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Île de la Cité

This island in the middle of the River Seine is the historical heart of Paris.

TravelCurious Tip

Enjoy the secluded park of Vert Galant, planted on the sandbar that has built up around the Pont Neuf.

The isle of the city

Its western end houses the famous cathedral of Notre Dame - but there’s plenty more history in Île de la Cité. Some scholars believe the island was the home of a small Gallic tribe in 52 BC. It’s not doubted that Romans settled there later: there’s a well-preserved Roman wall beneath the Parvis, the square in front of the cathedral.

Today, this ancient spot is still the heart of Paris. Like the Umbilicus urbis in the Roman Forum, a small bronze plaque marks the point in the square used to measure all distances from the city. A less crowded spot to pause is the nearby Place Dauphine, a lovely residential park built by Henry IV.

Tucked behind Notre Dame on the island’s eastern point is a stark and moving memorial to the French victims of Nazi deportation: 200,000 crystals are lit on dark, claustrophobic walls, each commemorating a single loss.


A new bridge

The Pont Neuf, completed in 1606, is the oldest bridge on the Seine, and has been a lively site in Paris for over 400 years. It is home to an impressive equestrian statue of Henry IV, who ordered its construction. Daguerre, inventor of the earliest photographic process, made a daguerreotype of the Pont Neuf which shows two workmen reclining beneath the king’s statue: possibly the first ever photograph of a human being.

Whatever you do, don’t overlook the colourful interior of the church of Sainte-Chapelle. Built by Louis IX in the 13th century, Sainte-Chapelle is a high point of Rayonnant Gothic style, and has perhaps the best stained-glass windows in town - as well as one of Christianity’s most important Passion relics, the crown of thorns worn by Christ.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre Dame, perched on an island in the heart of Paris, is one of the finest cathedrals in the world.
La Conciergerie
Once a royal residence, the Conciergerie became a prison during the French revolution, a notable prisoner being Marie-Antoinette.
Place St-Michel Fountain
One of the city's most well-known meeting places, the statue depicts the archangel Michael vanquishing the Devil.
Place-Dauphine
One of the prettiest, most peaceful locations in Paris, the square is a hot-spot for families, dog walkers and petanque players.
Shakespeare and Co Bookshop
A legendary meeting place and boarding-house for many aspiring writers. Stocks everything from Shakespeare to Joyce.
Deportation Memorial
Memorial to the 200,000 men, women and children deported from France to Nazi concentration camps between 1940 and 1944 who did not return.

Related Tours

VIP Paris: Explore Paris in Half a Day by Private Car Tour
Experience Paris’ key sights and neighbourhoods on this relaxing private car tour. With your own guide and car, you will have the flexibility to focus on the things that you find most interesting. Stop off at your leisure and enjoy your tour in comfort without worrying about the weather or the queues. 

  • See the best that Paris has to offer with your own private car and expert guide.
  • Cruise past Champs ElyséesPlace de la Concorde and Notre Dame.
  • See the Arc de TriompheOpera GarnierPlace Venôme and the Musée d’Orsay.
  • Stop off at Dôme des Invalides and see Napoleon’s tomb.
  • Stop by the Louvre (outside) and get the best views of the Eiffel Tower.
  • End your tour with a wander through bohemian, picturesque Montmartre.
  • Car pick-up and drop-off from a place of your choice.

Start at the iconic Arc de Triomphe, a monument to those who fought and died during the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars and visit the Champs Elysées (end-point of Tour de France) and Opera Garnier (‘Phantom of the Opera’.) Next, see Place Vendôme (featuring a monument to commemorate the victory at Austerlitz in 1805), Place de la Concorde (the largest square in the city), the famous Louvre museum and the beautiful Musée d’Orsay, before visiting Napoleon’s tomb. Explore the wonders of the Latin Quarter and stand in awe of the gothic masterpiece that is Notre Dame CathedralTake in the outside beauty of Sainte Chapelle (featuring the most impressive stain glass windows in the world). Then, visit the quintessentially French Trocadero where you will have the opportunity to snap some beautiful photos and catch some great views of the world famous Eiffel Tower.

To conclude this epic tour of the great city of Paris you will take a short walk to Montmartre: one of the most colourful and bohemian neighbourhoods, where you will learn more about the fascinating life and works of Renoir, Picasso, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, all of whom lived and worked here. The perfect way to experience the city if you have limited time, and also a great way to find out what to focus on for the rest of your trip. 

Tours can be adapted to suit your needs and interests, just get in contact with us!
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