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The Ile de la Cite, a small island situated in the heart of Paris, is the beating heart of Paris. As one of the city’s most historic and picturesque areas, no trip to Paris is complete without some time spent ambling the narrow streets and alleyways past Ile de Cite’s iconic landmarks, including the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral. Ile de la Cité embodies the true essence of Parisian charm and beauty.
Ile de la Cite Travel Tip: The Banks of the Seine River is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Paris. This might seem surprising given that Paris is full of historic and architectural gems. But, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is 365 hectares and comprises the physical banks of the Seine as well as some of Paris’s most famous landmarks. The Banks of the Seine UNESCO site includes Ile de la Cite, Ile Saint Louis, and the Eiffel Tower.
After wandering the streets on Ile de la Cite and lingering on her bridges, here are the 17 best things to do on Ile de la Cite Paris.
17 Things To Do On Ile de la Cite Paris
1. Notre Dame Cathedral
6 Parvis Notre Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
Please Note: Since the devastating fire of April 15, 2019 that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral, it is not possible to enter the cathedral. Walk outside, gaze at Notre Dame’s mismatched towers, and her flying buttresses, and read the informative panels surrounding this historic landmark. Watch the crane and the workers and keep your fingers crossed that Notre Dame Cathedral will open in 2024, as predicted.
One of the very best things to do on Ile de la Cite Paris is to stand before the architectural marvel, Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame Cathedral, the iconic symbol of Paris, is a true Gothic beauty with a long and significant history.
Built on the site of previous ancient temples and churches, the work on Notre Dame Cathedral began in 1163. What we see today is the result of a large renovation project which finished in 1864. The intricate details of Notre Dame Cathedral’s Gothic facade, the flying buttresses supporting its walls, and the towering spire that once graced its roof, make for a breathtaking sight.
The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral is equally impressive, with towering columns, magnificent stained glass windows, and a sense of grandeur that is unmatched. Stand in awe before the spectacular three rose windows.
When Notre Dame Cathedral reopens, climb the 400 (or so) spiral stairs to the top of the North Tower for fantastic views over Paris. You will be nose-to-nose with the gargoyles of Notre Dame!
Here are some of the most popular guided tours and tickets for Paris:
This one-hour Seine cruise is unforgettable but so is the evening Seine cruise. It’s a hard choice!
This skip-the-line admission to the Arc de Triomphe Rooftop or the timed entry to the Louvre and reserved access to the Musée d’Orsay can maximize your time. Museum-lovers will like the Paris Museum Pass.
Get to the top of the Eiffel Tower with direct access to the summit by elevator.
A day trip to Versailles with access to the Palace and Gardens with an audio guide is always a good idea.
How about a walking tour of Ile de la Cite? This 2-hour+ tour of Ile de la Cite includes a visit to Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie.
2. Point Zero On The Parvis de Notre Dame
Parvis Notre Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
Stand on the parvis (courtyard) of Notre Dame Cathedral and look for the small, unassuming circular marker known as Point Zero. This unassuming marker may be easy to miss, but it holds great significance. It is the point from which all distances in France are measured, and it serves as the symbolic center of Paris.
Read More: 25 Essential Paris Travel Tips. If you like getting off the beaten path, here are 25 hidden gems in Paris. Really want to explore secret Paris? There are over 60 secret spots in my eBook, Paris for the Curious Stroller.
3. Things To Do On Ile de la Cite: Sainte Chapelle
4 bd. du Palais, 75001 Paris
One of the top things to do on Ile de la Cite is to visit Sainte Chapelle which will literally take your breath away. Sainte Chapelle, another masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, holds one of the most breathtaking displays of stained glass in the world.
Sainte Chapelle was built by King Louis IX in the 13th century to house his collection of holy relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns. Incidentally, Christ’s Crown of Thorns, which is circulated in Notre Dame Cathedral during its Easter services, was saved from the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.
Upon entering Sainte Chapelle, your eyes soar skyward following the floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows. At 51 feet (15.5 metres) high, the fifteen stained-glass windows bathe the chapel in a warm and mysterious glow.
Climb the spiral staircase to the upper chapel which was reserved for the king and his friends. The elegance and the grandeur of the stained glass windows here is simply awe-inspiring.
On a visit to Sainte Chapelle, be sure to note the intricately carved stonework, the ribbed vaults, and the famous rose window.
A visit to Sainte Chapelle is a truly unforgettable experience that will leave a lasting impression.
Buy Your Timed Entry Ticket to Sainte Chapelle
Buy Your Combined Timed Entry Ticket to Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergierie
Things To Do Ile de la Cite: Sainte Chapelle
Attend an evening classical music concert in Sainte Chapelle. It’s a truly memorable experience. Buy your tickets here.
Visiting Hours Sainte Chapelle:
April 1 to September 30: 9 am to 7 pm; October 1 to March 31: 9 am to 5 pm
Closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25
Where To Stay Near Ile de la Cité, Paris
There are no hotels on Ile de la Cité, Paris. Why not try staying close by on Ile Saint Louis or in the 4th?
