Points of interest

The Best Gardens in France

France has some of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. As we approach summer, it’s time to take a look at some of the best.

France is famous for having its own unique style of garden, jardin à la française, which translates to “garden in the French manner”. In a place which takes so much care of its outdoor spaces, you won’t struggle to find a picturesque spot to enjoy this summer. I personally love exploring this side of French culture, as French gardens have long inspired artists and visionaries, with Monet’s Giverny gardens being some of the most famous. So, if you’re ready to feel inspired, check out my list of some of the best gardens in France.

Gardens of Versailles

Located at the Palace of Versailles in north-central France, the royal château’s park and gardens have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site 1979. I love visiting these gardens as they’re a great example of the classic French garden, where order rules over nature in the form of symmetry and careful planning.

Covering around 800 hectares, the gardens of Versailles boast an orangery, colourful flowerbeds, fountains and even a canal. Many changes have been made to the gardens since they were first created around 1683, but in recent decades they have been restored to their original layout. For spectacular views, visit the château’s “hall of mirrors” which overlooks the gardens.

fountains at Versailles
Discover the many fountains at Versailles. © Flickr user David Blaikie

Jardin d'Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux

In contrast to the manicured gardens of Versailles, the Jardin d'Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux appears much more rugged and wild to the untrained eye. Just outside of Le Mans, this non-uniform garden boasts colourful flowers, shrubs and trees, which collectively span about 1.5 hectares.

The gardens are densely populated and you’ll find pretty hydrangeas sitting alongside stunning daylilies. You can even find more foreign plants such as the Kousa dogwood, which is native to parts of East Asia. Summer is a great time to visit this garden, but I love going throughout the year to see the seasons change.

Jardin de Saint Adrien

In the south of France, the Jardin de Saint Adrien is an award-winning landscaped garden. Once a basalt quarry, the garden covers four hectares and makes the most of the Mediterranean weather with colourful and exotic plants. Volcanic rocks, which were once part of the medieval quarry, line the garden’s large ponds and lake, the latter boasting rockslides and an impressive collection of agave plants.

If you visit this garden around sunset or in the evening, the owner has been known to give personal tours, explaining the flora of the garden with enthusiastic detail. The warm climate has made this garden unique, so it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Jardin Eyrignac

The final garden on my list is in the heart of the valley of the Dordogne and it stands out for its incredible collection of green plants, specifically topiaries. The topiaries at Eyrignac are expertly clipped and trimmed to a range of sizes and shapes. Surrounding the garden you’ll find 200 hectares of wild landscape, which provides a beautiful contrast and can be explored on foot.

gardens at Eyrignac
The gardens at Eyrignac surround scenic manor buildings. © Flickr user @Iain G

Around the green topiaries, other gardens include the White Garden, which introduces white-coloured flowers to the green hedges, as well as a Chinese pagoda which is a nod to the trading between France, India and China during the 18th century. With seven gardens in total, Eyrignac makes for a delightful day visit and I thoroughly recommend taking a guided tour to learn all about the garden’s history.

Esther Westerveld
The topiaries at Eyrignac. © Flickr user Esther Westerveld