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Paris, Ile-de-France, France

Jardin des Plantes Menagerie

No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the second-oldest zoo in the world

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.3 miles / 2.1 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
 
Overview: Paris' Parc Zoologique (the zoo most likely mentioned in your guidebook) is closed for renovations. So to enjoy a gorgeous Parisian afternoon, head over to the Jardin des Plantes along the Seine and check out the Menagerie.

This is more than a zoo -- it's a bit of history. The Menagerie is the second-oldest zoo in Europe (created after the French Revolution as a place to house the animals in the royal menagerie at Versailles) and well worth a gander. Your child can check out birds, big cats, monkeys and plenty of other interesting (and often endangered) species. And while he or she is enjoying the antics of the animals, you can revel in the incredible architecture, a nice walk and the fact that the gift shop is all but hidden (a rarity in most zoos).

Be prepared to walk in circles--it's easy to get turned around. But honestly, it's all part of the fun.

You can also find the Museum of Natural History nearby -- a place to consider heading for your outing if the weather turns on you.


Tips: You can get to the Jardin des Plantes on the Metro (Gare Austerlitz station) or by taking a nice walk along the Seine.

It pays to bring your stroller--it may save you an entrance fee for your child.

If you see a bathroom, use it. There are only two inside the zoo and they are pretty close together.

There are stairs into many of the houses like the two reptile houses. But, hey, this is Paris. Feel free to leave your stroller (but without bags or valuables!) outside while you explore the interiors.
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Admission
Adults 8 Euros
Kids 6 Euros

Points of Interest

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Play Area

If you are pressed for time, try to distract your child as you follow the signs to the Menagerie. Just off to the right of the main path is a small (and always crowded) play area. There's not much to it: a small climbing structure, a slide and a few bouncers, but most kids find it pretty hard to resist. It might be worth offering as an incentive once it's time to leave the Menagerie.
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Entrance to the Menagerie

If there's no line, you might miss the entrance so look carefully.

Tip: It usually saves to take young kids in a stroller to Paris attractions--both for your arms and pocketbook as fees often are waived for kids in strollers.

The sign by the entrance can be loosely translated as:

"Open to the public in 1794, this Menagerie received the last animals of the royal menagerie at Versailles. It is the second-oldest zoo in the world. Napoleon the First directed the construction of some of the first buildings. The Menagerie is a historical monument, specializing in endangered species: 2,000 animals live peacefully here including small mammals, colorful birds, impressive reptiles and venomous invertebrates, permanently replacing large mammals like giraffes, elephants, hippos, bears, lions and tigers."
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Singerie (or the Monkey House)

This is the place to check out the famous Nanette, an elderly yet energetic orangutan, as well as her brethren (and a bunch of other primate species, too).

This is a place to get comfy -- your kids will love to see the monkeys, well, er, monkeying around. And ask at the ticket booth what time the orangutan show is to see some serious swinging action but take note, all narration is done in French. But trust me, you won't notice with Nanette and friends going above and beyond for a little extra food.
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Fauverie (or the Cat House)

Although the entrance sign says there are no lions or tigers in the zoo, there is a rather cool-looking leopard. And an endangered snow leopard, too. Take the time to really scope for the cats--on warm days, they like to snooze in a shady, out-of-the-way spot. But spotting them can be just as fun as watching them strutting their stuff.
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Restroom (1 of 2)

It pays to bring your own tissues or something resembling toilet paper. Trust me.
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Restroom (2 of 2)

This restroom seemed a tad cleaner than the first--but take that advice with a grain of salt. Your mileage (and stall) may vary.
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Information Point

If you'd like more information on the Menagerie, this is the place to find it. And the staff here does speak English.
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Flamingoes

There are a ton. They don't get too close to the path but all I could think about when I saw them was playing a little croquet. How can anything in nature actually be THAT pink? Also, how do they stand on one leg for so long?
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Petite Ferme (Small Farm)

This is where you'd expect to find a petting or feeding zoo. But if you do plan to feed the goats here, you'll be using your own snacks. My kid had no problem doing using some extra crackers he had on hand--and from looking around, neither did any of the other kids. No word on how the Menagerie staff thinks about this practice but no one came to stop us.
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Reptile House

The reptile house wasn't built until 1870--but it's still pretty cool. You can see all manner of scaly friends here, including some alligators.
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Grande Voliere (Large Aviary)

Walk inside the large aviary to check out some birds. But the real trick is to spot Kirk's dik-dik, a miniature antelope, or as my kid called him, "Bambi." And don't feel weird about laughing over this small mammal's name--everyone does.
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Snakes and Insects

If your kid is looking to see a few slithery, slippery snake friends, this is the place to do it. There are also a few truly creep-tacular insects to inspire you to check under the bed for the rest of your life.
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Rotunda

The Rotonde was one of the original Menagerie buildings commissioned by Napoleon--it used to hold elephants. The Menagerie no longer has elephants but it's still kind of cool to check out the building.
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Bird House

The birds in this house are a lot of fun and so is the building itself. It's one of the first that was erected in the early 1800s.
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Porcupines

These are the biggest porcupines you may ever see. Seriously. They are HUGE. And pretty active, too. The picture does not do them justice.
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Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History)

A great way to spend the day if it's too rainy for the Menagerie.

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Address: 57, rue Cuvier 75005 Paris
Phone: 01 40 79 56 01
Hours: Daily 10am - 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am - 6pm
Admission: Adults €3, Children €1
Other Resources
Museum of Natural History
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Food Kiosk

There is a small kiosk that serves ice cream and other snacks near the entrance of the Jardin des Plantes.
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La Mosquee (restaurant and tearoom)

If you are looking for a good lunch spot or just want to grab a cup of tea, head over to La Mosquee, just out the back gates of the Jardin des Plantes. This Middle Eastern restaurant and tearoom has fantastic pastries, sweet Middle Eastern tea and tasty tagines. Just don't be surprised if there's a crowd (and be aware you'll need to fold up your stroller before you go in).

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Address: 39, rue Saint-Hilaire
Phone: 01 43 31 38 20
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Hours: daily 11am - 7pm
Other Resources
La Mosquee
Pictures in this guide taken by: travelsavvykayt

Jardin des Plantes Menagerie Map


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