Île Saint-Louis

The west (downstream) end of the Île Saint-Louis, seen from the Île de la Cité.
Map of Île Saint-Louis

The Île Saint-Louis (French pronunciation: [il sɛ̃ lwi]) is one of two natural islands in the Seine river, in Paris, France (the other natural island is Île de la Cité; the Île aux Cygnes is artificial).

The Île Saint-Louis is connected to the rest of Paris by four bridges to both banks of the river, and to the Île de la Cité by the Pont Saint-Louis. This island was formerly used for the grazing of market cattle and stocking wood.

The island is located within the 4th arrondissement of Paris and has a population of 4,453.


One of France's first examples of urban planning, it was mapped and built from end to end during the 17th-century reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII. A peaceful oasis of calm in the busy Paris centre, this island has only narrow one-way streets, no métro stations, and two bus stops. Most of the island is residential, but there are several restaurants, hotels, shops, cafés and ice cream parlours at street level, as well as one large church.

The Île Saint-Louis, an elegant neighborhood, was actually two natural islets in the Seine River – the Ile Notre Dame (which was the larger of the two) and the Ile aux Vaches (a small islet used as a cow pasture) – joined together in 1614. The Île Saint-Louis is named after Louis IX (Saint Louis), King of France from 8 November 1226 to 25 August 1270.[1]

At the start of the 16th century, the island was not yet named after King Louis IX, whose piety and generosity led him to be canonized in 1297, less than 30 years after his death.[1]

It was King Louis XIII, who reigned from 1610 (age 8) to 1643, along with the queen mother Marie de Médicis, who decided at the start of the 17th century to implement a great urban plan first devised by his father, King Henri IV, which transformed the two Ils.

The responsibility for the development of the Île Saint-Louis in the 17th century was given to Christophe Marie, general builder for Public Works. In exchange for his pro bono work, he was granted a license to build elegant residences. Along with the nobles, aristocrats, wealthy businessmen and politicians came here to live away from the noise of the inner city. Marie went into partnership with two builders, Lugles Poulletier and François Le Regrattier, and chose Louis Le Vau as architect. In 1614 the ditch between the two islets was filled in; and townhouses were constructed between 1620 and 1650. This island project, an architectural revolution, utilized a carefully drafted urban plan for the first time in Paris. It was no longer an option to build by just following the topography of the land. The new streets were built straight and perpendicular to a central axis. To reduce the risk of fires, stone and slate replaced wood, plaster and thatched roofs.

For the first time, dwellings were orientated towards the outside, rather than towards an inner courtyard, with windows and balconies looking out to river views. Courtyards were narrow and the usual gardens almost nonexistent. Aimed towards wealthy denizens, much effort was focused on the interior design of the apartments. The majority of the façades were rather sober, providing charm to the neighborhood. Only a few façades were decorated with heads or faces (mascrons). Only a few of the balconies were adorned with ornate ironwork. The few monumental doors that horse-drawn coaches rushed through hinted at the wealth of the owners. Along with Faubourg Saint-Germain and Le Marais, Île Saint-Louis was one of the most affluent neighborhoods in 17th and 18th century Paris.

It is still today a quiet and respectable district, with apartments costing up to $4 million. It is one of the most authentic and unaffected 17th- and 18th-century neighborhoods in Paris.

First constructed in 1622, the Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l'Île, an atmospheric building designed by François Le Vau, has a vast, stunning wooden door decorated with angels. Inside, it is impressive and immense;[2] the ornate Baroque style interior is a stark contrast to the sober exterior.

The Pont Saint-Louis entertainers (i.e., jazz bands, jugglers and mimes) perform on a small bridge that connects Île Saint-Louis with Île de la Cité.

One mansion built in the 1600s is today the refined and elegant Hôtel des Deux-Îles, offering 17 modern rooms, with the original blue earthenware tiles on the bathroom walls. Another large hôtel particulier, the Hôtel Lambert, was owned by Marquis du Chatelet, a notable aristocrat. The Hôtel Lauzun was its competitor.

Until the Revolution, Île Saint-Louis was often inhabited by aristocrats and nobles. This is recognized by the ornate hôtels particuliers and apartments from the 17th and 18th century.

Bridges that connect to the Île

West point of Île Saint-Louis and the Pont Louis-Philippe.
Île Saint Louis seen from the Tour Zamansky on the Rive Gauche. To the left is the Île de la Cité, with Notre Dame de Paris.

See also

References and sources

  1. 1 2 "Ile Saint Louis – Paris – France". francemonthly.com. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  2. Kelby Carr. "Paris Neighborhoods: The Ile Saint Louis". About.com Travel. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
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Coordinates: 48°51′06″N 2°21′23″E / 48.85167°N 2.35639°E / 48.85167; 2.35639

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