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Ile Saint-Louis Paris is embraced by the Seine gently lapping at her banks. As river barges bustle past, the casual visitor is magically lulled into a world from centuries past. This tranquil oasis used to be a pasture and it’s not hard to imagine cattle grazing in meadows right here in the middle of Paris.
In the 17th century, Ile Saint-Louis became a district of Paris and thus its urbanization began. Christophe Marie was the architect responsible for developing the island. Elegant townhouses and “hotels particuliers” (small mansions) were built and attracted Paris’s elite. Today, in one of Paris’s oldest villages, the architecture remains unchanged.
Ile Saint-Louis Paris, right in the heart of Paris, is the perfect place to step back in time.
14 Things To Do On Ile Saint-Louis Paris
1. Flâner On Ile Saint-Louis
One of the best things to do on Ile Saint-Louis, one of Paris’s oldest villages, is to flâner. Narrow cobblestone streets lead past gorgeous façades. There are ample benches and cafés to rest a while and observe local life. Lovers entangled, fishing rods poised, a movie being filmed… you never know what you’ll see on Ile Saint-Louis Paris.
Read More: Not sure how to flâner in Paris? Here are a few tips.
2. Stop Awhile On Pont Saint-Louis
Lingering on Pont Saint-Louis is one of my favourite things to do on Ile Saint-Louis. Strains of music almost always fill the air and the views of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) are beautiful.
Pont Saint-Louis, the pedestrian bridge that joins Ile Saint-Louis to Ile de la Cité, is a gathering spot for street musicians, marionette artists and rollerblade performers. Who knows there may even be an antique market to browse, as there was this past summer.
3. Spot Details On Doorways & Façades
One of the essential things to do on Ile Saint-Louis Paris is to use your eagle eye to find details on the façades.
Ile Saint-Louis was the perfect village for aristocratic Parisians to build their mansions or Hôtels Particuliers, in the 17th century. Magnificent doorways, façades, intricate door knockers, and balconies with wrought-iron railings are heaven for the curious explorer. Look for the faun peering down upon you at 51 Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile.
4. Sneak Into A Courtyard
It is hard to imagine what lies behind the grand doorways of these urban mansions. If you happen to walk by and there is a delivery, construction, or a resident leaving just ask if you can have a look around. “Je peux jeter un coup d’oeil?” Slip in behind the majestic doorway and perhaps you will discover a beautiful inner courtyard or a magnificent staircase.
5. On Ile Saint-Louis Paris, Stop By The Church
When you visit Ile Saint-Louis Paris, don’t miss the church!
On the main road that cuts through the centre of the island, Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, watch for the modern clock sticking out from the bell tower. The clock and the stunning wooden doors mark the entrance to Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile. I walked by the church many times before knowing to use the clock as a marker.
Upon entry, the Baroque style church finished in 1726 offers a tranquil place to pause amongst white stone arches accented in glittering gold. Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, dedicated to St. Louis, prominently displays a statue of him holding the Crown of Thorns. King Louis IX of France, later known as St. Louis, undertook two crusades to the Holy Lands. It was King Louis IX that brought the Crown of Thorns to Paris.
6. Imagine What Transpired At The Hôtel de Lauzun
17 Quai d’Anjou, Ile Saint-Louis Paris
Perhaps it is the downspout so cleverly disguised or the golden gilded wrought-iron balustrade on the second floor that hints at the apparently sumptuous interior of Hôtel de Lauzun.
The Hotel de Lauzun has had a rich and varied history since its debut in the 17th century. In the 19th century, the private mansion was divided into various apartments. In one of them, the Club des Hashischins met monthly. Here, some of Paris’s literary elite, including Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, and Honoré de Balzac, set out to explore drug-induced experiences.
7. Admire Hôtel Lambert On Ile Saint-Louis Paris
1 Quai d’Anjou, Ile Saint-Louis Paris
The Hôtel Lambert also has a varied and interesting past and was at one time, for a brief period, the home of philosopher Voltaire. The architect Louis le Vau, the grand architect of the Palace of Versailles, designed this urban mansion.
Stand in front of the mansion and imagine the glorious interior and the famous people such as Chopin and Brigitte Bardot who came and went.
8. Sit At The Tip Of Ile Saint-Louis Paris
Sitting at the tip of the island is a must when you visit Ile Saint-Louis. Descend the stairs to the Seine and relax awhile at the tip of Ile Saint-Louis, which is directly under Place Louis Aragon. Find a bench or sit directly on the stone quay. It’s the perfect place to feel the vibe of Paris and watch Parisians at play. Tuck a couple of champagne flutes into your bag. They might come in handy here.
