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How to Explore the Three Islands of Paris

No matter how many times you have visited Paris, you might not know that three beautiful islands are hidden in plain sight along the river Seine, within the boundaries of France’s capital city. Take a trip with us to learn a little more.

The largest of Paris’ islands is Île de la Cité, home to some of the capital city’s most famous landmarks. Here you can find the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, royal chapel Sainte Chapelle, and the oldest surviving bridge that connects both banks of the river Seine, Pont Neuf.

This natural island is believed to be the site of the oldest settlement in Paris, once known as Lutetia. Île de la Cité’s central location and multiple bridges make it easily accessible for visitors. There is even a metro station on the island, Cité, whose platforms are buried deep beneath the waters of the Seine.

Marché aux fleurs market  |  Photo by Daniel Thierry

Place Louis-Lépine, a bustling square in the middle of the island, hosts a famous flower market, open every day of the week. Marché aux fleurs has been attracting visitors for the last three centuries, all eager to browse the extensive selection of exotic and seasonal flowers and plants. 

Following a fire in 2019, Notre Dame is undergoing repairs, but it is still possible to admire its beautiful façade. At night, the island and bridges are illuminated, making it the perfect destination for a magical evening walk 

Île St Louis is another natural island located in the city center and is connected to Île de la Cité by a bridge known as Pont St Louis. Although smaller in size than Île de la Cité, it is home to over 4,000 residents, who enjoy magnificent views across the river. Four further bridges connect the island to the right and left banks of the river Seine, making it a convenient stop on any itinerary.

Quay on the banks of the Seine  |  Photo Sarah Sergent

Famed for its 17th and 18th century buildings, this island boasts some imposing Hotels particuliers – stunning private mansions, with traditional architectural features. The central main street, Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île and the Quays (Quais) around the edge of the island make wonderful places to explore and photograph. 

If you tire of admiring gorgeous architecture, there are multiple ice cream cafes and crêperies at which to refuel. They are often housed in historic buildings, like the famous Glacier Berthillon, considered by many to serve the finest ice cream in the world. Only using natural ingredients, this superb ice cream parlor’s secret recipes have been attracting customers for over half a century.

Pont de Bir-Hakeim  |  Photo by Marc Bertrand

And finally, a lesser known Parisian island, which can be found just a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower. It is blessed with a wonderfully romantic name: Île aux Cygnes – The Isle of Swans. 

Just under 1km long and only 12m wide, this narrow, man-made island runs between two bridges, Pont de Grenelle and Pont de Bir-Hakeim. A third bridge crosses the middle of the island, Pont Rouelle.

The perfect place for a romantic stroll, Île aux Cygnes is less busy than the other two islands. With a long, tree-lined, central walkway called L’Allée des Cygnes (Swan Path) that runs the length of the island and is flanked by benches, this is a great spot to relax and watch the waters of the Seine flow past. 

Tour Eiffel  |  Photo by Sarah Sergent

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the island is a smaller replica of the Statue of Liberty that faces west at the tip of the island, close to Pont de Grenelle. This statue was donated to the city of Paris, by the American community in Paris in 1889. Although you can get close to the base of the statue on the island, perhaps the best view of it is from a riverboat, with the Eiffel tower on the right-hand side. This gives the opportunity to take a dream shot of the statue standing proudly at the tip of the island, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

River Seine islands Pont Saint-Louis  |  Photo by Daniel Thierry

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