Ile Saint Louis’ 17th century Classical architecture
The Ile Saint Louis is one of the most elegant and affluent districts of Paris and has little changed since its creation.
Let’s go back to the early 17th century, when it didn’t exist yet…
Instead, there were two islands; the smaller, Ile aux Vaches, was upstream, and the larger Ile Notre-Dame downstream.
They belonged to the chapter of Notre-Dame Cathedral and served as pastures.
King Henri IV had the brilliant idea of merging the two islands to develop a new district.
Louis XIII took over the project after the assassination of his father (1610) and by 1614 the islets merged into one island
The newly formed island, however, remained known as Ile Notre-Dame until the early 18th century.
The king commissioned the architect Christophe Marie with its development.
Marie had a blank canvas; he immediately planned a set of quays around the Ile Notre-Dame, and several streets that crossed a right angles.
The French aristocracy flocked to the island and commissioned Le Vau with the construction of new mansions.
The Ile Saint Louis was therefore built over an uninterrupted period of 30 years (1620-1650); this resulted in a unity of architecture that gives the island its unique elegance.
Rue Saint Louis en l’Isle and Hôtel Lambert
Rue St-Louis-en-l’Isle, the island’s main street, runs from east to west and is bordered with several exceptional buildings.
This includes Saint-Louis-en-l’Isle Church, the Hôtel Chenizot at no51 and the Pavillon des Arbélatriers at no1, once an outbuilding of the Hôtel de Bretonvilliers.
The most luxurious mansion of the Ile Saint Louis is without any doubt the listed Hôtel Lambert at no2.
Le Vau built it in 1640 for Nicolas Lambert de Thorigny.
The painters Lebrun and Lesueur were commissioned for the decoration work, which lasted five years.
The splendid entrance gate heralds the beauty of the building.
Prince Adam Czartoryski’s wife bought the mansion in 1843 after the Russians banned her husband from Poland.
It still belongs to this illustrious family.
Rue Saint Louis en l’Isle is undoubtedly picturesque, however, it has lost most of its original atmosphere.
Skilled craftsmen and merchants have now given way to plethora of trendy restaurants, art galleries and luxury boutiques.
The only tradition which has survived is queuing for ice cream at the legendary Glacier Berthillon!
Rue Le Regrattier, Rue Budé, Rue des Deux-Ponts, Rue Poulletier are lateral streets.
So is Rue de Bretonvilliers, but it runs under an unusual arched building that once was part of the mansion.
Quai de Bourbon and Quai d’Anjou
A set of elegant quays encompass the Ile Saint Louis; