I managed to spend almost a year hearing and reading about the seemingly mythical Jardins du Palais Royal. Yet I was continually unable to find an entrance. Every time I walked down to the Place Colette, I was faced by the beautiful Théâtre du Palais Royal, with its colourful, stripy awnings, but there were no gardens in sight.
One day I was lucky. Armed with a map specifically showing where the gardens were, I embarked upon discovering their hiding place, and finally succeeded. The palace and the gardens have been a social hub for centuries, as documented by great authors such as Balzac and Flaubert, and they continue to be so now, especially on a sunny Sunday.
There are many varied facets to this public space, the gardens being just one. The ubiquitous tree-lined avenues, so common in Parisian parks, are filled with people playing pétanque, or reading a novel on one of the many armchairs peppered around. The gardens in the centre are quintessentially English in style, crowded with pretty blooms all vying for attention. Fountains create a comforting background noise.
The famous arcades entice people with their magical array of antique shops, art dealers and perfumeries. For the fashion addict, Stella McCartney has recently installed herself in this piece of history, but my personal favourite is Didier Ludot, the perfect place to spot a vintage Chanel or Dior.
Restaurants and cafés abound, from the ultra-modern to the traditionally chic, and certainly not to be missed is the modern art installment in the courtyard of the Palais. Viewed in the past as controversial, these black and white stripy pillars are actually tremendous fun, and ensure that the Palais Royal and its gardens are still the place to be seen today.
Entrances: rue de Montpensier, rue de Beaujolais, rue de Valois, Palais-Royal 75001
Métro: Palais-Royal-Mus ée-du-Louvre
Hours: Open daily 7 :30am – 8 :30pm