Visiting the Islands: The Ancient Heart of Paris

Visiting the Islands: The Ancient Heart of Paris

Amidst the clamour of the city lie two peaceful sanctuaries, Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis, each overflowing with an irresistible allure, a true authenticity and above all, an incredible history. Adorning the Seine within the capital’s central core, Paris’s two remaining natural islands offer a glimpse into centuries past and grant an idyllic escape from the crowds and congestion, aside of course from the vibrant throngs that congregate obediently outside the area’s most famous landmark, the emblematic Notre Dame Cathedral. Step back from the crowds however and you will discover a forgotten world of quintessential Parisian charm characterised by winding avenues, beautiful old buildings, cosy restaurants and adorable boutiques.

The modern city was practically born on Ile de la Cite, occupied as early as the 3rd century BC by the small Gallic tribe of the Parisii. Later conquered by the Romans and utilised throughout the Middle Ages as a military and political stronghold, the larger of the pair became a refuge for the kings of France, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges, including the capital’s oldest crossing, the striking Pont Neuf. Ile St. Louis is regarded as the younger sibling, a docile yet exclusive suburb constructed during the 1600s by joining two petite uninhabited islands.

A visit to the endearing Ile de la Cite will reward you with breathtaking views of the water at every turn, a bustling atmosphere, and a smattering of attractions, such as the exquisite chapel of Saint Chapelle, the historical Conciergerie, the sublime Place Dauphine, the moving Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation, and the capital’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. One of the world’s most recognisable structures, this masterpiece of French Gothic architecture was completed in 1345 and remains the country’s focal point for Catholicism, welcoming an astonishing 13 million visitors per year.

In contrast, Ile St. Louis is completely void of tourist hotspots, somewhat thankfully as it grants a much more undisturbed environment for indulging in romantic strolls along the scenic banks. Elegant avenues, quirky stores, inviting cafes and a distinct village like vibe combine to create one of Paris’s most charming neighbourhoods, particularly enchanting as the residual tourists drift back to the mainland and the evening makes way for local joviality and dining. This picturesque oasis is also home to the legendary Bertillon ice cream parlour, a delectable establishment revered by both residents and visitors, which is rather bizarrely closed during August.

Both Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis grant a pleasant retreat from the remainder of the city, yet more importantly, provide an unforgettable location for travellers fortunate enough to acquire lodgings on the islands themselves. Luckily, such privileged accommodation can be found at, ensuring a unique, convenient, and incredibly rewarding base for a treasured Parisian encounter.