Seine Islands Village Walk

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Welcome to The Seine Islands Walk on the Île de la Cité and the Île Saint Louis. Our walk begins at the Pont Neuf metro station on metro line 7. Exit the metro station and walk onto the Pont Neuf bridge or New Bridge that crosses the Seine river.

Seine Islands Walk

1. Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf. The Pont Neuf, or New Bridge, marked a departure from Medieval bridge construction. For the first time Parisians could enjoy the view of a bridge on the Seine, up until then all bridge views were obscured by houses and shops which crowded bridges in Paris. Building began in 1578 by King Henri III, but political troubles delayed the opening of the bridge until 1603 under Henri IV. The resulting structure spans the Seine river between the 1st quarter on the right bank, the westernmost point of the Île de la Cité, and the 6th quarter on the left bank, and provides a key crossing point. Seven semi-circular arches support the bridge on the main branch of the Seine and five on the small branch.
The next stop on the Seine Islands Walk is the statue of Henri IV. Walk along the Pont Neuf bridge towards the Île de la Cité. Once you're on the island stop in front of the statue of a man sitting on a horse.
2. Statue of Henri IV
Statue of Henri IV
Place du Pont Neuf. King Henry IV famously renounced Protestantism in 1593 saying, 'Paris is well worth a mass'. Despite his conversion poor King Henry was assasinated by a Catholic fanatic in 1610. Henry IV was compassionate, good humored, much loved by his people, and quite the womanizer. His dalliances earned him the nickname, Le Vert Galant, or the Green Galant. Paris erected a statue to good King Henry on the Île de la Cité in 1614, but it was ravaged by revolutionaries and had to be replaced with the current statue.
The walk continues at the Square du Vert-Galant. Walk down the steps behind the statue of Henry IV to the Square du Vert-Galant.
3. Vert-Galant Square
Vert-Galant Square
Place du Pont Neuf. When the Parisii established Lutèce around 52 B.C., the city was most likely constructed at the level of the Square Vert-Galant, not at the current street level of the Île de la Cité. The Île de la Cité actually was separated into three different islands: the Île des Passeurs de Vâches, the Île de la Gourdaine and the Île aux Juifs, where the garden of the Square du Vert-Galant is located. These three were united to form the current Île de la Cité in 1607. You'll have a great view of the city from the tip of this quiet oasis: the Institut de France on the left, the Louvre on the right, the Pont des Arts in the foreground, and the glass roof of the Grand Palais in the distance on the right.
The walk continues at the Vedettes de Pont Neuf flyboats. Walk back towards the stairs.
4. Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf flyboats
Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf flyboats
Square du Vert-Galant. This is one of several companies in Paris which offers cruises along the Seine river on 'bateaux mouches' or flyboats. The tour lasts one hour and a guide will tell you about the many landmarks which are visible from the boat: Nôtre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, etc. Taking such a cruise is a good way to get your bearings in Paris, while seeing many of the sights. The dock also has a café/bar for refreshments.
The next stop on the Seine Islands Walk is the Place Dauphine. Walk up the stairs, cross the street, and take rue H. Robert in between the two apartment buildings directly in front of you, notable for their brick and white stone façade and arcades.
5. Place Dauphine
Place Dauphine
Place Dauphine. The construction of this triangular place on the Île de la Cité was part of Henry IV's urban development efforts which began in 1607, and also included the Place des Vosges. This square was named in honor of Henry IV's son, le dauphin, the future King Louis XIII.
The walk continues at the Palais de la Justice. Walk through the Place Dauphine to the imposing Palais de la Justice on the east end of the square.
6. Palais de la Justice
Palais de la Justice
2, rue de Harley. If architecture is language, then the columned façade of the Palais de la Justice exudes royal power and impending judgement. The eagles crowning the building recall Napoleon, whose Napoleonic code still shapes French civil law today. The Palais de la Justice existed long before Napoleon's time, as it was the residence and the seat of the kings of France from the 10th to 14th centuries. Today the Palais still houses the highest French courts, la Cour de Cassation and the Cour d'appel.
The walk continues at the Tour de l'Horloge. Walk north towards the Seine, turn right onto Quai de l'Horloge, and at the corner of Quai de l'Horloge and boulevard du Palais and look up to see the clock.
