Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal, Paris: For cherry blossoms & day-dreaming

Slow Paris

In the shadow of Place de la Bastille and its towering Colonne de Juillet, just a couple of steps down towards the canal, lies a veritable oasis of greenery and flowers. If you read my article on Canal Saint Martin, you would have already come across the mention Port de l’Arsenal. It is one of the two ports which were built on the Canal Saint Martin. This port’s economic and infra-structural importance notwithstanding, it also happens to have one of my favourite gardens in Paris.

Yes, the jardin du Port de l’Arsenal is one of my favourite green spaces in Paris. It’s because it’s the most beautiful or remarkable garden in Paris. But this garden and port is very special for me because of the all the hours I have wasted guiltlessly here. As Antoine Saint Exupery says in the classic Le Petit Prince, “It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.”

When I first moved to Paris and was coping with the pathos that a new new, friendless, implant in a strange city finds themselves dealing with, this park was my refuge. It was the first spot in Paris that came to be “my place.” I came to be acquainted with this tiny little garden as well as the back of my hand. After having been closely familiar with it in every season and time of day, I am ready to share one of my favourite places to day-dream in Paris, with you.

Boats at the Port de l'Arsenal, Paris with a view of Paris buildings
Port de l’Arsenal is a perfect place to lounge in Paris

Port de l’Arsenal is a true Paris hidden gem

The basin of Arenal is located at the end of Canal Saint Martin. The canal flows underground through the length of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, and below Place de la Bastille. Yes, quiet remarkably, trees, gardens and traffic on the streets camouflage the fact that there is a whole canal that runs below these places.

The canal then opens up for view right after the Place de la Bastille. As mentioned above, a couple flights of steps below the Bastille square takes you to the Port de l’Arsenal. All along one side of this port, lies the jardin du Port de l’Arsenal. While once upon a time, this port was meant to serve commercial purposes, today, the port is full of private boats. There are also boats which offer cruises until the Canal Saint Martin.

The garden of the Port de l’Arsenal is tiered. At the highest tier, there is a walkway lined with tall trees. This has shaded benches, making it a perfect spot to read in, while having a view of the port and the boats. Then slightly lower down, you have a couple of trellis overgrown with leafy climbers, including roses and wisteria. Then the garden slopes down until it meets the concrete banks of the port. It is wide enough for people to enjoy a walk or a picnic on the edge of the water, without feeling crammed.

There is a remarkable variety of trees and plants to be discovered in this tiny garden. There are Persian silk trees, magnolias, lavender and honeysuckle trees. The edges of the garden is lined with gorgeous cherry blossom trees!

Pink cherry blossoms in Paris port de l'Arsenal with people lounging
In April, the cherry blossoms at Cherry blossoms in Port de l’Arsenal are in full bloom!

Perfect place to enjoy cherry blossoms in Paris

A footbridge called Passerelle de Mornay joins the two sides of the port across the basin. This passage also offers up stunning views of the Port de l’Arsenal with its clear waters and cute boats docked along its length. The Colonne de Juillet stands loftily in the background, flanked by Bastille Metro line in the front.

When the first blush of spring comes along, there is another incredible sight to be had here. That of the entire length of the garden of Port de l’Arsenal being dotted bright pink with blooming cherry blossoms. It is definitely one of Paris’ lesser known cherry blossom spot.

Roses galore at Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal in May

From the middle of May to the middle of June, the garden at Port de l’Arsenal is covered by a deluge of blooming roses. There are roses in every colour. Apart from tall rose buses, there is also a gorgeous trellis covered completely with roses. This is arched above a pathway that leads to the sculpture of a woman.

This bronze statue called Diane, was crafted Henry Arnold in 1983. The statue, with a downcast face looks deep in thought. Her melancholy air is heightened by the shadows cast by the trees behind. In spring and summer, as the flowers bloom everywhere around her, it is impossible not to be moved by the sight. The lonely solitude of the statue juxtaposed against the bright colours of the season.

Blooming yellow and red roses with a statue at the background
In May, Port de l’Arsenal is overwhelmed by gorgeous blooming roses in all colours

Things to do around Port de l’Arsenal: Pétanque, drinks & shopping

Being so close to Bastille, there are a huge number of restaurants and café near this port. So clearly, you will be spoilt for choice with all the options for eating and drinking. Bastille is also a great place to shop. With everything from supermarkets to boutique and curated vintage stores, there’s lots of options at every price point. Opera Bastille is also right opposite the garden.

Once you get out of the garden of Port de l’Arsenal, and take the steps up to Boulevard de la Bastille, you will also spot a number of pétanque courts. These are called terrains. In case you are not familiar with it, it is a French sport. The game involves players having to throw balls towards a target ball, with the objective of getting as close to the target as possible. If you want to know more about it, here’s a Wikipedia article on pétanque.

These pétanque courts are open for everyone to play in. If you don’t know how to play but are interested in learning, these public courts are a great place to watch the sport. Since pétanque is a group activity, you will often seen the French playing it with friends, over drinks and food. The atmosphere is convivial and light-hearted.

Parisians lounging at Port de l'Arsenal
Doesn’t this feel like a mini-holiday away from Paris?

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