Known as the heart of Paris and the city’s geographical centre, the Ile de la Cité is one of a pair of natural islands located in the Seine within the boundaries of the capital. Just a fifteen minute walk from the Hotel Louvre Bons Enfants, you can reach this historically significant island via the early 17th century Pont Neuf which, despite its name, is the oldest bridge still spanning the Seine. There are a number of attractions to be found on the island, some of which you may not have heard, and one that is world famous.
A short guide go the attractions of the Ile de la Cité
In the first century B.C., what is now known as the Ile de la Cité was a low lying, muddy island occupied by a small Gallic tribe called the Parisii. Long noted as an excellent defensive position, the island was gradually built up through the Middle Ages and is now a wonderfully characterful and picturesque location.
At the western end of the island can be found the Square du Vert Galant, named for King Henry IV and his amorous ways. Planted with ancient trees and surrounded by a wide, cobbled quay, this triangular park is a haven for bird life. Not far away is the Place Dauphine, an early example of the urban planning of that very same Henry IV. Laid out from 1607 to 1610, this is the oldest square in Paris and boasts some superb architecture. It is named for Louis XIII, who was at that time the dauphin, or heir apparent, of France.
Well worth a visit while you are on the island is the Conciergerie, a former prison where many languished during the French Revolution while awaiting the unwelcome attentions of Madame Guillotine. Queen Marie Antoinette was famously held within its imposing walls. Originally a Merovingian palace, this was the seat of the French kings from the 10th to the 14th centuries, prior to their move to the Louvre. A concierge, or keeper of the palace, was left in charge of the building, hence the name it came to be known by. Today it is a national historical monument. The Sainte Chapelle, a Gothic chapel, was added by Louis IX and is noted for its magnificent collection of stained glass in situ.
Naturally, no visit to the Ile de la Cité would be complete without exploring its most famous building, the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral. ‘Our Lady of Paris’ is situated on the eastern half of the island and remains the most outstanding example of French Gothic architecture in the world. Built on the site of an older cathedral, construction began in 1163 and was not completed until the mid-14th century. From the astonishing crypts beneath the building to the gargoyle carvings and sky-reaching spires towering over the city, it is breathtaking. Don’t miss the bird’s eye view of Paris afforded by this truly great building.
Ile de la Cité :
Metro : Cité, line 4 – Saint-Michel, lines 4, 10 – Châtelet, lines 7, 11, 14
Conciergerie : 2, boulevard du Palais, Paris 1er
Sainte Chapelle : 8, boulevard du Palais, Paris 1e
Notre Dame de Paris : 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, Paris 4e
Picture copyright holder : Tourist office Paris - Photographer Daniel Thierry
Hotel Louvre Bons Enfants - A distinguished 3 star hotel in Paris, at the heart of the Paris first district