Want to visit a quiet, yet charming area of Paris? Île Saint-Louis in the 4th arrondissement is the most elegant neighbourhood in the city. There are no significant landmarks or attractions per say, only picture perfect views and classic 17th century architecture.
As one of two natural islands in Paris France, the other well-known one is Île de la Cité, draws all of the tourists. But not the peaceful and elegant Île Saint-Louis. If you are looking for a tranquil, relaxing escape while in Paris, visit Ile Saint Louis. If you do, here’s everything you need to know about this hidden gem in Paris, plus where to eat and stay.
History of Île Saint-Louis
Up until the 17th century, Île St Louis was used as pastureland for grazing cattle. When the Pont Neuf bridge was built joining the two islands together King Henry IV decided to develop this land.
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 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.
Exploring Île Saint-Louis
Ile Saint-Louis is located in the heart of Paris in the 4th arrondissement. 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. It’s connected to the rest of Paris by four quays and five bridges. Each offer a postcard perfect views of the Seine and the Parisian buildings. 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.
BRIDGES ON ILE SAINT-LOUIS
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.
QUAYS ON ILE SAINT-LOUIS
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.
Why visit Île Saint-Louis
I instantly fell in love with Île Saint-Louis. To me it represents the quintessential Parisian life I daydream about. It’s where you’ll find lovers entwined on a bench or walking arm-in-arm along the Seine. Where you’ll hear the faint sound of a music floating through the air and artists sketching scenes of Paris on their notepads. Locals warmly greet one another in the street with their double air kisses – left than right – looking ever so chic while holding a baguette in one hand and a dog in the other. Oh yes, it truly looks as though you’ve stepped onto a movie set.
Things to Do on Île Saint-Louis
Stroll and admire the grandeur of the untouched 17th century architecture. Some of the most noteworthy buildings to seek out are:
- 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
BERTHILLON ICE CREAM
If you ask anyone where to get the best ice cream in Paris, there is only one answer, Berthillon. The first Berthillon ice cream parlor to open was in the 1950s. Visit the original location at 29-31, Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île and choose your favourite flavour. (Open Wednesday to Sundays only)
BEST SPECIALITY SHOPS
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. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Oliviers & Co specializes in olives and olive oils (No. 81)
- Boulangerie Saint Louis (No. 80)
- La Ferme Saint-Aubin is a classic cheese shop (No. 76)
- Les Delices de Saint-Louis is a wonderful corner store (No. 67)
- Cacao et Chocolat is a decadent chocolatier shop (No. 63)
- Pylones carries one-of-a-kind products and toys (No. 57)
- L’Epicerie is a drug store, and perfect place to buy French beauty products (No. 51)
- L’ile Aux Images is a museum of vintage photographs and lithographs of old Paris (No. 51)
- Jean-Paul Gardil’s is a local butcher shop (No. 44)
- Lafitte is a shop for foodies and specializes foie gras (No. 8 Rue Jean du Bellay)
There are no bad views while on Île Saint Louis. But if I had to choose a favourite it would be at Place Louis Aragon. A small quiet square at the western tip of the island. Make sure you go down a level, 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.
For a such a small secluded part of Paris, there are a great number of restaurants to choose from. Here are some recommended favourites:
- Brasserie de I’lle St-Louis serving classic French dishes (55 Quai de Bourbon)
- Au Franc Pinot, a bar since the 17th century (1 Quai de Bourbon)
- Le Flore en L’Ile is a classic French bistro perfect for people watching on its ouside terrace (42 Quai d’Orléans)
- Sorza features classic Italian dishes ( 51 rue Saint Louis en L’Ile)
- Le Sergent Recruteu is a Michelin restaurant with a gorgeous styled décor (41 rue Saint-Louis en L’Ile)
- Le Caveau de L’Isle is a initiate French cuisine restaurant (36 rue Saint-Louisen L’Ile)
- L’Ilot Vache is a classic French bistro (35 rue Saint-Louis en L’Ile)
Best Places to Stay on Île Saint-Louis
Each return trip to Paris, I stay in a different arrondissement as a way to really experience each district in Paris. Staying on Île Saint-Louis is one of the best locations. It’s central to the Latin Quarter, Le Marais and Saint Germain, not to mention steps from the Seine. Staying in holiday rental is the best way to feel like a local. Here are some recommended apartments:
- L’Hexagone – cozy 1-bedroom with private courtyard views €€
- Island Diamond – quaint 1-bedroom €€
- Liberator – chic 1-bedroom €€€
- Midnight Strolls – 2-bedroom modern Parisian €€€€
- The Orangery – 2-bedroom over 3 floors with a private courtyard €€€€
Or, do you own search for the perfect Paris apartment here.
As a holidaymaker…
Wandering around Ile Saint Louis makes you feel like you are taking a holiday from the busyness of Paris. It’s that tranquil and relaxing. If you….
- appreciate historic architecture
- prefer not to be in a touristy area of Paris
- love to shop in specialty stores
- enjoy a fine meal with locals; and
- want to experience the quiet Parisian life…
then you’ll fall in love with Île Saint-Louis as I did.
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