The Ile Saint Louis is my favourite place in Paris where to go and walk when I need to relax and recharge my batteries. The Island is a mix of fine harmonious architecture and of magnificent views on both right and left banks and on the Seine. It offers a peaceful timeless atmosphere and contrasts a lot with its neighbour the Ile de la Cité which is much more crowded with people, cars and visitors.
I am used to enter the Island coming from the left bank, through the ‘Pont de la Tournelle’ which is recognizable by its 15 meters high column with a statue of Sainte Geneviève on top of it. I like to walk around the Ile Saint Louis on the ‘Quais’ before getting into it and strolling in its main street, the Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile.
1st stop: The Quai d’Orléans
The Quai d’Orléans is located on the south west side of the Ile Saint Louis. It is in my opinion the ‘quai’ which offers the most amazing views on the River banks, including Notre Dame in the foreground and the top of the Eiffel Tower in the background.
All the buildings on the Ile Saint Louis date from the 17th century and most of them are beautiful ‘Hotels particuliers’ with wrought iron balconies and carved stone doorways. All the roads around the Island are narrow and cobbled and very few cars drive there.
2nd stop: Views on Notre Dame and the Hotel de Ville
At the west end of the Ile Saint Louis one can enjoy having a rest on the bank downstairs directly at the River level. The River view from there is worth a look! One can admire in particular the Hotel de Ville (the Paris City Hall) and the Tour Saint Jacques, both located on the right bank.
3rd stop: The Quai de Bourbon
Our walk goes on around the Ile Saint Louis and we are now on the Quai de Bourbon, which is located on the north west side of the Island. At the crossing with the rue Le Regrattier one can admire a remain of the past: the former name of the street ‘rue de la femme sans teste’, which means ‘street of the lady without a head’, carved on the stone refers to a cabaret of the same name which used to be in that street… and not to the headless statue that one can see and that is not the statue of a lady but of Saint Nicholas!
4th stop: The Quai d’Anjou
After crossing the rue des deux Ponts the Quai d’Anjou follows the Quai de Bourbon. One can find there one of the most magnificent Hotel Particulier of the Ile Saint Louis: the Hotel de Lauzun. It was built between 1650 and 1658 by the French architect Louis Le Vau and decorated by many famous French painters. The outside architecture of the building is sober and classical, while the inside decoration is rich in paintings, golden panelling, … The Hotel de Lauzun now belongs to the City of Paris and shelters a Research Intitute in Sciences. It can be visited only a few days during the year on special occasions, for instance in September during the ‘Journées du Patrimoine‘. Do not miss it if you can!
5th Stop: The Quai de Béthune
Back to the south side of the Island we are now walking on the Quai de Béthune where used to live many famous French people: Among them Georges Pompidou who was the French President between 1969 and 1974.
6th stop: The rue Saint Louis en L’Ile
By retracing one’s steps or turning right in the rue des deux ponts at the end of the Quai de Béthune one will reach the main street of the Ile Saint Louis, which crosses the Island from east to west. It is as charming as the Quais! On the east side of it one must absolutely enter the beautiful Church Saint Louis en l’Ile: its baroque decoration inside and peaceful atmosphere are really worth the visit. And if you can I recommend you to attend one of the numerous classical music concerts which regularly take place in the Church.
7th stop: Shopping Break
The west part of the Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile is convenient for shopping: gifts, souvenirs of Paris, jewels or fashion items… but also meat, cheese and bread as one can find there a famous ‘fromager’: la ferme Saint Aubin, or a famous ‘boucher’: Jean Paul Gardil. Both offer excellent food.
8th stop: Tea or ice cream Break
And why not finishing our walk by a visit to THE ice-cream maker of Paris: Berthillon, which is rightly the most renowned and probably makes the best ice-creams I have ever tasted! Its small shop is located on the east side of the Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile, just before the crossing with the rue des deux ponts. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 10am till 8pm. But apart from those hours most of the Cafés, brasseries or tea-rooms of the Island offer Berthillon ice-creams. So make the most of it before you leave the Island! This is really a very pleasant way to end this charming walk.
Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris B&B – www.goodmorningparis.fr