The Seine is dotted with two natural islands, île Saint-Louis and île de la Cité, and one artificial island, île aux Cygnes. Tourists have the opportunity to see these islands during a river boat tour and to learn about their histories, essential to understanding Paris.
Previously known as Notre-Dame Island and Cow Island (prairies covered the eastern part of the island during the 17th century), Saint-Louis Island is located in the 4th district. Following a period of urbanization, the island became a residential zone accessed by five bridges. Some famous residents included Charles Baudelaire, Marie Curie and Camille Claudel.
This island has a surface area of 22.5 hectares and is home to some of Paris’s most visited monuments such as Sainte-Chapelle, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Hôtel Dieu and the Conciergerie. The island is located just in front of the Hôtel de Ville and the Saint-Michel Square, two other sites emblematic to Paris. An aside: the Queen Elisabeth II flower market is definitely worth a visit!
Nine bridges link the island to the mainland. Many Parisians believe that it’s the historic center of the capital and a place, with four public gardens and four public squares, that everyone can enjoy.
This artificial island has two bridges, measures 890 meters long and 11 meters wide, and is located between the 15th and 16th districts. It originally served as a dyke to allow for the transportation of goods. On its southernmost point there’s a replica of the Statue of Liberty. The island is known to be a place for good walks that also provides a different view of both the Seine and the city.
The islands, brimming with history and full of life, are central to the capital and anchored in the living memory of Parisians. An interesting aside: l’île Maquerelle, also known as île des Cygnes, was an old island linked to the left bank during the 18th century.