The Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries) is ideally located in the centre of Paris between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre and as such has long been one of the most popular of Paris's many public parks and gardens. A perfectly situated island of tranquillity for both native Parisians and tourists alike, it is certainly worth a gentle afternoon's stroll for anyone staying in gites in Ile de France.
In the fifteen hundreds the area where the park is now was a quarry from which the clay for roofing tiles was mined – which is where the park and the palace that once stood on the site got their name. Following the death of her husband, King Henri II in 1559, Catherine de Médicis commissioned a palace to be built on the site with a surrounding garden that reminded her of her Tuscan homeland.
In the 1660's, the gardens were extensively redesigned by royal gardener André Le Nôtre, famous for the Versailles Palace gardens, with a terrace along the bank of the Seine and an extension of the central axis into the newly created Champs-Elysées.
Opened on a limited basis to the general public in 1667, the Jardin des Tuileries finally became a fully public park following the French Revolution – and though the palace was destroyed by fire in the 1871 revolution, the park has remained a popular meeting place for Parisians since the 19th century.
The gardens were most recently the subject of an extensive renovation in 1990, when all vehicle traffic was removed and many of the garden's modern sculptures were brought in. Later, in 1999, a footbridge was opened, connecting the Tuileries with the Musée d'Orsay (the Passerelle Léoppld-Sédar-Senghor.)
As with the nearby Jardin du Luxenborg, the gardens offer over one thousand free-to-use chairs that members of the public can literally just help themselves to and sit wherever they like.
There's also plenty to see with numerous ornate fountains and sculptures together with a couple of sizeable basins. In addition, there are two museums; the Musée de l'Orangerie, where one can see Monet's enormous water lily paintings and the Galerie Nationale du jeu de Paume. The two buildings being all that remains of the splendour of the Palais de Tuileries.
The Jardin des Tuileries also offers attractions for families with younger children staying in gites in Ile de France, including lakes with boat rental, playgrounds, pony rides and an enormous funfair in the summer.