In the gardens that Catherine de Medici built, her son Louis XIV reigned, and his grandson, Louis XVI, with wife Marie Antoinette, sought refuge and were placed under house arrest, stand the most beautiful gardens in Paris, Jardin des Tuileries, located next to the Louvre and off the banks of the river Seine. Designed by King Louis XIV’s famed landscape architect, Le Nôtre, the gardens have maintained their architectural splendor, with perfectly manicured lawns, sprawling fountains, groomed chestnut trees lined in neat rows, and period statues throughout the vast estate.
The gardens stretch for about 1 kilometer from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel which leads to the Louvre. Its width spans from the famed Rue de Rivoli to the banks of the river Seine. In the distance, you can see the Musee D’Orsay on the other side of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower still towering majestically in the sky.
Perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll, do what the Parisians do, and grab one of the numerous green lawn chairs and sit and watch passers-by, read a book, or listen to your iPod. More athletic types run through the park in loops, as there are paths throughout the park. Children and adults also can be seen playing football (soccer), and there is a play park for children in the middle, as well as trampolines (you must pay a small fee). Ideally suited for a picnic lunch, bring a sandwich or, better yet, buy a fresh baguette, cheese and ham to make your own, and wash it down with a bottle of Beaujolais or chilled rosé. Or, enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes where you can buy salads, sandwiches, pasta, and desserts, including over the top ice cream sundaes.
There are two large basins and several fountains which glisten in the afternoon. In the spring, summer and fall, children can rent little wooden sailboats to push in the basins, a pastime that Parisian children have enjoyed for over a hundred years. In the center, is an old carrousel that is open year-round, and children can also buy barbapapa (cotton candy). Pigeons and other local birds eagerly await any food that comes their way and you can often see them perched atop the beautiful statues found in the gardens.
At the eastern end of the park there is a grassy area where you see couples lying amongst the maze-like hedges and large groups having picnics. Statues peer out among the maze, and the maze hedges are also a great venue to play hide and seek (but have at least one parent or adult watch the kids so they don’t really get lost). If you want to head indoors, the Musée de l’Orangerie is also in the gardens and is home to Monet’s famous Waterlilies paintings that cover the walls of two oval rooms. There is also a fantastic library near the main entrance from the Place de la Concorde, and in the summer and winter a large ferris wheel is there and gives eye-popping views of the city.
The best feature about this garden is its location. It is central to many tourist attractions so it is a great meeting place at the beginning or end of your sightseeing expeditions.