What Is Île de la Cité in Paris?
Ile de la Cite is one of two natural islands in the Seine River that flow through Paris (the other being Île Saint-Louis). It’s located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, although its west end belongs to the first arrondissement.
Despite its small size, Île de la Cité is home to some of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Paris. Its name means “City Island” in French, and it’s easy to see why it’s called that – it’s urban through and through.
A Brief History of Ile de la Cite
Human presence on Ile de la Cité dates back to ancient times. A Gallic settlement may have existed there since the 3rd century BC. In fact, the name Paris comes from the small Gallic tribe of Parisii.
The Romans conquered the Parisii and established Lutetia, a fortress on the island. The town mainly developed on the Left Bank, with temples and baths being built there. The Romans expanded the island, building a new wharf and bridge.
In 486, Saint Genevieve negotiated the submission of Paris to the Franks. Soon, the city’s first cathedral was built close to today’s Notre Dame. The Capetian dynasty ruled the city and its surroundings from the Palais de la Cité.
The cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was constructed there in the 12th century, and the population of Île de la Cité grew steadily. Its famous landmarks were destroyed and rebuilt several times in history, most notably in the 19th century. Today, the island is a thriving tourist destination and one of the most popular places to visit in Paris.
The Many Attractions of Île de la Cité
There’s no shortage of things to see and do on Ile de la Cite. When you visit, take some time to admire the architecture, stroll along the river, and explore the island’s many attractions.
Notre Dame Cathedral
One of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world, Notre-Dame is a must-see for any visitor to Paris. Although it was partially destroyed by a fire in 2019, the cathedral is still an awe-inspiring sight.
Inside, you’ll find beautiful stained-glass windows, detailed sculptures, and the famous Notre Dame organ. Once the towers are open to the public again, you’ll be able to climb to the top for a breathtaking view of Paris!
West of the cathedral, you’ll find the Fontaine de la Vierge and the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. The Fontaine de la Vierge is a beautiful fountain that was built in 1856 and features a statue of the Virgin Mary. The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation is a monument dedicated to the 200,000 people who were deported from France during World War II.
This 13th-century chapel is home to some of the most beautiful stained glass windows in all of Europe. The chapel was built to house the Crown of Thorns, which is now on display at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Sainte Chapelle is located inside the historic Palais de la Cité (City Palace), adjacent to the Palais de Justice. If you’re interested in French history, this is the perfect place to learn more about the country’s kings and queens.
Another building inside the Palais de la Cité is the Conciergerie. This former palace was once home to the Kings of France, but it was later turned into a prison during the French Revolution.
Today, the Conciergerie is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Île de la Cité. You can explore the prison cells and learn about the famous prisoners who were held there, including Marie Antoinette.
The Square du Vert-Galant
This small park is located at the tip of Ile de la Cite and is the perfect place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing. The park is named after King Henry IV, who was nicknamed Vert-Galant (“Green Gallant”) because he had many mistresses, despite his advanced age.
In the summer, the Square du Vert-Galant is a popular spot for picnics and sunbathing. From the park, you’ll have a beautiful view of the Pont Neuf, one of Paris’ most iconic bridges. From there, you can walk to the Louvre.
The Place Dauphine
This picturesque square was built in the 17th century and is named after the Dauphin of France and future Louis III, the son of King Henry IV. The Place Dauphine is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Paris.
It’s a great place to enjoy a coffee or a meal at one of the nearby cafés. You can also find several art galleries and boutiques in the square.
The Place Louis Lépine
This square is named after a prefect of the Paris police who was known for his dedication to the city. There’s a bird and flower market in the square (Marché aux fleurs Reine-Elizabeth-II), where you can find fresh flowers, plants, and bird cages. If you’re looking for a souvenir to take home, this is the perfect place to find unique gifts and trinkets!
The Archaeological Crypt of the Île de la Cité
This underground museum is located underneath the Square du Vert-Galant. The crypt contains the remains of buildings that date back to the Roman era, when Ile de la Cite was first settled.
The Archaeological Crypt is a great place to learn about the history of Paris and see some amazing archaeological artifacts up close.
Explore Ile de la Cite and Take In the Views
If you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris, Île de la Cité is the perfect place to visit. With its beautiful buildings and tranquil parks, it’s easy to see why this island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.
What are your favorite things to do on Ile de la Cité? Let us know in the comments below!
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