Île Saint Louis

Île Saint Louis (7)

The city of Paris was founded on its islands. The first to be inhabited was Île de la Cité. The urbanisation of Île Saint Louis was quite a bit later. This island is currently a kind of oasis within the city, a quiet place to stroll around and forget the traffic, noise and crowds. Even two hundred years ago the writer Louis Sebastien Mercier said that this district, “seems to have been saved from the massive corruption of the city, still keeping itself to one side”.

The appearance of the island has not changed much since then. From its jetties bordered by stately homes you can get some fantastic panoramic views of Paris.

Previously it was known as Île de Notre Dame and was no more than a mire that flooded when the waters of the Seine rose. The washerwomen would go there to dry their clothes and in the Middle Ages it was the where the “legal duels” were held, which were allowed as evidence in trials. 

It was the engineer Christophe Marie who began to fit out the island in 1614. He had promised Louis XIII to join the island to the two banks of the river by means of stone constructions, to surround it with jetties and build streets and houses. In 1630 the Pont Marie was completed and fifteen years later the Pont de la Tournelle. Marie confronted the works in rather irregular economic conditions. The first bridge carries his name as homage to his efforts, since he died in 1653 completely ruined. 

The jetties were completed in 1650 and its straight, orderly streets with their well-ventilated houses were a great success at the time, initiating a new form of urban planning in a city. The rooms in the stately homes face the jetties and not the inner courtyards, as was the custom. Here one could enjoy the air and the views. 

The main street of the district is Rue Saint Louis en l’Île. You can reach it from the pedestrian bridge of Saint Louis, rebuilt in 1970. And one of the first stops you will make on this street is the Aux Anysetiers du Roy tavern, the anisette makers of the king, opened in the 17th century and which still conserves a large part of its original charm.

And of course, like any district in Paris, the island also has its church. Saint Louis en l’Île, built between 1664 and 1726 by the architect Louis Le Vau and which is a perfect example of French Baroque style, of which we would highlight its iron clock at the entrance dating from 1741. And naturally, its Baroque style interior is profusely decorated in gold and marble.

The charm of this island lies in its stately homes and above all its jetties, which are well worth a stroll along. The Quai d’Anjou, Bourbon, Orléans or Béthune conserve beautiful mansions and traditional taverns.

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