- Stay On Ile St Louis Paris in one of these hotels.
- Stay in Paris’s 4th arrondissement in one of these hotels.
- If you prefer apartments, how about this darling home with a rooftop terrace or this apartment with its exposed gabled ceilings?
3. Things To Do On Ile de la Cite: Hôtel- Dieu
1 Parvis Notre Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
The Hotel Dieu, right beside Notre Dame Cathedral, was founded in the 7th century and has served as a hospital, hospice, and medical school. Step into the gorgeous courtyard of the oldest hospital in Paris. Before you are countless arches, stairways and manicured gardens. A true haven just a few steps away from the bustling parvis of Notre Dame Cathedral.
4. The Conciergerie
2 bd. du Palais, 75001 Paris
When you take your Seine River cruise or a simple stroll along the quays of the Seine, you can’t miss the magnificent turrets of the Conciergerie.
The Conciergerie was a royal palace in the 14th century that served as the seat of power for French kings. But its most famous role was as a prison during the French Revolution, where thousands of prisoners, including Marie Antoinette, were held before their execution.
Today, the Conciergerie is a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into the world of the revolution’s prisoners. It’s rather a sombre atmosphere but the museum’s exhibits provide a chance to learn about this dark part of Paris’s history.
Buy Your Entry Ticket in Advance; Buy Your Combined Timed Entry Ticket to the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle
Visiting Hours The Conciergerie: 9:30 am to 6 pm
Closed on May 1, and December 25
5. The Oldest Public Clock
2 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris
Things to see on Ile de la Cite? Be sure to pause at the corner of Quai de l’Horloge and Boulevard du Palais and gaze at the oldest public clock in Paris. Stand before its beautiful blue and gilded ornate face and imagine the countless generations of Parisians who have passed beneath its gaze. Built in 1371, the elegant clock has amazingly survived numerous wars, revolutions, and political upheavals.
6. Things To Do On Ile de la Cite: Place Dauphine
Tucked away in the heart of Paris’s historic IIe de la Cite, is Place Dauphine, one of Paris’s five royal squares. Commissioned by King Henry IV in the early 17th century, Place Dauphine was designed to be a tranquil haven amidst the hustle and bustle of Parisian life. Still today it lives up to its original purpose.
One of the top things to do on Ile de la Cite is to sit under the glorious chestnut trees (or by the decorated Christmas trees) in Place Dauphine and watch the regulars play pétanque. Sip a coffee, gaze at the historic buildings and enjoy a few minutes of respite in this charming and elegant square.
7. Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, spans the Seine River and connects the Left and Right banks of the city. Although called Pont Neuf (New Bridge), it is in fact Paris’s oldest bridge built in the late 16th century. Position yourself in one of the alcoves and admire the graceful arches, the mascarons (gruesome faces), and the bustling Seine River traffic. And definitely add to your list of things to do on Ile de Cite, an evening sunset stroll across Pont Neuf.
8. Equestrian Statue of Henri IV
The equestrian statue of Henri IV, located in the heart of Paris’s Pont Neuf, is a testament to the glory and grandeur of France’s monarchs. Henri IV, known as the “Good King,” and also the “Vert Galant” for all his mistresses, is facing the entrance to Place Dauphine. Take the steps just behind this statue to access Ile de la Cite at the Seine River level.
9. The Queen Elizabeth II Flower Market
37 Place Louis Lepine, 75004 Paris
Renamed after a state visit in 2014 to include the late Queen’s name, the Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II, Paris’s Flower Market is a fragrant and colourful oasis in the heart of the city. Stroll through the market and enjoy the marvellous scents.
Ile de la Cite Travel Tip: On Sundays for centuries, this was also a Bird Market where exotic birds, budgies, and parakeets were sold. Amidst the stacks of bird feed was the delightful sound of birds chirping. Except they were in cages. Recently, the city decided to close the bird market due to animal rights concerns.
10. Au Vieux Paris d’ Arcole
24 rue Chanoinesse, 74004 Paris
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole is a charming and cosy restaurant tucked away on a quiet street in the heart of Paris. What makes it one of the best things to see on Ile de la Cite is its charm and history. Swinging from the façade is the shop sign “Au Vieux Paris, Auberge depuis 1594.” With its flowering wisteria tumbling down the façade in the spring around the few tables out front, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole is a hot spot for Instagrammers.
Stop by for a coffee or a glass of wine and soak up the vibe of medieval Paris. Just imagine what has transpired here over the centuries. Make sure you go inside. Upstairs the main dining room with its deep red wallpapered walls and red velvet furniture is from a time gone by. And don’t miss the view over Notre Dame Cathedral!
It’s still on my list of places to have a meal, as I have heard that it is delicious!
11. Things To Do On Ile de la Cite: Heloise and Abelard
9 -11 Quai aux Fleurs, 75004, Paris
Find the stone plaque at #9 – 11 Quai aux Fleurs on Ile de la Cité confirming that the two lovers lived here in 1118.
