Two islands in the heart of Paris are particularly appealing to tourists: the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité have some of the finest monuments in Paris, and their quaysides are wonderful places to stroll and enjoy a picnic.
The unassuming Île Saint-Louis retained its tranquility and elegance, whilst on the Île de la Cité a palace and a cathedral were built. Today, visitors flock to see landmark sites including the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, Sainte-Chapelle … and discover with surprise and delight the elegance and refinement of hôtels particuliers on the adjacent Île Saint-Louis. Linked by a bridge, these two islands on the Seine are inseparable. The walk starts at the metro station Sully-Morland (line 7).
1/ Pavillon de l’Arsenal
From Sully-Morland, before crossing the Seine, walkers can visit the Pavillon de l’Arsenal - an information, documentation and exhibition centre for urban planning and architecture in Paris and the Paris Metropolis. A great place to see excellent exhibitions for free and learn about the development of the capital as well as important future projects!
Pavillon de l’Arsenal - 21 boulevard Morland, Paris 4th More info on the Pavillon de l’Arsenal
2/ Square Barye
The Île Saint-Louis begins at a little triangular public garden, the Square Barye. The monument that greets visitors at street level is a tribute to the artist Antoine-Louis Barye, whose sculptures are housed in the Louvre and in many museums around the world. From the garden, a flight of steps leads down to the Seine - the only way of accessing the river, which splits here into two branches embracing the two islands.
Square Barye - 2 boulevard Henri-IV, Paris 4th
3/ Hôtel Lambert
The first hôtel particulier lining the Seine on the island is the Hôtel Lambert, built in 1642 and recognizable by its elegant rotunda, and with a walled garden. Although not open to visitors, the building’s facade allows one to imagine the famous Hercules Gallery, the work of Charles Le Brun, and the many painted panels that decorate it. The Hôtel was frequented by the greatest figures of the 18th and 19th centuries: Rousseau, Voltaire, then Chopin, Delacroix, Balzac, Liszt, Berlioz, and others.
Hôtel Lambert - 2 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, Paris 4th
4/ Hôtel de Lauzun
Built in 1658, the Hôtel de Lauzun is famous for having been lived in during the 19th century by Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier. The Hôtel de Lauzun was also the meeting point for the well-known club des Haschischins, frequented by scientists and writers who came to experiment with various drugs in the 19th century. Among the more famous figures were Charles Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, Eugène Delacroix, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert and Honoré de Balzac. The Hôtel de Lauzun is open to visitors by appointment. This 17th century building boasts beautifully preserved interiors including a lavish reception room. Its facade, overlooking the Seine, is decorated with a magnificent balcony and a richly carved and decorated 17th century gutter.
Hôtel de Lauzun - 17 quai d’Anjou, Paris 4
5/ Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île and Eglise Saint-Louis en l'Île
The Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île cuts across the Île Saint-Louis and is lined with many hôtels particuliers, restaurants and shops. This main street is right at the heart of the island and is especially popular with ice cream lovers who flock to the world-renowned ice cream maker Berthillon. Visible from both ends of the street, the openwork belltower of the Eglise Saint-Louis en l'Île gives the island a village-like atmosphere. Like a shop sign, the church's clock is mounted curiously at right angles to the building’s facade. Built between 1664 and 1726, the church, is soberly decorated. Its most remarkable feature is a contemporary organ of baroque inspiration frequently used for concerts.
Église Saint-Louis-en-l'Île - 19 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Île, Paris 4th More info on the Eglise Saint-Louis en l'Île
6/ Pont Saint-Louis
This is the only bridge linking the two islands and is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. A walk across the Pont Saint-Louis offers a breathtaking view of the chevet of Notre-Dame de Paris and the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) on the other side of the Seine. Street artists often perform here, much to the delight of passers-by who pause to enjoy the entertainment.
Pont Saint Louis - Quai d’Orléans - Quai aux Fleurs, Paris 4th More info on the Pont Saint-Louis
7/ Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation
The Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation is situated at the eastern tip of the Île de la Cité under a public garden planted with roses. Built in 1962 by the architect Georges-Henri Pingusson, this completely underground monument is an important memorial. The visitor path is designed to be a solitary one, pervaded by the symbolism of the monument and the memory of the thousands of people deported from France between 1941 and 1944. A crypt houses The Tomb of the Unknown Deportee, and urns hold earth and ashes from Nazi concentration camps.
Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation - Square de l'Île de France - 7 quai de l'Archevêché, Paris 4th
8/ Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
A Gothic masterpiece dating back 850 years, Notre-Dame de Paris is a major landmark in the capital. The cathedral's two 69-metre-high towers dominate the Île de la Cité, and sculpted chimeras and gargoyles visible from the square make up an extraordinary bestiary. Since the tragic fire of April 2019, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris has been undergoing restoration work and is not - for the moment – able to welcome the public. However, it remains a landmark site for Parisians and tourists from all over the world.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris et son trésor - 6 parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, Paris 4th More info on the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
9/ Archaeological Crypt of the Île de la Cité
Beneath the cathedral square, the Archaeological Crypt of the Île de la Cité presents a unique panorama of the urban and architectural evolution of the island. From Antiquity to the 20th century, the past is brought to life through finds (uncovered during excavations), models, multimedia, and 3D reconstructions.
Crypte archéologique de l'Île de la Cité - 7 parvis de Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, Paris 4th More info on the Archaeological Crypt of the Île de la Cité
10/ The Queen Elizabeth II flower market
Housed in charming cast-iron pavilions by the Seine, the flower market on the Île de la Cité has been open since 1808. A stroll around the stalls filled with seasonal flowers, orchids, plants, and other exotic vegetation is a delightful experience.
Marché aux fleurs - Place Louis Lépine - Quai de la Corse, Paris 4th
More info on the Queen Elizabeth II flower market
11/ Tour de l'Horloge and the Conciergerie
The Tour de l’Horloge has overlooked the Seine since the 14th century. The tower's richly decorative clock was the first public clock in Paris and still tells the time today. The Conciergerie, of which the tower is a part, is the former medieval royal palace, home to French sovereigns from the 10th to the 14th century. From the 1360s, when the royal court moved into the Louvre Palace, the Conciergerie became the seat of the court of justice, and up until 1934 was a prison. The most famous prisoner, Queen Marie-Antoinette, was tried and sentenced to death here during the French Revolution before being taken to the guillotine. The medieval architecture of the Conciergerie is visible in the huge and magnificently preserved Salle des Gens d’armes (Hall of the Men-at-Arms).
Conciergerie - 2 boulevard du Palais, Paris 1st More info on the Conciergerie
Almost invisible behind the high walls of the Palais de la Cité, the Sainte-Chapelle was built to hold the relics that Saint Louis had acquired in the 1240s. Completed in 1248, it houses the holy crown of thorns, a piece of the True Cross and other precious relics. Built in the flamboyant Gothic style, the building consists of two chapels, one above the other: the lower Chapel, decorated in blue, red, and gold, and supported by fine and delicate pillars, and the upper chapel, a true feat of art and architecture, which visitors from all over the world come to admire. Twice as high as wide, the chapel is dazzlingly colourful, due to the fifteen glass windows and 1,113 stained-glass scenes that make up its decor. Classical concerts are regularly organized and are an opportunity to enjoy this extraordinary setting.
Sainte-Chapelle - 8 boulevard du Palais, Paris 1st More info on the Sainte-Chapelle
13/ Place Dauphine
This is one of the prettiest squares in Paris. Tucked away between building at the western end of the island, Place Dauphine is a tranquil spot despite being at the heart of the city. Although redesigned several times, it has kept its typical 1600s architecture: ground floor arcade shops and stone and brick facades. This charming square has attracted the attention of film directors around the world and often features in films. It is also popular with pétanque players, who play in the shade of the trees.
Place Dauphine, Paris 1st More info on place Dauphine
14/ Pont Neuf
Contrary to its name, the Pont Neuf (in English,‘New Bridge’) is actually the oldest bridge in Paris! The first stone was laid in 1578, in the presence of Catherine de’ Medici. It was the first bridge in Paris not to have any shops or houses built on it, and to have pavements! It was also equipped with a pump called ‘la Samaritaine’ that supplied water to the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens. Although the pump was done away with in the 19th century, the name Samaritaine was taken by the department store which now stands opposite the entrance to the bridge, on the Right Bank. Dominating the middle of the Pont Neuf is an equestrian statue of (and commissioned by) king Henri IV looking towards the Place Dauphine.
Pont Neuf - Quai de la Mégisserie - Quai des Grands Augustins, Paris 1st More info on the Pont Neuf
Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf - 9 rue de la Monnaie, Paris 1st More info on the Samaritaine Paris Pont Neuf
15/ Square du Vert-Galant
Below the Pont Neuf, at the western tip of the Île de la Cité, this small public garden provides a lovely panoramic view of the two banks of the Seine and landmarks including the Louvre Museum, the Passerelle des Arts footbridge, and the dome of the Institut de France. Also visible from here are the famous ‘mascarons’ that adorn the Pont Neuf: more than 380 or grotesque faces sculpted in stone. The quayside that borders the garden is an ideal place for a picnic by the water. Photos taken here at sunset have a particularly romantic touch!
Square du Vert-Galant - Place du Pont Neuf, Paris 1st More info on the Square du Vert-Galant