Guide Tour of the Ile Saint-Louis, Paris, France

Ile Saint-Louis is one of the river Seine’s two natural islands in Paris. Situated in the heart of Paris, adjacent to the Île de la Cité, the small Île Saint-Louis is one of the most peaceful and charming neighborhoods of Paris. A good part of the district is endowed with an exceptional charm and very touristy, This small island is like an oasis from the rush of the city, remains the romantically in the 17th century, like a small French village in the center of Paris.

Its name dates back to 1725 and is derived from that of King Louis IX, son of Louis VIII, who was nicknamed Saint Louis. Legend has it that the king had a habit of spending time alone and used to go and pray on the Ile aux Vaches, which was originally located on the eastern side of today’s island. The Île Saint-Louis was not inhabited, like its neighboring Île de la Cité, until the seventeenth century. When the island was planned out, it was populated by the wealthiest residents of Paris, who took advantage of the haven of peace and tranquillity to build their mansions and small palaces.

Smaller and cosier than its neighboring Île de la Cité, the Île Saint-Louis is a perfect place to discover by foot, strolling down its narrow streets exploring its unique atmosphere, porches and façades. Most of the island is residential, but there are several restaurants offering a variety of French cuisine, hotels and small shops with beautifully decorated window displays that are worth visiting.

Île Saint-Louis is connected to the rest of Paris by four bridges to both banks of the river and to the Île de la Cité by the Pont Saint-Louis. Walking along the promenades in different directions of the island, you can enjoy the views of the left and right banks of Paris at the same time, offer a postcard perfect views of the Seine and the Parisian buildings. When facing the Saint-Louis bridge, benefits from sunshine throughout the day as well as a remarkable view of Notre-Dame cathedral.

A good part of the district is endowed with an exceptional charm and very touristy. The Ile Saint-Louis is the medieval historic center of Paris. It is one of the districts least affected by Baron Haussmann, historic buildings bearing witness to Paris’ rich past, from its 17th century buildings to the old half-timbered houses that line the streets to museums. It contains everything you would want from your neighborhood: markets, bakeries, fromageries, and cafes.

While much of Paris has modernized over the years, this island It is remarkably the same as it was centuries ago, so its architecture stands out with the rest of the capital. Both a residential and historical quarter of France’s capital city, this island is home to several flamboyant-fronted hotels overlooking the river Seine. Formerly known as the Ile des Palais because of these very hotels, the perfect architectural cohesion of the island draws in visitors. It was thanks to various urban construction projects undertaken during the reign of Louis XIII in the first half of the 17th century that the island looks as it does today.

A glimpse of the old Paris of the Renaissance. Between 1614 to 1644, the entire island was developed by architect Christophe Marie into lavish townhomes and small mansions and has remained unchanged ever since. Contrary to the buildings you find elsewhere in Paris with an inner courtyard, these town homes were opened towards the outside with windows and balconies to maximize the view of the Seine. The easiest way to admire these architectural treasures is to walk along rue Saint-Louis-en-L’Ile which cuts right through the middle of the island, or along the quai de Béthune, which faces the left bank.

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city, many a political personality and celebrity resides in this area. Two must-sees along the way are the Hôtel Chenizot (number 53, on rue Saint-Louis-en-Ile) and Hôtel Lefebvre de la Malmaison (number 22, on quai de Béthune) in which Baudelaire lived between 1842 and 1843. Both of these hotels have stunning fronts.This ever popular district has even housed former president Georges Pompidou (number 24, rue de Béthune). The wealthiest residents of Paris then moved here. Even today, it’s the home to French aristocrats and is considered the most expensive area to live in Paris.

Rue Saint-Louis, which runs from one end of the island to the other, is lined with adorable boutiques with attractive fronts and mouthwatering window displays. For food-lovers, one can also find good quality restaurants serving traditional French dishes, as well as pleasant tea rooms. The ice creams at Berthillon are an almost obligatory stop when you pass on the island.

Main Attractions
Ile Saint-Louis is located in the heart of Paris in the 4th arrondissement and represents the quintessential Parisian life. The best way to get acquainted with this tiny island is to walk around the exterior as it sits in the middle of the Seine with the left and right banks on either side. Down the center of the island is Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. Off this main street are tiny side streets that extend to either side of the left or right bank.

