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France

The Perfect Escape While in Paris: Île Saint-Louis

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.

river with bridge and buildings

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. 

river with bridge and buildings

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.

buildings in 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. 

bike leaning against stone wall

Things to Do on Île Saint-Louis

NOTABLE BUILDINGS

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
Red store with candies in window

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)
bench with woman overlooking water

BEST VIEW

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.

bridge with buildings
water reflection of Notre Dame

BEST RESTAURANTS

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:

  1. L’Hexagone – cozy 1-bedroom with private courtyard views  €€
  2. Island Diamond – quaint 1-bedroom  €€
  3. Liberator – chic 1-bedroom  €€€
  4. Midnight Strolls – 2-bedroom modern Parisian  €€€€
  5. 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. 

buildings in paris

Disclosure:  As an Affiliate Associate of Plum Guide if you click on the link contained in this post, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to book. 

100 Comments

  • Carolin

    Thanks to you I’m getting a better understanding and feel for Paris. I wasn’t too impressed on my first visit but I’ve now read a few of your posts, I feel better equipped. I’m sure if I make it to Paris again I’ll be having a much nicer experience. Your photography is beautiful as always and I like that you introduced a part of Paris that is close to the centre and within walking distance. I’m not particularly keen on having to drive for ages into neighbourhoods.

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Carolin, so happy to hear that this article has you reconsider Paris. Definitely Ile Saint-Louis is in the heart of Paris, but most people just don’t know about it.

  • Wendy

    I’ve been to Paris a few times–though its been many years–and I’d never heard of Ile Saint Louis. What a great way to explore Paris without the crowds and more touristy sites. When I get back, I’ll definitely visit.

  • Bea

    This place looks so dreamy. Thank you for sharing. Considering how close I am to France, I really haven’t made an effort to go, I really should!

  • Krista

    I haven’t been to this part of the city before! I love the architecture though and will definitely visit on my next trip here.

  • Jenn

    As an ice cream lover, my first stop would have to be Bermillon! But it all looks so dreamy, can’t wait to visit Paris one day!

  • Ami Bhat

    This is definitely a different perspective to Paris. I loved the quaint, small town feel this island gives you. I like the sound of the ice cream place that you share and I am definitely signing for those view points. Loved the little tips you have shared along the way.

  • Emma

    I haven’t spent enough time exploring this island considering I love to visit Notre Dame. The view looks amazing and I just love the sound of all of the little shops, and all the food that many of them sell. Any activity where you’re near the river in Paris is never a bad thing to do

  • Saurabh

    Île Saint-Louis surely looks like a cool place to explore. I had bad experiences during my visit to France last time. Would like to give it another chance as I believe in second chances.

  • Pam

    What a great place to visit in Paris – it definitely sounds like it has it ALL! Great guide, I’ve never seen a post this detailed on a specific place before!

  • Maria Veloso

    One of the parts of Paris I’d love to see in future is the Seine River. I understand why the people in the ancient times built their houses opened towards the outside. Who wouldn’t with this enchanting view of the river? It seems so romantic and classy to hang out in this peaceful oasis away from the main district.

  • Trisha Velarmino

    It’s no wonder people will take this as their form of escape downtown Paris. With these beautiful views, charming streets, and lovely gardens, it’s enough to relax the mind. It’s bursting with character. I’m particularly interested in the specialty shops and the Berthillon ice cream parlor.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    I must admit that we have stayed on Ile Saint Louis every time we visited Paris. We loved the location and the local scene. It does indeed feel like you are in a movie scene. I can’t wait to plan a trip back.

      • Laura

        It’s clear from your post how much you love Paris, my experience was the city was really busy and I feel like I’d struggle with another few days there. And then I read this post, and realised you’ve just shown me where I can go when I need some quiet. Absolutely loved this, thanks for sharing with us

  • Ambica Gulati

    Long time back, I was working with an inlfight magazine and my boss wanted to send me to Paris. It never materialised and I guess I would have only seen the major attractiions then. But your post has given me more for my wish list, should a trip to France come about soon. I would love to experience the Parisian life with some friendly people at Île Saint-Louis.

