JUNGLES OF PARIS #10: LE JARDIN D'ACCLIMATATION
Our Jungles of Paris series has come to an end and it is now time for the last inspirational jungle in the city: the Jardin d'Acclimatation.
The Jardin d’Acclimatation, France’s oldest amusement park, first opened its gates on October 6, 1860, in a display of scientific fervor made possible by extensive urban planning.
Images: J.P Baron, F. Grimaud, T. Dupaigne
The Jardin is housed in the Bois de Boulogne, a forested park created during the restructuring of Paris at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III, who wanted the city to have a landscaped park modeled on London’s Hyde Park. Around the same time, the famous zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire was seeking a home for a wide-ranging exhibition of animals which had outgrown the zoo at the Jardin des Plantes Museum. The Society hoped to create a park that would favor the introduction, adaptation and domestication of animal species. The Jardin was a unique concept from the very beginning with its combined educational, scientific and leisure brief, and quickly proved a success.
When war made it impossible to keep the glasshouses heated, the animals number decreased along with the number of visitors. Amusements proved the answer to the park’s woes and it lost its “zoo” status despite continuing to house wildlife. Exotic displays of animals were no longer enough to draw crowds hungry for the sensations offered by new amusement parks such as Luna Park, which opened at Porte Maillot in 1909, or Magic City, on the banks of the River Seine since 1911. The Paris city council exhorted the Jardin to not “despoil its character” and to remain as it always had been, a “tranquil and pleasant promenade, attractive, curious, and instructive”. In 1926, the park added modern diversions to its list of attractions.
The unique winning formula of the Little Train, Enchanted River, famous Deforming Mirrors, amusement rides, Great Aviary, small farm and Guignol Puppet Theater makes the Jardin a much-loved destination for generations of Parisians and the third most popular amusement park in France, welcoming 1.5 million visitors annually.
The Jardin is keen to honor its heritage while staying relevant to the modern world, and has recently begun to offer free activities and attractions to draw a broader range of visitors. Sustainable development and biodiversity are at the heart of the new approach, and new animal species, a beehive of 400,000 worker bees, and electric-powered trains have all been introduced.
As part of the Journées Particulières promotional event, the Jardin d’Acclimatation will open its gates and a number of attractions to the public free of charge on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm. This exceptional weekend will also showcase the skills of the staff working in and around the Jardin to accommodate an ever-growing and diverse number of visitors. Workshops for children will be given by guides at the Jardin as well as gardeners, handlers, vets, grooms and puppet artists, who hope to offer children an insight into their work.
Car: From Porte Maillot, the Little Train takes you through the woods
to the main entrance of Jardin d’Acclimatation.
Subway: Line 1, Les Sablons station, exit 2, continue along Rue d’Orleans for 150 meters
to the Jardin d’Acclimatation entrance.
Bus: 43, 73, 82, PC, 174 or 244
Le Jardin d’Acclimatation
Carrefour des Sablons
Bois de Boulogne 75116 Paris