Along the Seine and Notre-Dame | The city that lies between two branches of a river

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The Seine turned Paris into a major merchant city as well as the political and cultural crossroads of France. In fact, the city’s coat of arms is a boat and its motto is Fluctuat nec mergitur or “It floats but does not sink”. The Seine is an integral part of the history of Paris; it is the French capital’s blood supply and lifeline. Separating the city in two, it links the left and right banks with 37 bridges, 4 of which are pedestrianised. At its heart, the heart of Paris, are two natural islands, the Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis, which together constitute the geographical and spiritual centre of the French capital.

In the morning…

Emblematic monuments and an olden-day atmosphere. At the heart of Paris is the Île de la Cité, where it all began! The royal powers resided there for four centuries before moving to the right bank. The former royal domain can still be seen today, with the Palais de Justice, Sainte-Chapelle de Saint-Louis and the Conciergerie (a prison of terror). One boulevard, three historical sites:
1/ Let’s begin at the beginning, with La Conciergerie, the oldest witness to the Palais de la Cité and a prison at the time of the French Revolution. This is where Marie-Antoinette was locked up in 1793 before being guillotined. Cells have been rebuilt, and amongst other things visitors can see the guillotine blade that killed the writer and criminal Lacenaire in 1836. Not for the faint hearted…
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2/ Continue your visit at the Palais de Justice next door. Here justice was laid down by the royal court. The king may have left in the 14th century, but the legal jurisdictions still remain, including the High Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal and the High Court. Guides will take you through this maze of 24km of corridors (advance booking required)!
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3/ Located in the same enclosure as the Palais de Justice, the Sainte-Chapelle is open to the public. Admire its unique stained glass windows, symbols of Heavenly Jerusalem. This amazing gothic buiding was built by Saint Louis in the very heart of the Palais de la Cité.
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4/ To end the morning on a high note, take a stroll around the flower and bird market on place Louis Lépine. Half-way between a covered market and an open one, it specialises in flowers, birds and small domestic animals and is made up of pavilions that date back to 1900. A taste of the country in the city…

At lunchtime…

After such a long walk, it must be time for lunch. Nature-lovers (weather permitting) can enjoy a picnic on one of the benches on square Jean XXIII. With Notre-Dame cathedral on one side and the Seine on the other, the setting alone will make it a special lunch. The rest of us can take a break on the sun-kissed terrace at Café Louis Philippe (if the sun decides to put in an appearance). In a 19th century setting, the food is traditional French fare; from boeuf bourguignon to frogs’ legs or stuffed tomates, this is 100% French cuisine! Alternatively, La Nouvelle Seine is a boat that serves lunch, Ze Kitchen Galerie is a place for “arty food” and Les Fous de l’île specialises in pork… As you like it!

While your lunch goes down…

Take time out to digest your lunch and treat yourself to a boat trip by batobus or bateau mouche. Over the course of 20 minutes, you can admire over 2,000 years of history! This post-prandial break is worth going out of your way for…
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In the afternoon…

6/ Don’t miss visiting the renowned Notre-Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cite. Ground zero is marked by a bronze star on the cathedral forecourt. Standing here, you are officially at the centre of Paris. In front of this legend of astounding proportions (127 metres long and 48 wide), one can suddenly feel very small…

What is the best way to visit it? Methodically: begin with the outside, then the interior, before the 13th century towers with their gargoyles and 19th century chimeras from Viollet-le-Duc, not forgetting the 18th century Bourdon. The little extra, during the summer months, is that Paris Zig-Zag can take you to Quasimodo’s deserted towers at night. An unusual and memorable visit!
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After all the climbing, it will be nice to wander a little through the surrounding streets. And why not take a walk on other side, specifically the other island? Ile Saint-Louis is the last remaining natural island on the Seine. Only 2,500 privileged “Ludovisians” get to live there. This former “Isle of Cows” is romantic and teems with splendid town houses such as Hôtel de Lauzun with its balcony with golden fish.
7/ Walk up and down the streets of this magical island, filled with authentic shops that are each prettier than the last. Stop at the Antiquités de l’île Saint-Louis shop that specialises in luxury antiques, with Chanel and Hermès on display alongside a fine collection of watches and jewellery. Go to 78 ISL where Sidney Carron’s jewellery that is made in the Marais is combined with high quality clothes and accessories. Hang out in Pylones, the fun shop that transforms everyday objects to add a little humour to them. More traditional, you can buy a candle or some interior fragrances at Durance where the scents are 100% made in France. For diehard fans of art and the unusual, take a look at Art Ludik. Comic books, animation, cinema, mangas, video games… all masterpieces. And foodies can head for the Épicerie du Terroir where foie gras and culinary treasures from the south-west of France mingle with rare regional wines. Better still, the sales staff are all experts and know how to advise.
8/ You should also go to square Louis Barye to enjoy the scent of the flowers and see the copy of Barye’s Theseus (19th century). This “eco-friendly green space” is the very tip of the island.
9/ It’s time for a treat at Berthillon before heading to the right bank. This is THE Parisian ice-cream vendor! Not to mention one of the best in the world… Take a trip around the colours, textures and flavours, none of which are made using chemical. The secret recipes blend milk, eggs, wild strawberries or pink grapefruit. A genuine taste sensation.
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Cross the Pont Marie bridge to get to the right bank in the 1st arrondissement.
10/ Head for the forecourt of Place de l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris (Paris City Hall). You recognise the metro station, have passed by the building on foot or by bus, but what do you really know about this building that was completed in 1882? On the pediment are countless statues of famous Parisians: artists, politicians, scholars and industrialists and of friendly cities. It can be visited by appointment (protocol department) from the Reception Room to the Provosts’ Room and even the Mayor’s office (if the Mayor is not in, of course).
11/ Now head for the Tour Saint-Jacques park. It stands before you, 54 metres tall. The tower was the bell tower of the former church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, founded, it is said, by Charlemagne. Reopened in 2013, it welcomes visitors in a slow trickle. The challenge is climbing the 300 steps. The reward is Paris at your feet! You have been warned…
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12/ Continue your path on Rue de Rivoli, one of the biggest shopping streets in Paris. Then turn onto rue de l’Amiral de Coligny to visit the Artisan Parfumeur. Considered to be one of the most iconoclastic and exclusive perfume houses in the world, the Artisan Parfumeur offers refined, original fragrances that contain a hint of French “je ne sais quoi”. A souvenir that is so very French!
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13/ The final stop is at the passerelle des Arts , the footbridge facing the Pont Neuf and the Ile de la Cité or the Pont du Carrousel with the Eiffel Tower in the background depending on which way you face… Cross the Seine at the Louvre, where it offers one of the prettiest views in Paris, famous throughout the world for its “love locks” padlocked by couples to the railings to seal their love before throwing the key into the river. This is a pretty weighty proof of love, with between 40 and 90 tonnes of padlocks estimated to be attached to the bridge!
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The itinerary addresses