While by the Seine, stroll the banks around the island.
9. Savour Berthillon Ice Cream
You really can’t visit Ile Saint-Louis Paris without stopping by Berthillon for ice cream or sorbet. This family-run business has been in operation since 1954 and all frozen delights are made on site. Sit on the terrace or head down the stairs to the Seine to savour this creamy, delectable treat.
10. Read A Book At Place Louis Aragon
Another best thing to do on Ile Saint-Louis Paris is pause a while at Place Louis Aragon. There are just a few benches here overlooking the tip of Ile Saint-Louis Paris and almost always someone is reading. Stand under the lovely tree and gaze over at Notre Dame, the Pantheon and down the Seine to the Hôtel de Ville.
Named after Louis Aragon, a 20th-century French writer, poet, essayist, and editor, this “place” is the perfect place to read. Many of Aragon’s poems were put to music and sung by noted singers such as Georges Brassens, Leo Ferré and Jean Ferrat.
Here is an adaptation of one of Aragon’s poems, Que Serais-je Sans toi? /What Would I Be Without You?, sung by Leo Ferré.
11. Shop The Boutiques On Ile Saint-Louis Paris
Stroll down rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile past modern-day boutiques mixed with shops selling candies, biscuits, prints of France, cheese shops, a boulangerie and a wine store. Something is sure to catch your eye or simply purchase supplies for a picnic by the Seine.
12. Choose A Café On Ile Saint-Louis Paris
Ile Saint-Louis has plenty of cafés to choose from. La Brasserie de l’Ilse Saint-Louis, which has been in operation since 1953, is my favourite as the terrace has views across the Pont-Saint Louis to both Notre Dame Cathedral and the Pantheon.
La Lutétia and Café Saint-Regis with their lovely interiors are also good choices.
There are moules on offer (mussels) and ice cream on Ile Saint-Louis. You just can’t go wrong.
13. Visit Square Barye On Ile Saint-Louis Paris
This is one of those things to do on Ile Saint-Louis that you just might miss. It took me a while to discover Square Barye and its staircases down to the Seine.
Square Barye, a tranquil triangular garden, is found at the eastern tip of Ile Saint-Louis Paris. The views are spectacular over the Seine and the Jardin Tino-Rossi on the left bank where Parisians gather to tango.
Square Barye is dedicated to Antoine Louis Barye, a famous French sculptor whose works can be seen in the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre. The garden itself is full of willow trees, cedars and elms. Find a bench in the shade and watch the Seine meander past.
14. Find The Statue Of The Woman Without A Head
When you visit Ile Saint-Louis Paris, look up at the corner of rue Le Regrattier and Quai de Bourbon! You’ll see a beheaded statue and also the words engraved in stone, Rue•De•La•Femme•Sans•Teste (Street of the Woman without a head).
Stories abound on Ile Saint-Louis Paris about the connection between these two. The engraved words denote the name of the street from 1710 until 1870.
And the statue? It is Saint Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. The statue was beheaded during the French Revolution when vandalism was rampant.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to Ile Saint-Louis Paris.
Until next time,
More Paris Info…
Once you have explored Ile Saint-Louis Paris, you might also like:
Montmartre, much like Ile Saint- Louis, feels like a small village. This post on Montmartre leads you to the most popular sites as well as some lesser-known places on the hill.
La Butte aux Cailles, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement, is another place in Paris that has retained its village-like charm. My article on La Butte aux Cailles will lead you to discover the area and its visually enticing street art.
Canal Saint-Martin is another place full of small restaurants, boutiques and plenty of character. Stroll the bridges of the canal under the chestnut trees and feel like a true Parisian. All the details on this “bobo” district are in this article on Canal Saint-Martin.
The 11th arrondissement is authentic and lively. Here is a guide on how to see the best of the 11th arrondissement.
If you are looking for food suggestions, read about where to find the best croissants in Paris. There are also plenty of café suggestions for the Marais area in this post: Tips from a Local. And if you are exploring the area around Canal Saint-Martin, here are the best places to stop for a bite or to find the fixings for a picnic.
Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller.
This page has all my articles on Paris that will help you plan out your trip, including day trips from Paris. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter to get my free download.
If you are going further afield in France, make sure to check out my page on France.