The Île Saint-Louis: An Island Gem in the Heart of Paris

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The Île Saint-Louis: An Island Gem in the Heart of Paris
You might think the Île Saint-Louis is all about Berthillon ice cream. And you would be partially—and deliciously—right. The famous brand has been one of the island’s claims to fame for more than 65 years.  But . . . there are many other treasures to discover. A Quick Quiz Let’s see how much you already know about the island (sans Google). The island is connected to the left bank, right bank, and Île de la Cité. How many bridges are there, and which is the oldest? What famous poet created a hashish club at the Hôtel de Lauzun on Quai d’Anjou? Name three iconic Paris landmarks that you can see from the Île Saint-Louis. Who is the island named after? (And, no, it’s not as easy as who is buried in Grant’s tomb. Be specific about the numeral.) What French sculptor had a studio on the island (Quai de Bourbon)? You’ll find the answers in this article, so read on (but try the questions first). Discovering the Île Saint-Louis While the Île Saint-Louis gets hype as an upscale island, providing a home to millionaires and celebrities seeking privacy, it is really a relatively quiet village with friendly merchants who know your name and cherish your friendship. The less-than-one-square kilometer area seems to defy Einstein and offer an expanded universe of history and storytelling. The island was once called Île aux Vaches (Cow Island), because it was an island dedicated to grazing cows for the more inhabited Île de la Cité next door.

Lead photo credit : Photo © Meredith Mullins

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Meredith Mullins is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris. Her work is held in private and museum collections in Europe and the U.S. and can be seen at or in her award-winning book "In A Paris Moment." She is a writer for OIC Moments and other travel and education publications.


  • Michael James
    2020-08-23 02:54:56
    Michael James
    That's interesting, and romantic, but all the old bridges across the Seine were transient structures until the era of more solid stone-arch construction of which the first was the Pont Neuf, which was one of its distinguishing features amongst others and the reason it is the oldest still-standing Paris bridge. Pont Marie was another of the earliest (the third IIRC) stone bridges after Pont Neuf set the trend. Rotting and falling down, or being damaged by river traffic--and road traffic--was the fate of the older bridges. It even happens to modern bridges such as the iron passerelle Pont des Arts (1804) whose central section was demolished by a boat in 1979--then replaced by a more modern steel double-span central segment to avoid two piers that were hazards to river traffic exiting the arches of Pont Neuf. More recently the bridge was under severe stress from the approx. 100 tonnes of lovelocks. The other bridge stressed by this dumb tourist vandalism is Pont de la Archeveché which is a tiny gem of a bridge that happens to join up to Pont St Louis behind Notré Dame. At least they can't burden Pont St Louis with tonnes of rusting metal! And actually that is at least part of the reason for the nature of the 1970 bridge. This short section of waterway is the narrowest part the navigable Seine. (The even narrower bras-de-Seine between Ile de la Cité/Leftbank--spanned by Pont de la Archeveché, the shortest and narrowest Parisian bridge--or between Ile St Louis and Rightbank, are not permitted to most boats, certainly not to big transport peniches or private boats.) To further complicate matters, on the south/east section just metres beyond the bridge (in front of the Memorial de la Déportation) is the cross-over point for boats: north and west of here the boats are travelling upstream alongside the Rightbank (ie. keeping to their left) but at this point they must crossover to the other side, travelling upstream alongside Leftbank (keeping to their right). You can see the traffic lights for the boats that regulate this manoeuvre (by memory, right on the quai at the Déportation memorial). The last thing they need is to worry about a bridge hazard so the modern bridge is a single-span prestressed-concrete affair which can be both low with no above-level structure to mess with the perspective of Notré Dame, but high enough above the river and almost flat across the whole span, to pose no hazard to river traffic.