The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Garden, located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, was created beginning in 1612 by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, for a new residence she constructed, the Luxembourg Palace. The garden today is owned by the French Senate, which meets in the Palace. It covers 23 hectares and is known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds, the model sailboats on its circular basin, and for the picturesque Medici Fountain, built in 1620.
The garden is largely devoted to a green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and centred on a large octagonal basin of water, with a central jet of water; in it children sail model boats. The garden is famed for its calm atmosphere. Surrounding the bassin on the raised balustraded terraces are a series of statues of former French queens, saints and copies after the Antique. In the southwest corner, there is an orchard of apple and pear trees and the théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theatre).
The gardens include a large fenced-in playground for young children and their parents and a vintage carousel. In addition, free musical performances are presented in a gazebo on the grounds and there is a small cafe restaurant nearby, under the trees, with both indoor and outdoor seating from which many people enjoy the music over a glass of wine. The orangerie displays art, photography and sculptures.
The École nationale supérieure des Mines de Paris and the Odéon theatre stand next to the Luxembourg Garden.
The central axis of the garden is extended, beyond its wrought iron grill and gates opening to rue Auguste Comte, by the central esplanade of the rue de l'Observatoire, officially the Jardin Marco Polo, where sculptures of the four Times of Day alternate with columns and culminate at the southern end with the 1874 "Fountain of the Observatory", also known as the "Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde" or the "Carpeaux Fountain", for its sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. It was installed as part of the development of the avenue de l'Observatoire by Gabriel Davioud in 1867.
The bronze fountain represents the work of four sculptors: Louis Vuillemot carved the garlands and festoons around the pedestal, Pierre Legrain carved the armillary with interior globe and zodiac band; the animalier Emmanuel Fremiet designed the eight horses, marine turtles and spouting fish. Most importantly Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux sculpted the four nude women supporting the globe, representing the Four Continents of classical iconography.
The garden contains just over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, scattered throughout the grounds. Surrounding the central green space are twenty figures of French queens and illustrious women standing on pedestals.
The Medici Fountain (La fontaine Médicis) was built in 1630 by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France and regent of King Louis XIII of France. It was designed by Tommaso Francini, a Florentine fountain maker and hydraulic engineer who was brought from Florence to France by King Henry IV.
It was in the form of a grotto, a popular feature of the Italian Renaissance garden. It fell into ruins during the 18th century, but in 1811, at the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, the fountain was restored by Jean Chalgrin, the architect of the Arc de Triomphe. In 1864-66, the fountain was moved to its present location, centered on the east front of the Palais du Luxembourg. The long basin of water was built and flanked by plane trees, and the sculptures of the giant Polyphemus surprising the lovers Acis and Galatea, by French classical sculptor Auguste Ottin, were added to the grotto's rockwork.
Hidden behind the Medici Fountain is the Fontaine de Léda, (1807), a wall fountain built during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte at the corner of the Rue du Regard and Rue de Vaugirard, with a bas-relief sculpture depicting the legend of Leda and the Swan by Achille Valois. When the original site was destroyed during the prolongation of the Rue de Rennes in 1856 by Louis Napoleon, the fountain was preserved and moved in 1866 to the Luxembourg Gardens and attached to the back of the Medici Fountain.
The gardens are featured prominently in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables. It is here that the principal love story of the novel unfolds, as the characters Marius Pontmercy and Cosette first meet. Henry James also uses the gardens, in The Ambassadors, as the place where his character Lambert Strether has an epiphany about his identity. The final scene of William Faulkner's novel Sanctuary is set in the gardens. Patrick Modiano heard the news he had won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature via a mobile phone call from his daughter while walking through Paris, "just next to the Jardin du Luxembourg".
Non-literary references include as the setting for a few episodes of French in Action, the cover of Tame Impala's 2012 album Lonerism, the title of a song by the band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger and the gardens and palace being added as a mission in the video game Assassin's Creed Unity.
Open hours for the Luxembourg Garden depend on the month: opening between 7:30 and 8:15 am; closing at dusk between 4:45 and 9:45 pm.