The only church on the island is the Church of Saint-Louis-en-l’Île, the work of architect François Le Vau, younger brother of Louis Le Vau. The upstream tip of the island is occupied by Square Barye, which contains a monument to the sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. The Berthillon ice cream parlor, whose sorbets are reputed to be the best in Paris, is located at 29-31, rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île.

Architectural heritage
Île Saint-Louis retained its tranquility, discover the elegance and refinement of hôtels particuliers on the Île Saint-Louis. Stroll and admire the grandeur of the untouched 17th century architecture. Hôtel Lambert, is considered the most extravagant townhome with a rotunda overlooking the Seine river (5, quai d’Anjou); Hôtel de Lauzun is listed as a designated as a heritage site (17, quai d’Anjou); Church of Saint Louis-en-l’Isle is the only church on the island (19, rue Saint-Louis en Ile); Hotel Chenizot at 49-53 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île.

Hôtel Lambert
The Hôtel Lambert is a private mansion located on the Île Saint-Louis, at no. 2 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. This hotel, whose facade, rotunda and garden are among the most remarkable in Paris, was built in 1640 by Louis Le Vau. The painters Charles Le Brun and Eustache Le Sueur worked for five years to decorate the interior. Despite its commercial character, it still retains many early residential buildings, the most notable of which is Hôtel Lambert, located at the Quai Anjou on the eastern end of the island. This large town house, with a rotunda overlooking the Seine, was constructed beginning in 1640 by the royal architect, Louis Le Vau.

Due to the proximity of the site to the river it was not possible to follow the traditional model of a courtyard in the front and a garden in the back, so Le Vau built the garden and courtyard side by side, with the garden raised to the level of the first floor, or noble floor. The first interior painted decoration was done by Eustache Le Sueur; some of his original panels are now on display in the Louvre. The Hercules Gallery was designed by Charles Le Brun, whose future work for Louis XIV included the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.

Over the years the house had a remarkable series of occupants. In the 18th century, it was purchased by the Marquis de Chatelet, whose wife, Émilie de Breteuil, was for fifteen years the mistress of Voltaire. It became the home of the Polish Prince and patriot Adam Czartoryski in 1843, and welcomed famous writers and musicians, including Balzac, George Sand, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. In the 20th century, it was the home of actress Michèle Morgan, then, in 1975, the art collector Baron Guy de Rothschild, and after his death in 2007, Abdallah Al Thani, brother of the Emir of Qatar. It was seriously damaged by a fire in 2013 but restored.

Hotel Lefebure de la Malmaison
The Hôtel Lefebure de la Malmaison is a private mansion located on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris, France. This hotel was built in the 17th century by the French architect Louis Le Vau; the decorations are the work of the painters Jean Bérain father, Charles Le Brun, Eustache Lesueur and Pierre Mignard. The front door was listed as a historical monument in 1926. The stairwell and the antechamber are in 1949. The interior decorations of certain rooms are listed in 1959.

Chenizot Hotel
The Hôtel de Chenizot is a private mansion located on the the Île Saint-Louis, at 51 and 53 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île. The hotel was acquired in 1719 by Jean-François Guyot de Chenizot who called on the architect Pierre Vigné de Vigny to transform it by installing a balcony and decorating the facades. Madame Tallien also resided there with her first husband M. de Fontenay, from her marriage in 1788 to her exile in Bordeaux in 1793. February 19, 1850, the State rents the Chenizot hotel again which was fitted out to accommodate the staff of the 1st Gendarmerie Legion which remained there until 1862. From 1904 to 1930, the metaphysician René Guénon lived in an apartment in the hotel.

Hotel de Lauzun
The Hôtel de Lauzun, or Hôtel Pimodan, is a private mansion located on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris, France. Its exterior facade, which is in line with the buildings that make up this road, has a remarkable element, its ornate wrought iron balcony. Entrance gates were installed in 1910. The inner courtyard, paved, has three facades as well as a blind wall decorated with arcades. Between two windows on the second floor, on the north facade of the courtyard, is a vertical sundial declining in the afternoon, which indicates both the hours and the calendar. The building was listed as a historic monument in 1906 and since 1928 the Hôtel de Lauzun has been owned by the city of Paris. It was already a municipal property in the 19th century.

