Ile Saint-Louis is one of the river Seine’s two natural islands in Paris (the other being Ile de la Cité. Its name dates back to 1725 and is derived from that of King Louis IX, son of Louis VIII, who was nicknamed Saint Louis. Legend has it that the king had a habit of spending time alone and used to go and pray on the Ile aux Vaches, which was originally located on the eastern side of today’s island.
Both a residential and historical quarter of France’s capital city, this island is home to several flamboyant-fronted hotels overlooking the river Seine. Formerly known as the Ile des Palais because of these very hotels, the perfect architectural cohesion of the island draws in visitors. It was thanks to various urban construction projects undertaken during the reign of Louis XIII in the first half of the 17th century that the island looks as it does today. The easiest way to admire these architectural treasures is to walk along rue Saint-Louis-en-L’Ile which cuts right through the middle of the island, or along the quai de Béthune, which faces the left bank. Two must-sees along the way are the Hôtel Chenizot (number 53, on rue Saint-Louis-en-Ile) and Hôtel Lefebvre de la Malmaison (number 22, on quai de Béthune) in which Baudelaire lived between 1842 and 1843. Both of these hotels have stunning fronts.
Connected to the rest of Paris by six bridges, Ile Saint-Louis is in fact a peaceful place. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city, many a political personality and celebrity resides in this area. This ever popular district has even housed former president Georges Pompidou (number 24, rue de Béthune).
Rue Saint-Louis, which runs from one end of the island to the other, is lined with adorable boutiques with attractive fronts and mouthwatering window displays. For food-lovers, one can also find good quality restaurants serving traditional French dishes, as well as pleasant tea rooms.
For those feeling a little peckish or simply after a guilty pleasure, the famous ice creams, sorbets and ice cream cakes from Maison Berthillon, will certainly charm your palate. Situated in a quaint tea room at numbers 29-31 of rue Saint-Louis-en-Ile, Maison Berthillon, representing the know-how of French handicrafts since 1954, also serves breakfasts and home-made pastries. If the main branch is closed, you can try Flore en l’Ile, another authentic ice-cream maker also with a tea room and restaurant. With a Venetian style décor, here you can equally sample ice creams and pastries (including the famous mille-feuille) from Maison Berthillon. Facing the Saint-Louis bridge, the terrace of this lovely tea room benefits from sunshine throughout the day as well as a remarkable view of Notre-Dame cathedral.