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Hidden Garden Oasis in Central Paris

Hotel de Ville Garden

Smoking may be banned indoors in France, but the sidewalk cafés and parks are all still full of people intent on stinking up the fresh air around them. Happily, this year the Mairie de Paris opened up what was once the mayor’s private gardens at Hôtel de Ville to the general public every weekend and holidays. And it’s a strictly non-smoking garden!

Garden entrance
Entrance from the south side of Hôtel de Ville

The Jardin de l’Hôtel de Ville, renamed Jardin des Combattants Espagnols de la Nueve in March to honor the Spanish Catalan combatants who were the first liberation troops to arrive at the Hôtel de Ville in August 1944 (merci Janet for this extra bit of information), were once right outside the mayor’s private apartments at the City Hall. Under former Mayor Delanoë these private quarters were replaced with a daycare and nursery school. But since the gardens aren’t used on weekends and holidays when the kids aren’t there, the current mayor Anne Hidalgo decided in January to allow the public access on those days. 

Statue of Etienne Marcel
Statue of Etienne Marcel

At just 1600² it’s not a huge garden, but it is a lovely place for a stroll and a break from the crowds outside. There are azaleas and rose bushes, boxwood hedges and gorgeous creeping wisteria winding its way along the railings of the staircase leading to the building. There is a large statue of Etienne Marcel (the city’s provost of merchants, the closest thing to a mayor Paris had in the 14th century) overlooking the Quai Hôtel de Ville (whose traffic you can hear, but not see) and on the Hôtel de Ville are statues of prominent historical figures such as the 19th-century novelist George Sand.

Garden path

shady stonebench
A shady bench…

Wisteria vine
Wisteria vine..

Old wisteria vine
An ancient wisteria vine wrapped around the stone pillar.

Shady path with flowers



At the far end of the gardens is a small playground for the kids, and the city is supposedly going to add a chicken coop and rabbit hutch sometime this year. In addition to smoking, other things banned from this tiny garden are ball games, walking on the grass, alcoholic beverages, and dogs. The garden entrance is at the southwest corner of the Hôtel de Ville, facing the Seine. The gardens open at 9am and close depending on the season between 5pm and 8:30pm.

Children's Area
Children’s Area

Garden hours

If there are other gardens in Paris where smoking isn’t allowed that I haven’t heard about, let me know; it’s a wonderful trend I hope spreads to all of the public green spaces! 

If you like gardens and want to discover the city’s lesser-known community gardens, don’t miss this month’s Fête de la Nature from May 20-24 in locations all over the city. Some examples:

 – May 23-24: Vegetable Festival at the Halle Pajol, esplanade Nathalie-Sarraute, 18th (M° Marx Domroy or La Chapelle) with concerts, games, and the local AMAP present. Free entry.

– May 24th: Jardins du Ruisseau (110 bis, rue du Ruisseau, 18th, M° Porte de Clignancourt). From noon-7pm, visits of the chicken coop, seed exchanges, garden workshops and because it’s France, “debates”. Free entry, probably helps to understand French.  

– May 31st: The Chai de Bercy in Bercy Park (12th, M° Bercy or Cour St-Emilion), there will be a “Troc Main Verte”, or garden seed and plantling exchange, from 10:30am-12:30pm, free entry.

Stay tuned for other events around Paris on the Secrets of Paris Calendar


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  • Hello Jacqueline, Sorry you feel targeted, but until there is no one blowing disgusting smoke in my face on café terraces, while waiting for the bus, or outside the entrance to every shop, then I'm going to complain. Smokers can smoke in their own houses if they want, but the rest of us shouldn't have to breathe it. And the cigarette butts are also disgusting, ugly, and pollute the water and kill the trees. Car fumes are also bad. That's why I promote public transport and bikes in Paris (and walking). Don't worry, I am equally against both smoking and car exhaust. The anti-smoking campaign in the US has made it socially unacceptable to smoke in most places. Some day maybe the French will learn it just isn't cool anymore. Until then, aux armes! (and for me, that is the pen)Thanks for reading anyway,Heather

  • Thanks for the great tips for this longterm resident. However, please leave us smokers alone–three references to how bad and annoying smoking is in just one newsletter seems a bit de trop! We have been banned from everywhere and smoke on the sidewalks of our own homes. Any of us with a modicum of manners abstain from smoking around children or near those less tolerant! The true threat to the Paris' "healthy" air is cars, especially those running on diesel, banned for decades in many other nations. Let’s target the real tyrants!

  • Toutes mes félicitations et tous mes remerciements pour cet excellent article !Permettez-moi cependant d'apporter une rectification à l'orthographe de la dénomination du parc :il s'agit en effet du Jardin de la Nueve (et non de la Neuve).Le conseil municipal de Paris a souhaité honorer ainsi les Combattants catalans qui furent les premiers à entrer dans Paris lors de sa libération en août 1944.(pour plus de précisions,consulter :http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jardin_des_Combattants_de_la_Nueve)Il devait être inauguré par le roi et la reine d'Espagne en mars dernier le jour où ils furent rappelés en urgence à Madrid,suite au crash du vol de la Germanwings de sinistre mémoire.A bientôt le plaisir de faire grâce à vous de nouvelles découvertes dans notre capitale et encore merci !