  • Barry

    I”ve only ever seen Ile Saint-Loius from the Ile de la Cite and it was impressive even from a distance. Now that I’ve read your review I wish I had strolled onto the island and explored it.
    I love the village-look of a place when in the middle of a city – it’s uncanny and surreal. I can see why it’s an expensive place to live from the exquisite buildings and high class eateries around. The views across to Notre Dame (or what’s left of it until it gets fully restored after the devastating fire), are idyllic.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I used that view of the Notre Dame (prior to fire) as my beacon to find my street to my apartment. It was such a lovely view. Next time you’re in Paris, you’ll have to tour. It definitely has a neigbhourhood feel with everything you need right here.

  • Natascha

    Île Saint-Louis seems to be a perfect side trip from Paris if you want to escape the big city. The Berthillion Ice cream parlour looks stuck in time – it must be such a fun to buy some ice cream there. For me it would be difficult to decide what shops I want to visit.

  • Jamie Italiane

    I wish I could travel back in time and spend a day here with cattle grazing. It sounds like such a romantic part of Paris and when I visit again I need to visit the ice cream shop.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Oh yes indeed, it’s the best spot for ice cream, a romantic stroll and scenic views of Paris.

  • Hannah

    I have been to Paris twice, but neer in the Ile Saint Louis area! I have to check it out next time. I would love to check out all the French beauty products at L’Epicerie and of course, get my chocolate and dessert fix!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      You’ll definitely have to seek it out, it’s right in the centre of the city. And, yes, the French drugstore has the best beauty products.

  • Brooklyn Murtaugh

    Oh wow! I would love to have a few days escape here. Paris has never been high on my list of cities to visit. I’m not sure why, it has very little draw for me. But staying on this gorgeous little island in the middle of the city sounds kind of perfect?

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It indeed is perfect, and happy to hear it might have intrigued you to give Paris another consideration of places to visit. Paris is absolutely my favourite city, so I might be a little biased.

  • Gus Feliciano

    AHH I miss Paris so much I need it to be the first international place I fly once we can visit Europe again. I dont think I ever visited this part of the city but it looks lovely and a must stop I think!

  • Emma

    One of my favorite areas of Paris, it’s so nice to explore somewhere that maybe isn’t as popular or people rush by and don’t give enough time. I’ve been guilty of that before and love discovering new areas of popular cities like this. The ile is so photogenic too, I can’t wait to get back to Paris

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I agree Emma. Each time we go to Paris, we stay in a new arrondissement and I was so glad to stay here, and really explore it.

  • Danik

    Memories, memories, memories. I used to live and work nearby here and loved walking around here at quiet times of the days (when it wasn’t tourist season). I go back about once or twice a year and always enjoy a wander around this area.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, this is an area of Paris that is meant to be saved for a special occasion, and not to be rushed.

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    This is exactly the kind of place I’d want to see if I visited a city like Paris: centrally located but overlooked by the tourist crowds. It’s fascinating that Île Saint-Louis was farmland until it was fully developed by a city planner. That’s cool also that the courtyards face outward for the view of the city. This must be some of the most expensive real estate in the city! Great pictures and very informative post.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Kevin for taking the time to stop by to read and comment on my post.
      You are right, it is the most expensive part of Paris to live. I was told that many of the homes have been passed down through the generations, and hardly ever come to market.

  • Alice Ford

    What a wonderful picture of Ile Saint Louis. I have been to Paris twice now but still haven’t quite captured the essence in the way you must have. I will have to travel a bit more slowly through the city on my next visit.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Alice. Slowly is the only way. Our first trip I tried to jam everything in such a short period of time and then on our last day we made no plans and just strolled aimlessly and it was the best. Now every time we return we pick a new area and do just that. It’s the best!

  • Yukti Agrawal

    Going to Île Saint-Louis from the busy city of Paris must be a wonderful thing to do for a relaxed and peaceful holiday. I would also love to do some boutique shopping and thanks to you for sharing a list of some shops.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Yukti. Glad to know that you found the post helpful. I love boutique shopping, and this area, has some great traditional shops.

