Lose the crowd in the heart of Paris: The joys of exploring the island of Ile St Louis
- Ile St Louis is a little island in Paris connected to Notre Dame by a footbridge
- It was developed in the 17th Century as an extension of the Marais district
- Cafe Le Flore en L’Ile has the best views of Notre Dame and the Left Bank
Next time you visit Paris, carve out some time to visit Ile St Louis.
This little island, connected to Notre Dame by a footbridge, has no famous monuments and no Metro link, but is the perfect choice for a quiet pause or a stroll away from the crowds.
Just under half a mile long, it was developed in the 17th Century as an extension of the newly fashionable Marais district, in the style which reached its apogee at Versailles and gives the island its satisfying architectural unity.
Ile St Louis is the perfect choice for a quiet pause or a stroll away from the crowds
Today it is a favourite place for many Parisians to take their Sunday walks, buy an ice cream or just sit on its quiet quaysides. They come to play the guitar, picnic, sunbathe and take in the views of Paris across the sparkling water.
The normal roar of traffic is dissolved by the river, meaning the main sounds on Ile St Louis are gulls, drifting commentaries from the passing bateaux-mouches – the open-top tourist boats – and the waves washing against the quay in their wake.
A friend visiting from London was astonished to notice that several sunny hours had sped by as we sat talking on the quay, surrounded by young Parisians who were barely making a sound. That could never have happened in London, she said, deeply impressed.
You’ll find that the cafe Le Flore en L’Ile has the best views of Notre Dame and the Left Bank.
A very Parisian snack of oysters and a glass of white wine can be had at Poget & De Witte’s oyster bar, or something sweeter can be found at Berthillon’s ice-cream parlour, founded in 1954 and famous for using only natural ingredients.
Drink it in: The best views of Notre Dame are from Le Flore en L’Ile cafe
Afterwards, admire the baroque church of St Louis-en-l’Ile.
Also take time to see the Hotel Lambert, the grand, privately owned mansion which was designed and decorated in 1640 by the creators of Versailles and overlooks the eastern tip of the island. Considered one of the most beautiful houses in Paris, it is currently owned by the brother of the Emir of Qatar.
Next door, the equally resplendent Hotel de Lauzun has drainpipes in the form of dolphins, with their scales picked out in gold.
- Annabel Simms is the author of An Hour From Paris and Half An Hour From Paris.
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