Pierre Abélard, a brilliant philosopher and theologian, was teaching in Paris at Nôtre-Dame and was invited to teach Héloïse who was a gifted student.
The two fell in love, got pregnant and the star-crossed lovers were secretly married. Héloïse was sent to a convent for safety and Abélard returned to Paris. Héloïse’s outraged uncle, Canon Fulbert, got his revenge and sent a troupe of men in the dark of night to castrate Abélard.
What a story. Is it myth or truth? Abèlard became a monk and the two wrote each other letters but never spoke in person again.
There are many versions of this love story. Put your own spin on the love tale but stand before this house, where they fell in love or head to Père-Lachaise Cemetery and find the splendid tomb where the couple has laid together since 1817.
12. The Sign of the 1910 Flood
Quai des Fleurs and rue des Chantres
One of the things to do on Ile de la Cite, right at rue des Chantres and Quai des Fleurs, is to stop momentarily before the small metal plaque here. The sign displays the height to which the Seine River rose during the devastating flood of January 1910. The scale is striking, with water reaching heights that seem almost unfathomable. Look around and imagine what would have been completely submerged.
13. Things To Do On Ile de la Cite: The Willow Tree
At the tip of Ile de la Cité, where the Seine River splits in two, stands a magnificent willow tree that has captured the hearts of many Parisians and visitors alike. Its long, sweeping branches droop gracefully towards the water, creating a natural canopy that provides the perfect place to sip a glass of wine and read a book. One of my favourite places in Paris, swing your legs over the edge and watch the boat traffic bustle down the Seine River while gazing out to the Pont des Arts and the Louvre.
14. Seine River Cruises
A Seine River cruise is a must for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Paris from a unique vantage point. The Vedettes du Pont Neuf, one of the Seine River cruise lines, has a stop right on Ile de la Cite. Descend the stairs behind the Henri IV Equestrian Statue and find the pickup point for a one-hour Seine cruise.
15. Deportation Martyr’s Memorial (Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation
5 Quai de l’Archevêché, 75004 Paris
The Deportation Martyrs Memorial in Paris is a solemn and moving tribute to the thousands of men, women, and children who were deported from France to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Descend the steps at the eastern end of Île de la Cité, to the underground crypt. The walls of the crypt are inscribed with the names of the concentration camps. The lights, each signifying the life of a person, stretch down the corridors making a sobering impact. It’s an excellent memorial to stop, remember and honour the Holocaust victims.
Hours: Open every day except Mondays
April 1 to September 30: 10 am to 7 pm; October 1 to March 31: 10 am to 5 pm
Closed: January 1, May 1, August 15, November 1, December 25
16. The Archeological Crypt Of Ile de la Cité
7 Parvis Notre Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
The Archaeological Crypt of Ile de la Cité in Paris is a fascinating underground museum that takes visitors on a journey through the city’s ancient history. Located beneath Notre Dame Cathedral, the crypt features the remains of the city’s earliest settlements, dating back to the 3rd century AD. Did you know that Paris was once a Roman settlement called Lutetia? The exhibition is designed to be interactive, with life-sized models, videos, and artefacts from different periods of Parisian history.
Visiting Hours Crypt The Archaeological Crypt:
Hours: Open every day except Mondays
Open Tuesdays to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm
Closed: January 1, November 1, December 25
17. Rue de la Colombe
Rue de la Colombe, “Street of the Dove,” is a charming street nestled on Ile de la Cité. Don’t miss the sculpture of the two doves over the doorways at #4.
At #6 rue de la Colombe, there is an inscription on the sidewalk noting the discovery in 1898 of the first wall that surrounded Paris. We’re talking a long, long time ago. 267 A.D. When Paris was still Lutetia. A little further down the street look up to see the plaque explaining the origin of the wall.
Other Quiet Medieval Streets On Ile de la Cite:
Stroll rue des Chantres, rue des Chanoinesse for taking in the elegance and sights of historic Paris.
Things To Do On Ile de la Cite: Explore Nearby
Ile de la Cite, in the centre of Paris, is walking distance to many other areas of Paris worth visiting
- Cross the pedestrian bridge of Pont Louis-Philippe and you’ll be on Ile Saint Louis. Read my full guide here to exploring Ile Saint-Louis.
- Stop by the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore
- Stroll through the nearby Latin Quarter
I hope you enjoy these things to do on Ile de la Cite as much as I do!
Until next time,
More Travel Info…
PARIS: Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller. And this guide on the Paris arrondissements will help you plan the best trip ever!
If you love that village feel in Paris these areas might interest you:
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.
Le Marais is one of the oldest areas of Paris. Once marshland, it is hopping with boutiques, cafés, gorgeous old mansions and museums. Read my full guide to le Marais.
Saint Germain des Prés -iconic Paris at its best!
Canal Saint-Martin is great fun to explore. Here is what to do in this Bobo quartier.
These hidden gems of Paris will lead you to uncover some super secrets in Paris.
FRANCE: If you are going further afield in France, make sure to check out my page on France.
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