Île de la Cité is a tiny island situated in the historical center of Paris, with Saint-Germain-des-Près to the west and the Marais to the east. It is quintessentially Parisian in vibe with an undeniably quaint charm and an air of mystery. The island lies on the mandatory Paris visitor’s roadmap near Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle. But Île de la Cité has many more secret corners worth exploring.
King Clovis I first established his palace here back in 508 A.D. It was the home of French rulers until the 12th century, when they moved to the Louvre Palace. Apart from history and architecture, the island has some of the most beautiful and Instagrammable cafés. There are picture-perfect corners that hold many a story of Paris’s first kings, star-crossed lovers and in one instance, a killer barber.
The Seine provides the dramatic background for incredible views, especially during sunset. My favourite thing about Île de la Cité is that one can always find pockets of quiet serenity here, even if the surrounding areas are bustling with tourists. Here are some cool spots not to be missed:
Au vieux Paris d’Arcole
This café is housed in a building that was constructed in 1512! This is one of the most iconic cafés in Paris, with its wisteria laden façade making it memorable and inviting. The wisteria vines are in full bloom during spring. It is a sight not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be in Paris then. The café’s splendid terrace, dotted with purple tables under the wisteria vines make it an ideal stop for coffee or a glass of wine. The interiors here are also as stunning as the exterior.
Marché aux fleurs Reine-Elizabeth II
If you love flowers and are a fan of Parisian florists, who are an institution onto themselves, this place will leave you spellbound. Originally called, ‘Le marché aux fleurs et aux oiseaux’ (flower and bird market) the Marché has been around since the early 1800s. In this historic market, you are greeted with a maze of flowers beneath antique wrought iron pavilions with a glass roof. It combines the rustic charm of a flower market with the richness of French history and tradition. The market remains open on all days of the week, with Monday through Saturday being dedicated to flowers, while the bird market takes place on Sundays.
Place Dauphine has been unofficially touted as the prettiest square by many a visitor and Parisians alike (including yours truly). It was built by Henry IV in 1609 for his son Louis XIII, and the name comes from the title ‘Dauphin de France’, which referred to the heir to the throne.
This triangle-shaped square is covered by a canopy of chestnut trees making it breezy and shaded. The square is also enclosed on all three sides by rows of beautiful buildings, whose original façades have been preserved. These buildings now house many bars and restaurants, with terraces popping up outdoors during the warmer months. Place Dauphine is also a very popular spot to play pétanque, a beloved outdoor ball game in France.
Square du Vert-Galant
Square du Vert-Galant is a peninsular park, on the western-most tip of Île de la Cité. It offers spectacular views of places such as Pont des Arts, Louvre Museum, and Hotel de la Monnaie, among other Parisian landmarks. The best way to enjoy this square is to pack a picnic or get a drink, sit along the edge of the river bank and watch the sun go down. The 360 degree view of Paris from the tip of this tiny park is an unforgettable way to end a beautiful day in one of the most romantic neighborhoods of Paris.
- Au vieux Paris d’Arcole – 24 rue Chanoinesse, 75004 Paris
- Marché aux fleurs Reine Elizabeth II – 37 place Louis Lépine, 75004 Paris
- Place Dauphine – Paris 75001
- Square du Vert-Galant – 15 place du Pont Neuf, 75001 Paris
- More from the author: Cooking with my French Husband: French Kitchen Secrets
- Read more on the history of Île de la Cité from French Moments
- Check out our rentals in Paris near Île de la Cité!
Written by Pronoti Baglary for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.