  • Michael Hodgson

    I had no idea that there were only two natural islands in Paris and that Île Saint-Louis was one. Love the history of it. I have only been to Paris two times, and each time was struck how this big city really was a congolmeration of many smaller communities / villages — each with a distinct flavor and feel. Île Saint-Louis sounds like a wonderful place to simply sit, have a cafe, and watch the world slip by.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Hi Michael, thank you for commenting. Yes, the 20 neighbourhoods or arrondissements that make up the city of Paris, certainly do have their own distinct look and feel. It almost makes us feel like we need to return at least 20 times to really experience each one! If only! You are right, Île Saint-Louis is the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.

  • Dana Howard Freeman

    Beautiful! Your photos are gorgeous and make me want to go right back there. I had one day in Paris in April after a Barge Cruise in Burgundy but clearly, that is never enough.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      One day is better than no day in Paris is what I would like to think! Thank you for your kind comments Dana and hope you get to return one day soon, for a bit more time!

  • Shreya Saha

    Île Saint-Louis looks so pretty. I am totally intrigued by the pictures. I liked how you have given so many dining options apart from letting us know what to see there. I would love to visit this place once I head to France. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful place.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comments. I am glad to hear you found the post helpful. I hope you get to Paris one day, and when you do, don’t forget to experience this quiet and historical area of that beautiful city.

    • Puloma Bhattacharya

      Île Saint Louis is a beautiful and peaceful place away from the hustle and bustle of the main city.The 17th century architecture with the classic view of the Siene river is to die for.And who wouldn’t want to grab a bite of ice cream from such a bright and beautiful ice cream parlor as the Berthillon. I think Île Saint Louis would be every one’s favorite holiday destination.

  • Melissa Rogers

    WOW! For starters, your photography is AMAZING. I’ve never had such a great sense of a location as you were able to do here. Also, I love how you mentioned this as the perfect escape. I have to agree completely. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your very kind comments Melissa. It’s great to know that this was helpful in navigating you around this area through my photos. I hope you get to experience it in person one day.

  • Jas

    I used to study in southern France and often frequented Paris so you’re totally making me nostalgic now! Love that you included a list of specialty shop recommendations. One of my favorite things to do when travelling is to get lost in local scenes and now I may just need to return!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      How fortunate are you to have lived and studied in the south of France?? I am very envious of that! I am happy to know that it allowed you to reminisce about your time there. Thanks for the feedback about you liking that I included listing the specialty shops, it is always something I research before going to Paris, is where to shop and dine at. Thank you for your comments.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Third time is a charm! Actually, this was our discovery on our third trip. I knew the general area I wanted to be in and I lucked out finding a fantastic apartment in one of those buildings along the Seine. So I fell in love with the apartment first, and then realized how fortunate I was to be staying in this beautiful and historic area. Thank you for commenting.

  • Candy

    I read so many posts about Paris (because I really need to go at some point) and this one really caught my attention. Especially Île Saint-Louis. I want to immerse myself into that Parisian life and have a baguette (my favorite!) in one hand while enjoying the sounds of the violin in the distance. I’m also a fan of historic neighborhoods!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I too can read a million posts about Paris, it’s my way of being transported back to the city I love the most. Thank you for your comments, and yes, if you enjoy both of those things, this is a great place to do it in. Also, you can hear the sound of pianos being played echoing through the tiny side streets as Parisians (albeit it might be children practicing) are playing. Either way, it is fantastic!

  • April Key Rode

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful city and I really think that this is a great area to relax while visiting Paris one of the tourist’s city to visit. It’s nice to know hidden gem away from the busy street of the city. Thanks for sharing I’m taking note on this one.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comments April. Glad to know that this one peaked your interest and may refer to it when traveling to Paris.

  • MY RIG Adventures

    I agree, the best way to get familiar with the area you’re staying in is to explore it first. Whether by foot or even public transport. I’ve found that we maximise our time there much more efficiently when we begin with a round look at the place. It’s hard to imagine it all used to be grazing land for cattle! I’d love to get a warm coffee and go for a wander just to look at the architecture.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I very much appreciate your comments. You are right, a warm coffee (or croissant) and start to wander to take in the architecture is the best part of being there.

