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This delightful botanical garden, tucked between the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and the Seine, is one of my favorite picnic spots. Created in 1626 as a medicinal plant garden for King Louis XIII, in the 18th century it became an internationally famed scientific institution thanks to naturalist, mathematician, and biologist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon, with the help of fellow-naturalist Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton. Today the museums are still part academic institutions, but you certainly don’t need to be a student to appreciate the lush grounds.

The garden also harbors a small, but well-kempt zoo, the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plants ([tel] 01-40-79-56-01; www.mnhn.fr;  13€ adults, 9€ students 18–26 and children 4–16, free under 4; daily 9am–5pm, until 6pm during summer). Created in 1794, this is the oldest zoo in the world. Because of its size, the zoo showcases mostly smaller species, in particular birds and reptiles, but it also has a healthy selection of mammals, including rare species like red pandas, Przewalski horses, and even Florida pumas.