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When you visit Pau or when you take a bird’s eye view of the city, it is immediately clear that gardens occupy a large space, thereby echoing the landscape.
Jeanne d’Albret and her husband, followed by their daughter Catherine de Bourbon, began this trend in the mid-16th century by surrounding their royal residence with a public park in the style of the Renaissance. One traveller at the time described it as “the most beautiful garden in Europe”. Beyond the terraces brimming with topiary, there were woodlands, meadows and groves featuring canals, ponds, fountains and pavilions. Today, the castle’s national domain retains only a small part of these gardens, which has been protected from urbanisation.
Nevertheless, Pau inherited its gardens particularly from the Romantic period, when high European society came to this renowned resort town for its climate, from the 19th century to the start of the 20th century. Wealthy property owners had rare species planted in the spaces surrounding their villas, as was the case of the Parc Lawrence and its Atlas cedars.
This was also the case of the Parc Beaumont, bought by the city in 1878 as the location for a casino—today’s Palais Beaumont. Expanded through the purchase of neighbouring lands, its lake and outdoor theatre make it a vast public space covered in majestic trees that are now hundreds of years old, such as its California redwoods, its Himalayan cedars, its araucarias and its magnolias.
On the slopes of the spur, a palm grove offers visitors climbing up from the train station a view onto the hanging garden. The palm grove longs the Sentiers du Roy, a hillside pathway shaded by other plants.
Many squares also breathe air into the urban tissue, such as Besson square and its redwoods or Aragon square.
More contemporary, the gardens of the Hôtel du Département and the Kofu Japanese gardens boast different aesthetics.