7. Tour de l'Horloge and the Palais de la Justice
Tour de l'Horloge and the Palais de la Justice
boulevard du Palais. A walk along the Quai de l'Horloge, will give you a better appreciation of the size of the massive Palais. Just think, 24 kilometers of corridors and 7,000 doors, through which pass on average 15,000 people per day, tourists included. As you walk you may see people looking out of one of the 3,150 windows! The medieval clock tower on the corner of Quai de l'Horloge and boulevard du Palais displays the first public clock in Paris. It was built in 1370, by the order of Charles V.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the Conciergerie. Continue on down the boulevard du Palais to number 2.
8. The Conciergerie
The Conciergerie
2, boulevard du Palais. Does all the power and glory of Philippe the Fair's reign in the early 14th century emanate from this building? Charles V transferred the seat of the French royalty to the Louvre. He left the building in the care of the a Concierge. Today the magnificient medieval vaulted Hall of the Men-at-Arms in the Conciergerie contrasts with reconstructed prison cells of the French Revolution. By 1793 the Conciergerie was the main jail and detention center for enemies of the French Revolution, even Marie Antoinette was incarcerated here before losing her head. As you visit Marie Antoinette's cell, imagine her waiting to be taken to the guillotine on the Place de la Concorde.
The walk continues at the Sainte Chapelle. Continue down boulevard du Palais and glance at the monumental stairs, façade, and wrought iron gates of the Cour de Mai as you pass by. The entrance to the Sainte Chapelle is a little further on your right.
9. The Sainte Chapelle
The Sainte Chapelle
6, boulevard du Palais. Truly the place of worship of kings, the Sainte Chapelle is arguably the most glorious example of Gothic architecture in existence. Built in just two years (1246-1248) for Louis IX, known as Saint Louis, it housed important Christian relics and stood in the courtyard of the royal palace. The lower chapel was built for the palace servants and is simply decorated in blue and red painted stone and fleur-de-lys. Brace yourself for a shock as you climb the narrow steps to the upper chapel. Bask in the light, grace, balance, and weightlessness of the 15 stained glass windows which have dissolved the walls with a little help from flying buttresses on the exterior walls. The probable architect was Pierre de Montreuil and the chapel was completely restored by Viollet-Le-Duc in the 19th century.
The walk continues at the Flower and Bird market. When you exit the Sainte Chapelle, take rue de Lutèce across from the Sainte Chappelle exit until you reach place Louis Lépine. You're headed for the Flower and Bird markets, which are housed in long green bunker-like buildings.
10. Flower and Bird Market on the Ile de la Cité
Flower and Bird Market on the Ile de la Cité
place Louis Lépine. The Île de la Cité is home to the biggest and best flower market in Paris every day except Sunday, when the bird market takes over Place Louis Lépine. A stone's throw from the Notre-Dame Cathedral flowers unfurl their petals throughout the square alongside bonsais, potted houseplants, palm trees, seeds, books, tools, and fertilizer. Wander among the roses, hydrangeas, freesias, orchids, and let their fresh fragrances tickle your nose. The flower market is a great place to buy a bouquet to brighten a rented apartment or hotel room.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the Hôtel Dieu hospital. From the flower market take a right onto rue de la Cité, a road that dates from Roman times, and then a left onto the Parvis de Notre Dame/place Jean Paul II. You should already see tourists teeming on the square in front of Notre-Dame, but duck into the garden of the Hôtel Dieu hospital on your left before facing the crowds.
11. Hôtel Dieu hospital and courtyard
Hôtel Dieu hospital and courtyard
1, Parvis Notre-Dame Place Jean Paul II. Would you like to be treated at a hospital founded in the 7th century? Walk through the front doors of the Hôtel Dieu and enter the garden, a funny-looking neo-Florentine quadrangle. The Hôtel Dieu was, as you may have guessed, Paris's first hospital. The church managed the hospital until the 17th century, and the hospital relied on the nearby Seine for water for cooking and cleaning. After a fire in 1772, authorities hastened to improve poor sanitary conditions in the hospital. Following Louis Pasteur's work on the spread of microorganisms causing disease in the early 1860s, doctors at the Hôtel Dieu began sterilizing medical instruments and isolating contagious patients.
The walk continues at the Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame. Exit the hospital and walk straight across the street towards the crypt, slightly to your right. Remember as you go that the Parisii from which Paris got its name walked the same ground as early as the 2nd century B.C.
