Caught between the Luxembourg Gardens and the boulevard Saint-Michel, this garden is, first and foremost, a tribute to two legendary adventurers: the Italian merchant Marco Polo (1254-1324), whose “Book of the Marvels” brought Asian cultures into European households, and René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle, hailed as one of the major explorers of New France.
Although it cannot match the size or scope of its neighbour, the Garden of the Great Explorers is nevertheless a wondrous sight. It is impossible to write about this place without mentioning the famous and imposing 1875 bronze fountain, called « Les quatre parties du monde » (The four parts of the world), but more commonly known as the « Fountain of the Observatory » or « Carpeaux Fountain ». Although Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux indeed sculpted the fountain’s four main statues, the globe, engraved with the Zodiac signs, was made by Eugène Legrain while the effigies of horses, dolphins and turtles are a creation of Emmanuel Fremiet.
L’Aurore, by François Jouffroy
The garden hosts a small collection of white marble statues. Walking from the Luxembourg Gardens to the Observatory, you’ll stumble upon Charles Gumery’s La Nuit, Gustave Crauck’s Le Crépuscule, Jean Perraud’s Le Jour as well as François Jouffroy’s L’Aurore.
Le Crépuscule, by Gustave Crauck
Marvellous statues and charming flowerbeds are not the only attractions of this garden. Along the avenue of the Observatory stands a building worth paying attention to: the Faculty of Pharmacy of Paris, built in the late 19th century and comprising three different sections: the main building, a wing dedicated to practical workshops and a botanical garden.
Created in 1884, the latter is not here for decorative purposes. It enables students to learn the names and attributes of various medicinal and toxic plants. These eager young minds also have at their disposal an incredible conservation area containing over 400 vegetal species for scientific experiments. Luckily, this must-see gem off the beaten track is also open to the public.
Among other nearby buildings, the Art and Archaeology Institute is definitely worth a visit.