Two of the most truly Parisian feeling spots to enjoy on a trip to Paris include the two petite islands in the River Seine. Île de la Cité and Île St-Louis are steeped in history and include some wonderful sites and spots to take in and get acquainted with Paris. Whenever I am in Paris as a Paris travel advisor I always make efforts to walk both islands and enjoy the beautiful views and charm they offer.
If you’re heading to Paris and looking to enjoy these islands, this post will be helpful to you as you plan your time.
What to See on Île de la Cité and Île Saint Louis
In the 4th century, Île de la Cité was the site of the fortress of the Roman governor. In 508, Clovis I, the first King of the Franks, established his palace on the island. And in the 12th century, it became the home of Notre Dame cathedral and the royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle which was built by King Louis IX, as well as the city’s first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu.
Île Saint-Louis is connected to the rest of Paris – including Île de la Cité – by four bridges to both the Right Bank and the Left Bank of the Seine. In fact, the island did not take the name of Saint-Louis until 1725. It is named for Louis IX, who was made a saint thirty years after his death in 1270. History believes he sometimes held court and rendered justice on the island.
Read on for what to be sure not to miss on both islands in Paris.
Of course the most iconic item on the islands in Paris is the cathedral of Notre Dame. Following the 2019 fire, Notre Dame Cathedral remains closed but you can walk around the streets around the perimeter of the church. And you can also take in the view of the church from the front of Notre Dame.
Pont Neuf is the city’s oldest surviving bridge. It connects the left and right banks of the Seine by passing over the Île de la Cité and it offers beautiful views of the Seine, the island’s homes along the riverbanks and Eiffel Tower views from the Western side.
Place Dauphine is a delightfully tucked away public square located near the western end of the Île de la Cité. It was initiated by Henry IV in the 17th century. He also named it for his son, the Dauphin of France and future Louis XIII, who had been born in 1601. It is home to a few cafés and some lovely benches to rest and people watch. You may even get to enjoy watching a friendly game of petanque while there as well!
In the Springtime the trees bloom in magnificent pink.
Pont Saint Louis
If you’re lucky, you may just enjoy some live music from talented musicians who often set up performances on this pedestrian bridge. This bridge also offers 360 degree beautiful views.
The Conciergerie is a former courthouse and prison located on the west of the Île de la Cité just below the Palais de Justice. It was originally part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité. In fact, it was the site of Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment and where over 2,700 people were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution.
One of the most popular places with tourists to visit, Sainte Chapelle is a royal chapel constructed in the Gothic style. Construction began sometime after 1238 and the chapel was consecrated in 1248. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns – one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom.
Although it was damaged during the French Revolution, the chapel was restored in the 19th century. It is famous for having one of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collections anywhere in the world. It is absolutely lovely to see and I recommend you book a ticket in advance.
The famed ice cream spot is in fact worth a visit. I’ve been getting the Framboise and Chocolat flavors since I was a little girl. You’ll find a line in summer but it generally moves quickly. They have a tea shop if you’d prefer to dine in to enjoy your ice cream.
You’ll also find the ice cream available at other spots on the island. But I prefer to grab my scoops from the original shop on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île.
La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis
This spot has friendly service and is situated on an iconic and photogenic corner on Isle Saint Louis. It is a go-to spot of mine for an afternoon glass of wine. The tables outside offer ideal people watching views. I’ve not eaten here so cannot speak to the food.
Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île
This is the main street that cuts down the middle of the Île Saint Louis. It is lined with shops and little cafés worth exploring. Pick up coffee at NOIR if you’re in need of caffeine.
The Seine River Banks
You can head down stairwells at certain points on the Île St–Louis and set up with a picnic or a bottle of wine to enjoy watching the boats go by. You’ll be living life like a Parisian in doing so and it is one of the nicest ways to enjoy an afternoon in Paris.
The Hôtel Lambert is a hôtel particulier on the Quai Anjou on the eastern tip of the Île Saint-Louis. It was previously open to tour however following its sale in 2022 it has not reopened to the public. But I am hopeful to one day see inside it!
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Have you visited Île de la Cité and Île Saint Louis? I’d love to hear what you enjoyed in the Comments below!
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