12. Archaeological Crypt under the Parvis Notre-Dame
Archaeological Crypt under the Parvis Notre-Dame
7, Parvis Notre-Dame Place Jean Paul II. As you cross the Parvis de Notre-Dame, under you lie elements from the successive buildings constructed on the site from Ancient times to the 19th century: the docks of the port of Lutetia, public Gallo-Roman baths, underground remains of the chapel of the Hôtel Dieu, medieval remains of the rue Neuve Notre-Dame. Centuries of urban planning laid out for the eye to see.
The walk continues at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Continue walking towards Notre-Dame Cathedral.
13. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
Parvis Notre-Dame. Jewel of Gothic architecture and medieval craftsmanship, Notre-Dame Cathedral with its flying buttresses, rose windows, spire, and soaring towers is one of Paris's most well-known symboles. Building on a new cathedral under Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, began in 1163 and construction took over 200 years and cut through a maze of alleys, closely-built wooden houses, and seventeen chapels. A city within the city of Paris continued thriving around the cathedral, the Hôtel Dieu hospital, the cathedral school and a choir school. Many historical events took place here: the future King Henry IV wed Marguerite de Valois in 1572, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France in 1804, and a funeral for Charles de Gaulle was held here in 1970. Do go in and have a look.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Turn right out of the cathedral and take an immediate right onto rue du cloître Notre-Dame. The entrance is on the side of the cathedral.
14. The Towers of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
The Towers of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
rue du cloître Notre-Dame. Are you a fan of gargoyles? A visit of the towers goes through the upper parts of the 13th century western façade and past 102 gargoyles in the Galerie des Chimères. The stunning views of Paris along are worth the 387 stairs you'll climb.
The walk continues in medieval Paris - rue Massillon. Continue along rue du cloître Notre-Dame and turn left onto rue Massillon.
15. Medieval Paris - rue Massillon
Medieval Paris - rue Massillon
rue Massillon. You are entering the oldest part of the Île de la Cité. The rue Massillon showcases a few old homes. Number 8 is the 18th century Hôtel Roger-de-Gaillon, home to the cathedral choir school.
The walk continues with ghastly medieval happenings on rue Chanoinesse.Turn left onto rue Chanoinesse and stroll up the street.
16. Medieval murders on rue Chanoinesse
Medieval murders on rue Chanoinesse
rue Chanoinesse. This street was one of the main arteries of the Notre-Dame cloister founded in 911. Originally a housing area exclusively reserved for the Chanoines, members of the clergy, it was an area free from taxes and the arm of royal law. Outsiders, especially women, were forbidden to enter, though many a nobleman found lodging here in the 15th century. Legend tells of a conspiracy here between a barber and a baker with neighboring businesses during the Middle Ages. The baker was well known for his excellent pastries and from time to time the barber killed a client, and dumped the body through a trapdoor into the basement he shared with his neighbor, the baker. The baker then confectioned the most succulent pastries. This went on until the barber killed a man accompanied by a dog, whose incessant mournful howling alerted the authorities. Tim Burton's recent film 'Sweeney Todd' is reminiscent of this story...As you walk up the street, steer clear of barber shops, bakeries, and maybe the police?
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is Au Bougnat Bistro at number 26, rue Chanoinesse.
17. Au Bougnat Bistro
Au Bougnat Bistro
26, rue Chanoinesse. Relaxed French cuisine and a good price/quality ratio for the otherwise expensive and touristy part of the Île de la Cité. Au Bougnat is open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and everything in between. Polish your French reading skills over coffee and croissants while leafing through a communal copy of L'Equipe or Le Parisien from the bar. At lunchtime you'll find Burgundy beef, warm goat cheese salad, and the ubiquitous steak/frites, all to be washed down with wine from many different regions of France. Many, many wines are available by the glass.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is City limits of Roman Lutèce. Continue along the rue Chanoinesse and turn right onto rue de la Colombe.
18. City limits of Roman Lutèce
City limits of Roman Lutèce
6, rue de la Colombe. An inscription on the wall past number 6 rue de la Colombe indicates that this was the city limits of Lutèce, the Roman city first mentioned by Julius Caesar in 52 B.C. The wall dates from the 3rd century A.D., when inhabitants sought greater security and protection of the Île de la Cité. Can you see the stones of the Roman wall? Hint, the Roman wall once stood where a at the intersection of two sections of cobblestones on the rue de la Colombe.