It was bought and inhabited in 1682 by the Duc de Lauzun. The writer Roger de Beauvoir was born there inNovember 1806 and lived there. This hotel was restored by the bibliophile and collector Jérôme Pichon who rented certain rooms to creators. Charles Baudelaire lives in these places ofoctober 1843atseptember 1845, on the top floor, in a small apartment overlooking the courtyard. He received Madame Sabatier there and wrote his poem L’Invitation au voyage. Since November 12, 2013, the Hôtel de Lauzun is home to the Paris 6 Institute for Advanced Studies, a research institute that hosts international researchers in the humanities and social sciences in residence.

Hotel Le Charron
he Hôtel Le Charron or Hôtel de Vitry is a private mansion located on the north shore of the Île Saint-Louis, at 13-15 quai de Bourbon. The hotel was built between 1637 and 1640 by the French architect Sébastien Bruand on behalf of Jean Charron, Intendant of Finances. From 1912, it housed the studio of the Belgian sculptor Yvonne Serruys and her husband, the French writer Pierre Mille. The painter Émile Bernard died there in 1941. Haroun Tazieff lives there. The building was registered as a historical monument in 1988. Hotel restored in 1979/1980 under the control of Buildings of France by Ladislas de Diesbach, promoter, and Laurent Daum, architect.

Church of Saint-Louis-en-l’Île
The Church of Saint-Louis-en-l’Île, at 19 bis rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, is the only church on the island. It was designed by the architect François Le Vau younger brother of the better-known royal architect Louis Le Vau. It was the only building he designed. The interior is a good example of French Baroque architecture, with a central dome or cupola and an abundance of gold and white, a style borrowed from Italy.

Pope Pius VII celebrated mass in the building in 1805, during his trip to Paris for the Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte. The church interior was badly damaged during the French Revolution, but the damage was largely hidden in 1805 by hanging tapestries over the damaged walls. The original bell tower was destroyed by a storm in 1740, and was replaced by a new openwork tower. An unusual feature of the tower is the clock, which hangs over the street like a shop sign. The church has a particularly fine organ, installed in 2005, and the church is frequently used as a venue for concerts.

Public space
There are no bad views while on Île Saint Louis. The Place Louis Aragon is a small quiet square at the western tip of the island, right on the riverbank. It’s also a great spot to watch the sunset too. Another great view is along Quai de Béthune and Quai d’Orléans with views of Notre Dame cathedral which lies on larger island of Île de la Cite.

Square of Barye
Square Barye, on the southeast point of the island, is shaped like a prow of a ship pointing into the Seine. It was originally the site of a convent. It occupies 3,000 square metres (32,000 sq ft), and is a popular park and garden. It takes its name from the 19th-century French sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye, who specialized in sculpture of animals. His work is prominently displayed in the square in front of the Musée d’Orsay.

The most prominent art work in the square is a sculpture of Barye depicting the combat between a mythological centaur and a lapith, made in 1894, and placed on a disproportionally large pedestal. The statue was removed and melted down for its bronze during World War II, but was replaced in 2011 with a copy financed by a Taiwanese donor.

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.

The bridges of Pont Louis-Philippe and Pont Marie link it to the Right Bank, or rive droite. Pont de la Tournelle bridge links Ile Saint-Louis to the Left Bank, or rive gauche. The bridge of Pont de Sully is unusual, as it crosses the eastern tip of Ile St Louis to connect it to both banks. Lastly, the footbridge of Pont St-Louis takes you to the larger island of Ile de la Cité.

Saint Louis Bridge
The Pont Saint-Louis is a bridge located in Paris. The Pont Saint-Louis is located in the 4th arrondissement and connects the Île de la Cité to the Île Saint-Louis. Designed by the architects Jabouille and Creuzot then built by the engineers Long-Depaquit and Coste, this beam bridge, all in steel, was started in 1969 and finished in 1970 under the project management of the City of Paris. Since 2014, it has been prohibited for all motorized traffic and reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. It is very popular with tourists, and street artists often bring it to life in summer.

