Located between the Louvre palace, ‘rue de Rivoli’, Place de la Concorde and the Seine, the former district of Tuileries owes its name to the tile factories which occupied this place in the Middle Ages. Today, in place of these factories is a large public garden, one of the biggest and oldest French gardens in the capital, with a history that dates back to the 17th century.
In the 13th century Tuileries was nothing but a large field of undetermined lands home to only the tile factories, but Catherine de Médicis, the widow of King Henri II, completely transformed the face of the village. In 1564, the Queen ordered the construction of the palais des Tuileries which became the residence of a large number of French sovereigns such as Henri IV, Louis XIV, and Napoléon Bonaparte. At the same time as these developments, an Italian garden was built on the west side of the palace. At the beginning of the 17th century, an orangery and a magnanery (for growing silk) were installed to also add to the décor.
In 1664, Louis XIV and his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert decided to completely change the style of Medicis’ garden and asked the famous landscaper of the time André Le Nôtre to completely redesign it. The architect took on the job and reconstructed the garden in a very popular French style of the time which is still used today. The designs of Le Nôtre are still intact today and visitors can still walk the pathways created by the original landscaper. In the centre of the palace, Le Notre created a large central path, with a large round pond at the end to the east and a pond in an octagonal shape. Along the side of the Tuileries quays, the landscape artist built a terrace right next to the water, and the Feuillants terrace was built alongside what would later become the ‘Rue de Rivoli’. Le Nôtre then decorated the garden with superb marble statues still visible today. In 1719 the main entrance was livened up with two statues, each depicting the renowned Mercury mounted upon his winged horse.
The Tuileries Garden was one of the direct witnesses of the history of France: during the uprising of 1789, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette took refuge in the palace after the revolutionaries had taken them back to the palace of Versailles.
During the reign of Napoléon III, two identical buildings were built in order to welcome jeu de paume(real tennis) and an orangery respectively. Today, the building housing real tennis has become a contemporary art museum, the ‘Jeu de Paume National Gallery’, and the orangery is now a modern art museum – the Orangerie museum.
The many chairs today liven up the park, freely available to walkers who like to sit there near one of the ponds during pleasant weather. Very close to the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel, you can entertain the children by renting miniature sailing boats which they can control by remote on the water of the second pond.
The garden is also home to many of Aristide Maillol’s statues, one of the most famous sculptors of the 20th century, and the animal sculptures of Auguste Cain. Since 1998, the site has welcomed new contemporary sculptures from the likes of Rodin, Henry Moore, Roy Lichtenstein and many others. The temporary exhibitions are an integral part of the life and rhythm of the garden.
Right opposite the Tuileries Garden, crossing the Seine, we recommend a dinner-cruise on board the Marina de Paris.