Monuments and places to visit
La Conciergerie, 2 bd du Palais, 75001 Paris
Métro: Cité, Saint-Michel ou Châtelet
Daily: 9h30-18h

Price: €8.50 | €5.50 (reduced price)

Le Palais de Justice,  4 bd du Palais, 75001 Paris
Métro: Cité
+33 (0)1 44 32 70 70
La Sainte-Chapelle,  8 bd du Palais, 75001 Paris
Métro: Cité
Daily: 9.30am-6pm | Nov 1 to Feb 28: 9am-5pm
Price: €8.50 | €5.50 (reduced price)
Marché aux fleurs et aux oiseaux, Place Louis Lépine et Quai de la Corse, 75004 paris
Métro: Cité
Daily: from 8am to 7.30pm | Sunday from 8am to 7pm for the bird market.
Free entrance
Square Jean XXIII, 4 place du parvis notre dame, 75004 Paris

Daily: 8am to 9.30pm (visitng times vary depending on the seasons)
Free entrance
Batobus | Bateaux mouches, Quai Branly, port de la Bourdonnais 75007 Paris
Métro: Bir-Hakeim

Daily: 10am-7pm (9.30pm from April 6 to Sept 2)
Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II 75004 Paris

Métro: Cité or Saint-Michel
Daily: 8am-6.45pm (7.15pm on Sat and Sun)
Free entrance
Square Louis Barye, 2 bd Henri IV 75004 Paris
Métro: Sully-Morland
Hôtel de Ville, Place de l’Hôtel de ville 75004 Paris
Métro: Hôtel de Ville
+33 (0)1 42 76 40 40
Tour Saint-Jacques, 39 rue de Rivoli 75004 Paris
Métro: Châtelet

Fri-Sun: 10am-5pm
Price: €6 | €3 (reduced price)

Pont des Arts, 75006 Paris
Métro: Pont Neuf

Restaurants
Café Louis-Philippe, 66 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie
Daily: 10.30am-11.30pm

+33 (0)1 42 72 29 42

La nouvelle Seine, 3 quai de Montebello 75005 Paris | Métro: Maubert-Mutualité

Wed-Sat: 12pm-14pm | Tues-Sun: 7pm-11pm

+33 (0)1 43 54 08 08

Ze Kitchen Galerie, 4 rue des Grands Augustins 75006 Paris | Métro: Saint-Michel

Daily: 12.15pm-2pm – 7.30pm-10pm | Closed Saturday lunchtime and Sunday
+33 (0)1 44 32 00 32

Les fous de l’île, 33 rue des Deux Ponts 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie

Daily: 10am-2am

+33 (0)1 43 25 76 67

Shops
Antiquités ISL, 20 rue des Deux Ponts 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie

Mon-Sat: 11am-7pm

+33 (0)1 43 29 27 77

78 ISL, 78 rue Saint Louis en L’Île 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie

Mon-Fri: 10.30am-7pm | Sat-Sun: 10am-7.30pm

+33 (0)1 40 46 06 36

Pylones, 57 rue Saint Louis en l’Île 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie

Daily: 10.30am-7pm

+33 (0)1 46 34 05 02

Durance, 37 rue Saint Louis en l’Île 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie

Mon: 11am-2pm – 2.30pm-7.30pm | Tues-Thurs: 11.30am-2pm – 2.30pm-7.30pm | Fri-Sat: 11am-2pm – 2.30pm-7.30pm

+33 (0)1 43 25 31 96

Art Ludik, 12-14 rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie
+33 (0)1 43 26 19 22
Épicerie du Terroir, 10 rue Jean du Bellay 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie
+33 (0)1 44 07 99 27
Bertillon, 29-31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île 75004 Paris | Métro: Pont-Marie, Saint-Paul or Cardinal Lemoine

Wed-Sun: 10am-8pm

+33 (0)1 43 54 31 61

L’Artisan Parfumeur, 2 rue de l’Amiral de Coligny 75001 Paris | Métro: Pont-Neuf
Mon-Sat: 10am-7.30pm

+33 (0)1 44 88 27 50

Source images Paris-is-beautiful.com / Happiness as an Art de Vivre :

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