An idyllic “garden” especially designed for kids, the Jardin d’Acclimatation was Paris’ first amusement park, opened by the Emperor Napoleon III in 1860 at the sprawling Bois de Boulogne. The 49-acre park was originally fashioned on the model of an English-style garden, but with a more scientific approach.
In its present-day guise, the park is both a big draw card for children and an amusing, if not nostalgic, distraction for parents, boasting around 45 fun attractions. Rides, antique games, a small animal farm, puppet theater, mini-golf course, miniature train line, and a children’s museum are among the main attractions at the Jardin. There’s also plenty of lush greenery for picnics, relaxing lounge areas, and several restaurants ideal for a break.
Keep reading for my account of some of the big attractions at the park, and more details on how to make the most of your visit.
Entering the Park
Located a short walk from the Les Sablons metro station (Line 1), the park is easily accessible from the city center. Visitors can enter by hopping aboard a narrow-gauge train that arrives at the garden’s entrance through a stretch of woody parkland. Running at ten-minute intervals, it was easy to secure a seat on a Friday afternoon in late June (this might come as a welcome surprise for parents fearing long, Disney-like lines).
The rickety train starts off slowly, before picking up speed as trees and children playing on the grass fly by. The train enters the amusement park and docks at a rail station, which boasts historical displays of animals that were used to carry visitors into the park before the train’s creation, including an ostrich.
The history of the narrow-gauge railway is intriguing: it was the first of its kind in France, and between 1880 and 1910, it was operated by pony-drawn carriages. It was only later that it was transformed into a modern train.
Hitting the Attractions
In addition to drawing smaller crowds than you’d expect, the park is also extremely affordable, with entry currently costing a mere €5.20 for adults and children over 3, depending on their age (please note that ticket prices may change without notice).
Each attraction costs one ticket each, but it’s also possible to purchase a day pass and enjoy unlimited rides (currently sold for €35 per person). In other words, it’s a lot less expensive than a day at Disneyland Paris, and might sate your young ones’ desire for rides and fun in a more interesting way.
Our first stop was La Rivière Enchantée, a narrow boat ride first opened in 1927 and run entirely by a working windmill that was already installed on the premises before the park’s opening. As the boat leisurely glided past beautiful flowers and ceramic zoo animals, I felt as if I had gone back in time, and wished for a frilly parasol to twirl along the route.
The exit of the ride leads you to a path dotted with distortion mirrors, which should delight both children and adults. En route to our next attraction, we watched children laugh as they rode individual horses on a vintage junior steeple chaise.
Next, we beelined for the the main roller coaster. The child in me rushed straight to the entry for the front seat, and when it was time to depart, we were the only people on the entire ride. The coaster zipped around at an enjoyably fast pace and took its biggest dip through a hidden tunnel. I shrieked with enjoyment the entire time.
After the roller-coaster ride, we surveyed some of the antique amusement park games. From a shooting saloon to antique, mechanical lion mouths into which you can attempt to throw bean bags for prizes, there are plenty of ways to keep entertained, whatever your age.
Children Play…While Adults Relax
Besides offering an impressive number of paid rides and games for children, the garden is also filled with free playgrounds of all sizes and shapes, with the largest being the Jardin Plage (beach area). As the adults bask in the sun in comfortable lounge chairs, children are free to climb around a playground shaped like a boat before running through a large space featuring various fountains and sprinklers. This is an especially welcome feature during the hot, muggy summer months in Paris.
After a relaxing break, we took a stroll through animal farm and petting zoo, which houses a variety of rural animals– from goats to rabbits, donkeys and chickens. There’s also a lovely botanical garden on the premises.
Looking for still more to do? The park also boasts a miniature golf course, an equestrian center, a Guignol puppet theatre, an archery range, and an outdoor fitness center for kids. There’s so much to do, in fact, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to cover them all in a single day.
You can see a full list of attractions, rides, games and activities at the park here (in French only, but the visuals are quite helpful in showing the nature of the rides and the age groups they’re best suited for).
Location, Getting There & Contact Information
The amusement park is located at the edge of the enormous Bois de Boulogne park, in the 16th arrondissement (western Paris). Signs clearly direct you from the metro station at Les Sablons to the park’s entrance.
- Address: Bois de Boulogne, 75016 (16th arrondissement)
- Metro: Les Sablons (Line 1)
- Tel: +33 (0)1 40 67 90 82
- Visit the official website
- You can download a free map of the Jardin d’Acclimatation here
Opening Hours and Tickets
The park is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 10am to 7pm. Check the official website for opening hours for each of the restaurants, boutiques and attractions.
Tickets: Day passes and individual tickets for rides and attractions are available. Check website for current prices). Admission is free for children under the age of three.
Restaurants & Snack Bars
There are several restaurants and snack bars operating throughout the Jardin. We grabbed a quick lunch at La Terrace du Jardin, which offered a variety of hot and cold plates for reasonable prices, and boasted a very pleasant, leafy terrace area.
There’s also La Crêperie Eugenie, where you can grab a savory or sweet crepe between rides and games, several snack and ice cream stands, as well as a more upscale restaurant, La Grande Verriére.
Sights and Attractions Nearby the Jardin d’Acclimatation
The park is located in close reach of several important attractions in West Paris. It’s part of the same complex as the aforementioned Bois de Boulogne and the Fondation Louis Vuitton (a recently opened modern art exhibition space in the capital.)
To the southeast, you’ll find the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (one of the best contemporary art museums in Paris, and totally free to the public).
Also consider exploring the nearby Passy neighborhood, full of art-nouveau buildings, quiet, winding lanes, and the Balzac Museum (one of the best small museums in the capital, and dedicated to the life and work of French novelist Honoré de Balzac).
To the south lies the Musée Marmottan Monet, holding one of the finest collections of paintings from Claude Monet, alongside works from other important Impressionist artists.