The walk continues at the residence of Jean Racine. Turn right onto rue d'Ursins and walk to number 7.
19. Former residence of Jean Racine, French playwright
Former residence of Jean Racine, French playwright
7, rue d'Ursins. The rue d'Ursins dates from the 14th century and still boasts many old homes and medieval details. Enjoy the view of the Hôtel de Ville across the Seine on your left. Jean Racine, a 17th century French playwright and poet known for his tragedies, lived at number 7.
The walk continues in the Square Jean XXIII. Continue down the rue d'Ursins and take a right on rue des Chantres, walk down the street and turn left onto rue Chanoinesse. Enter the Square Jean XXIII at the end of the street.
20. Jean XXIII square
Jean XXIII square
4, place du Parvis Notre-Dame. As you enter the garden from the north, remember that this area was part of the cloister of Notre-Dame (est. 911 A.D.). The last medieval homes were removed in the 1840s to make room for the garden, whose excellent views of the cathedral's flying buttresses, rose window, and sculptures are unparalleled. Named after Pope Jean XXIII, the square is a great place to relax in the summer weather with lots of shaded benches and lovely flowers.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. Cross the street behind the garden, part of the Pont de l'Archevevêché, and head to the Holocaust memorial, located in the Square de l' Île de France, on the tip of the Île de la Cité.
21. Memorial of the martyrs of the deportation
Memorial of the martyrs of the deportation
Square de l' Île de France. Descend the stairs to a sunken courtyard which leads to a crypt. Here stands a memorial to the more than 76,000 Jews who were sent to Nazi camps from France during World War II. Multitudes of candles inside the crypt provide a a chilling reminder of the people deported and the lives extinguished by the Nazis during this dark period of recent history.
The walk continues at the Berthillon Ice cream shop on the île Saint Louis. Turn right out of the memorial park and cross the short Pont Saint Louis. Take rue Saint Louis en l'Île, which will be straight in front of you and slightly to your left as you leave the bridge. Berthillon is located at 31, rue Saint Louis en l'île.
22. Berthillon Ice Cream parlour
Berthillon Ice Cream parlour
26, rue Saint Louis en l'île. Most of the Île Saint Louis was developed thanks to Henry IV, who was most unfortunately murdered before fulfilling his dream of creating a 'beau quartier' here. Royal architect Louis Le Vau helped achieve this goal by transforming the island between 1612-1670. Le Vau left architectural footprints in many places on the île Saint Louis as you'll see, and the fine architectural features of this 'beau quartier' are enjoyed by the general public.He also designed the magnificent Vaux-le-Vicomte castle, and parts of Versailles and the Louvre. The city of Paris has helped preserve the dream of a 'beau quartier'by not putting any metro stations on the island, and walking down rue Saint Louis en l'île is somewhat like walking down main street. Continue on and enjoy this French ice cream and sorbet institution. Raymond Berthillon carefully selects the ingredients for Berthillon's ice cream: vanilla from Madagascar, chocolat from the Ivory Coast, and the freshest fruits. These ingredients are mixed with a daily delivery of milk to provide 69 flavors of homemade ice cream and sorbet. You can relax in the salon de thé and pay a premium price for the space, ice cream concoction and shade, or you can wait in line outside and get your ice cream to go. Both options have advantages, but whatever your budget, don't miss out on this oh so Parisian treat!
The walk continues at the Saint Louis en l' Île church. Continue onwards to 19 bis rue Saint Louis en l' Île.
23. St-Louis-en-l'Ile church
St-Louis-en-l'Ile church
19, bis rue Saint Louis en l' Île. The royal architect Louis Le Vau designed this church, whose construction was completed in 1726. Note the iron clock at the entrance, dating from 1741 and the pierced iron spire. The interior is richly decorated in the Baroque style with lots of marble and gilding. Louis IX is the only King of France who was canonized, and many places bear his name, most notably Saint Louis, Missouri in the USA.
The walk continues at the Pont Marie. Continue down rue Saint Louis en l' Île, turn left onto the rue Poulletier, and take the first right onto the Quai d'Anjou.