Tournelle Bridge
The Pont de la Tournelle is a bridge crossing the Seine in Paris. The Pont de la Tournelle is deliberately asymmetrical, in order to highlight the asymmetry of the landscape of the Seine at this place. Composed of a large central arch connected to the banks by two smaller arches, it is decorated on the left bank by a statue of Saint Geneviève, patroness of Paris. This statue, inaugurated in 1928, is the result of an architectural competition for the decoration of the bridge. It was made by the sculptor Paul Landowski. The saint is represented as a little girl hugging nave (symbol of Paris).

Sully Bridge
The Pont de Sully is the name given to the alignment of two bridges crossing two arms of the Seine in Paris, France. The current bridge was built in 1876, in the context of the great works of Baron Haussmann, and inaugurated the August 25, 1877. This double structure is the work of engineers Paul Vaudrey and Gustave Brosselin. They gave it an angle of about 45 degrees from the banks, which allows it to offer a splendid view of the quays of the Île Saint-Louis and of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral.

Louis Philippe Bridge
The Louis-Philippe bridge is a bridge located in Paris and crossing the Seine, between the right bank and the Saint-Louis island. The suspension bridge built by Marc Seguin and his brothers, it crosses the Seine at an angle to the Quai aux Fleurs via Île Saint-Louis. To cope with the increase in traffic, it was destroyed to be replaced by the current bridge in 1860. With a total length of 100 m and a width of 15.20 m, the Louis-Philippe bridge was inaugurated inapril 1862. Each of the 4 m wide piers placed in the Seine is decorated with a wreath of stone foliage which surrounds a metal rose window.

Mary Bridge
The Pont Marie is a bridge crossing the Seine in Paris. It connects Île Saint-Louis to the Quai de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, in the 4th arrondissement. Each of the five arches of the Pont Marie is unique and that the niches in the abutments have never been filled with statues. The Marie bridge has been classified as a historical monument since February 10, 1887. Some years ago, excursion boat companies operating in Paris began to claim that the Pont Marie is a “lovers’ bridge” beneath which it is an “old tradition” to kiss the person next to oneself and make a wish. However, there is no historical basis for such a “tradition”.

Île Saint-Louis is surrounded by four quays, each roughly delimiting a quarter of the island. The Quai de Bourbon and Quai d’Anjou are on the north side closest to the right bank. Whereas Quai de Béthune and Quai d’Orléans are on the south side facing the left bank of Paris.

Quai d’Anjou
The Quai d’Anjou on the north side of the island, was named for Gaston, Duke of Orléans, the brother of Louis XIII. It was developed by Christophe Marie beginning in 1614. One prominent building is the house of Louis Le Vau, chief architect of the King (3 quai d’Anjou). Another prominent resident of the Quai was Abel-Francois Poisson (5 quai D’Anjou) the Marquis of Marigny and brother of Madame de Pompadour, superintendent of royal buildings for Louis XV. Later residents of the quai included the painter Honoré Daumier, (9 quai d’Anjou) who had a lithography workshop on the top floor. The poet Charles Baudelaire occupied a small apartment on the top floor in the courtyard at 17 Quai d’Anjou from 1843 to 1846.

Quai de Bourbon
The Quai de Bourbon was named for the royal family and has a series of very elegant townhouses constructed in the early 17th century. It was briefly the Quai de la Republique after the Revolution, but took back it original name in 1814. The house at 1 quai de Bourbon was occupied by Philippe de Champagne, a favorite artist of Cardinal Richelieu. The sculptor Camille Claudel lived at number 19 between 1899 and 1923, and had her workshop overlooking the courtyard, and remained here until she was sent to an insane asylum for thirty years.

Quai de Bethune
The Quai de Bethune runs along the southeast side of the island. It was built shortly after the assassination of Henry IV, and is named for the late king’s prime minister, Maximilien de Bethune, the Duke of Sully. The Pont de Sully bridge at the southeast end of the island also carries his name.

