden away deep in the Bois de Boulogne on the west side of the city. I like it especially because it’s almost completely free of tourists, which is always nice to find in such a city. The park is a result of a bet between Marie-Antoinette and the Count of Artois, and was created in the astoundingly short time of sixty-four days, opening in 1777. To get there, you have to go deep into the Bois de Boulogne, taking some little-frequented paths, occasionally crossing the shady individuals who spend their days in the notorious woods indulging in all sorts of illicit activities. I find that Porte Dauphine at the end of the metro line two is usually a good starting point, affording a more scenic walk to the park. It’s not easy to find: I’ve been there several times and end up getting a bit lost almost every time. Eventually, using the few maps scattered around the woods, a compass, the North Star, and the direction of the wind, you will eventually stumble upon the impressively ornate gates of the Parc de Bagatelle, which discreetly conceal the wonders of the park within.
After paying a small entry fee, you discover the sprawling and picturesque Parc de Bagatelle. The first interesting thing you will spot to your left is a small labyrinth, which rewards your climb up a small hill with a mediocre view of the park. You may also hear the distinct cry of the peacock upon entering the park – as yes; peacocks roam freely on the park grounds. Continue walking past the small chateau, and you will eventually come across the crown jewel of the park: its fabulous and immaculately manicured and well-kept rose garden. Summer is typically the best period to visit the rose garden, particularly June. After your olfactory and aesthetic senses have been satisfied by the impressive variety of roses, wander through the gardens of the park until you arrive at the beautiful pond, complete with water lilies, reeds, ducks and herons, and a small cascade above a rock formation emptying itself into the pond. The gardener is said to have added the water lilies as a tribute to Monet. A swan may even decide to grace the pond with its presence to complete the charming tableau.
The main sights being seen, stroll through the park at your own leisure, frolicking among peacocks, gaping at the gigantic fish in its many streams and ponds, perhaps enjoying a picnic on the grass.
If you’re lucky, you may spot one of the park’s elusive white peacocks. I’ll never forget my first visit of the park, when I spotted one of these snow-white peacocks. Mystified by it, having never seen one of these creatures before, I stared at it, transfixed, when it suddenly lifted its white wing, revealing the two fluffy peacock chicks hidden away under it.
Like the walk through the shady woods to get to it, the Parc de Bagatelle always offers an unexpected surprise, and I seek solace within its gates whenever I feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city of lights.
WHERE: Lost deep in the northwest side of the Bois de Boulogne.
WHEN: Year-round, but best visited during the summer to enjoy the roses at their prime.
HOW MUCH: 5.50 € / 2.75 € (reduced rate), or crouch down and try to sneak past the ticket counter.