Stretching out in the shadow of the iconic Louvre pyramid, the Tuileries is today composed of the Tuileries Gardens and Carousel Grounds, although it formerly housed the palace of Catherine de Medici. It has a long and fascinating history, beginning with its conception in the 16th-century.
Catherine de Medici, after the death of her husband Henry II, felt rather cramped in the Louvre palace with her son King François II. She, therefore, decided, in 1564, to build herself a palace and garden nearby, in which she could roam uninhibited. The area surrounding the Louvre was at that point filled with tile workshops, the 'tuileries', producing the roof-tiles of Paris, hence the names of both the gardens and the palace. Tired of French design, Catherine wanted the gardens to mirror those of her own native Florence, with grottos and fountains, and thus it was done, designed by the man responsible for the grounds of Versailles (Le Nôtre).
The palace itself was attacked by the Parisians on more than one occasion and finally burnt down in 1871. The gardens however remain, with additions from the various monarchs that passed through. Louis XIII, inheriting the gardens at the age of nine, kept a menagerie of animals, and hunted there, and La Grande Mademoiselle, a niece of Louis XIII, kept a kind of cabaret court at the Carousel.
After the French Revolution, with Louis XVI out of the way, the gardens were baptised the National Garden of the New French Republic. From this point on the gardens became a fashionable place to relax and wander. In the 1960s, André Malraux had the 19th-century statues replaced with contemporary sculptures by artist Maillol.
The gardens are quite formal, with trees laid out in patterns and fountains at regular intervals. A walk through the Tuileries gardens feels like an extension of the nearby Louvre Museum, as the promenade is renowned for its wealth of marble sculptures.
Perhaps to counter such formality, the northern side of the Tuileries hosts a funfair in July and August of each year, packed with all the traditional games, as well as rides, food stalls and the huge Paris Ferris Wheel, La roué de Paris. The biggest of its kind in France, the wheel is well worth the price for a ride, taking you three times up and down over spectacular views of the city. Food stalls provide crepes, waffles, churros and other funfair delicacies, but shop around, prices vary widely.