24. Pont Marie bridge and quai d'Anjou
Pont Marie bridge and quai d'Anjou
quai d'Anjou. Built by Christophe Marie between 1614-1635, it is one of Paris's oldest bridges. Imagine the flood that carried away two of the bridge arches and twenty houses in 1658. Upon closer inspection, you'll see that the bridge arches are all different.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the Hôtel Lauzun. With the Pont Marie behind you, head to 17, quai d'Anjou.
25. Hôtel de Lauzun
Hôtel de Lauzun
17, Quai d'Anjou. The Hôtel Lauzun is perhaps the crown jewel of the hôtels particuliers fon the île Saint Louis rom the time of King Louis XIV. The ironwork on the balcony and gutters is lovely, and the intertwined initials of the original owner and his wife, GM, remain. The luxurious interior with its rich carved, painted, mirrored and gilded interior is stunning, as are the furniture and objets d'art from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Bravo,Monsieur Louis Le Vau! Unfortunately this home isn't open to the general public, but you can reserve a spot on one of the bi-monthly tours by calling the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. If you're stuck outside, another interesting tidbit is that Charles Baudelaire and Theophile Gautier lived here for awhile in the 19th century. They and some others formed their Club de Haschichins where they documented their experiments with the drug. It was also in this house that Baudelaire wrote the first poems of Les Fleurs du Mal.
The walk continues at the home of Honoré Daumier. Keep going to 9, Quai d'Anjou.
26. Former residence of Honoré Daumier, French caricaturist
Former residence of Honoré Daumier, French caricaturist
9, Quai d'Anjou. Honoré Daumier, the great caricaturist, sculptor, painter, and printmaker lived in this house. He is perhaps best known for his political caricatures and sculptures as well as his satirical portrayal of his countrymen. His work can be viewed in many museums, among them the Musée d'Orsay and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The walk continues at the Syndicat de la Boulangerie. Walk to 7, Quai d'Anjou.
27. Baker's Union
Baker's Union
7, Quai d'Anjou. Step inside the door inside the entryway and examine the decorative plates with scenes of bakers at work in the 18th from Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie. History tells us that Napoléon Bonaparte issued a decree in 1801 for the establishment of a union for bakers. Back then four elected bakers set the price for bread based on the price of flour. Today the Union supports and defends the interests of bakers in Paris and several surrounding suburbs. Oh yes, in France croissants and their makers have a union!
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the Hôtel de Marigny. Go to 5, Quai d'Anjou.
28. Hôtel de Marigny
Hôtel de Marigny
5, Quai d'Anjou. This home dates from the golden age of building on the île Saint Louis. It was completed in 1640.
The walk continues at the Hôtel Lambert at 2, Quai d'Anjou.
29. Hôtel Lambert
Hôtel Lambert
1, Quai d'Anjou. Yet another splendid work from the architectural mind of Louis Le Vau, conceived for the financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert. The house's colorful history began in 1642, when Le Vau built himself a small house next door to his masterpiece. Voltaire lived here in 1742 with his lover and owner of the Hôtel, the Marquise du Châtelet. Bought by a powerful Polish family, the Czartoryskis, in 1843, the Hôtel Lambert hosted the most notable artists of the time: Frédéric Chopin, Zygmunt Krasinski, Alphonse de Lamartine, George Sand, Honoré de Balzac, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix and Adam Mickiewicz. Chopin's 'La Polonaise' was composed exclusively for the Polish ball held at the Hôtel Lambert. The Rothschild family owned the residence from 1975 to 2007, when it was purchased by an Arab prince of Qatar for the sum of 111 million dollars.
The next stop on the Seine Islands walk is the ruins of the Bastille prison. Turn left off of the île Saint Louis and turn left onto the Pont de Sully. Cross the Seine river and continue to the Square Henri Galli on your left.
30. Bastille prison foundations
Bastille prison foundations
Square Henri Galli. The stone ruins here are part of the round base of one of the eight towers of the Bastille prison. Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille in 1789 as an act of protest against rising inflation and King Louis XVI. The French Revolution had begun and Robespierre's bloody Reign of Terror soon followed. Sixty thousand enemies of the Revolution were executed without trial.
This is the end of the Seine Islands Walk. The nearest metro is Sully-Morland on metro line 7. Turn left out of the square Henri Galli, et marchez jusqu'au métro sur le boulevard Henri IV.
Distance: 3km
Estimated duration: 4h
Beginning of the walk: Pont Neuf
End of the walk: Bastille prison foundations