  • Josy A

    Oooh this looks like mini Parisian heaven. It’s awesome when you find this kind of quiet oasis in the middle of a big city.

    It would be so sad if you go back there now with the change to Notre Dame. 🙁

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comments Josy. Yes, it would be sad to return and see the damage to the Notre Dame. I can’t image how very different it may look now and for years to come. I am glad you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem.

  • Carol Colborn

    That is definitely a great alternative for staying in Paris, Île Saint-Louis. I didn’t know there are islands where you can escape to right in the heart of Paris.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Carol. Yes, the two islands are in the middle of the right and left banks with the Seine river running on both sides. The larger and busier one is Île de la Cite, where you will find the Notre Dame cathedral. It is a bit of an escape, as most tourists do not visit it, as it doesn’t have any main attractions. In its place, it has wonderful historic buildings.

  • Eric Gamble

    Okay so Maybe I knew it but didn’t really realize it till I read this post and saw the pics but I never thought of Paris as having inner-islands. Very cool indeed.
    First I love all the pics you were able to get of the many quai’s or Ponts that connect Île Saint-Louis to the rest of Paris. Bridges always fascinate me.
    Second, I love your view you had of Notre Dame…I wonder how it looks from that view point now.
    Lastly, Love all the boutiques. There is something classically European/British 17th century about those type of Store fronts. Definitely going to have to add a walk to explore Île Saint-Louis to my return to Paris Bucket List item.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you so much for your kind comments Eric. I know, it is hard to fathom that Paris indeed does have two islands right in the center of the city. Île Saint-Louis is so small and yet so well preserved, right down to those storefronts. I hope you are able to return one day soon and love it just as much as I did.

  • Marya

    Such a refreshing read about Paris that is not about Louvre or the Eiffel Tower. I heard that Paris is so touristy, especially those mainstream destinations. It’s such a gem to find an information beyond those places in the city. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Marya. Yes, definitely Île Saint-Louis is not where the tourists flock to. They tend to come for the ice cream and walk right back across, so this is a lovely place to come for a few hours, or perhaps stay like we did, as you truly feel like you are a local when here.

  • Samantha Karen

    Wow you have me missing Paris! Definietly one of my favourite places to visit. But, I have never been to ile saint Louis! It looks like a lovely escape. I’m going to be putting that one my list of new places to visit for when I go to Paris next.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Samantha. I am glad that this post uncovered a hidden gem for you and that maybe the next time you are in Paris you will have a new place to explore.

  • Delphine

    I’m from Paris and I really loved your photography. I always go back to Ile Saint Louis when I go back to Paris, it has a very genuine and romantic feel. I was once a flower girl at a wedding at the church Saint Louis en l’Ile… I also love the fact that it’s so quiet compared to the tourist hub of Ile de la Cite. There is also a wonderful shop that sells old-fashioned sweets, not to be missed…

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Delphine. I am so glad as a native Parisian you agree with me, and I that I have captured the heart of this place accurately in your eyes. I too, love that it is so quiet, with not a tourist to be found, especially in the morning and evening hours.

  • Jenn and Ed Coleman

    Ile Saint Louis seems like a wonderful destination to explore Paris like a Parisian. The city is so wonderful and vast that you owe it to yourself to leave to tourist areas and find a little authenticity for yourself. I can see how you can fall in love with Ile Saint Louis.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comments. It indeed was the perfect spot in Paris to explore, almost feeling like you live there are are part of a wonderful historic community.

  • Connie

    Great read! You took me right back to my favourite time in Paris. Larry and stayed at the HOTEL DES DEUX ILES. Such a sweet boutique hotel! Someday soon we’ll go back

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Connie. I am so glad that it brought back some memories for you both. I hope you get a chance to travel there again some day.

  • Faith Hernly

    This sounds like the perfect spot to stay while visiting Paris!! Love all of your pictures.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Faith for your comments. It really was the perfect spot to stay. It was so quiet in the mornings and evenings.

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