The quai was originally informally called the “Quai des Balcons” because the architect, Louis LeVau, promoted the idea that all of he buildings should have balconies, taking advantage of the southern exposure of he buildings. Residents of this quai over the years included the American cosmetics manufacturer Helena Rubenstein (24 quai de Bethune), who constructed the very few modern buildings on the island at 24 Quai de Bethune between 1934 and 1938. The carved masks of lions on the wooden door is the only vestige of the 17th century house. French president Georges Pompidou had his personal residence at 24 Quai de Bethune, in addition to his official residence. The French comedian Louis de Funès lived for a short time at the same address. Other celebrated residents of the quai included the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie, who lived at number 36 from 1912 until her death in 1934.

Quai d’Orleans
The Quai d’Orleans continues the Quai de Bethune to the west. Like the Quai d’Anjou, it is named for Gaston d’Orleans, the younger brother of Louis XIII. During the French Revolution, it was renamed the Quai d’Egalite until 1806. It joins the Quai de Bourbon at the Saint-Louis bridge, close to the western point of the island. Its notable buildings include the Polish Library (number 6 quai d’Orleans), originally built for Antoine Moreau, the secretary of Louis XIII. It became the Polish Library in 1838. This part of the island had other notable Polish connections; the Polish prince Czartoryski lived nearby on the side of Quai Anjou, and entertained Chopin, while Marie Curie lived nearby on the Quai Bethune. A notable fictional resident was Charles Swann, protagonist of the novel of Marcel Proust Remembrance of Things Past.

The responsibility for the development of the Île Saint-Louis in the 17th century was given to Christophe Marie, general builder for Public Works. In exchange for his pro bono work, he was granted a license to build elegant residences. Along with the nobles, aristocrats, wealthy businessmen and politicians came here to live away from the noise of the inner city. Marie went into partnership with two builders, Lugles Poulletier and François Le Regrattier, and chose Louis Le Vau as architect. In 1614 the ditch between the two islets was filled in; and townhouses were constructed between 1620 and 1650.

The island project, an architectural revolution, used a carefully drafted urban plan for the first time in Paris. The urban planning was revolutionary, especially for Paris; it was only under Napoleon III, over 200 years later, that urban planning was implemented citywide. The option to build by just following the topography of the land was no longer available. The new streets were built straight and perpendicular to a central axis. So that the risk of fires was reduced, stone and slate replaced wood, plaster and thatched roofs.

For the first time, dwellings were orientated towards the outside, rather than towards an inner courtyard, with windows and balconies looking out to river views. Courtyards were narrow, with the usual gardens almost nonexistent. The majority of the façades were rather sober, providing charm to the neighborhood. Only a few façades were decorated with heads or faces (mascrons). Only a few of the balconies were adorned with ornate ironwork. The few monumental doors that horse-drawn coaches rushed through hinted at the wealth of the owners. Along with Faubourg Saint-Germain and Le Marais, Île Saint-Louis was one of the most affluent neighborhoods in 17th and 18th century Paris. The Pont Saint-Louis entertainers (i.e., jazz bands, jugglers and mimes) perform on a small bridge that connects Île Saint-Louis with Île de la Cité.

For a such a small secluded part of Paris, there are a great number of restaurants to choose from. Brasserie de I’lle St-Louis serving classic French dishes; Au Franc Pinot, a bar since the 17th century; Le Flore en L’Ile is a classic French bistro perfect for people watching on its ouside terrace; Sorza features classic Italian dishes; Le Sergent Recruteu is a Michelin restaurant with a gorgeous styled décor; Le Caveau de L’Isle is a initiate French cuisine restaurant; L’Ilot Vache is a classic French bistro.

One of the top reasons to go to Ile Saint-Louis is to visit the neighbourhood shops. Almost all of the wonderful specialty shops run along the main street, Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. Oliviers & Co specializes in olives and olive oils; Boulangerie Saint Louis; La Ferme Saint-Aubin is a classic cheese shop; Les Delices de Saint-Louis is a wonderful corner store; Cacao et Chocolat is a decadent chocolatier shop; Pylones carries one-of-a-kind products and toys; L’Epicerie is a drug store, and perfect place to buy French beauty products; L’ile Aux Images is a museum of vintage photographs and lithographs of old Paris; Jean-Paul Gardil’s is a local butcher shop; Lafitte is a shop for foodies and specializes foie gras.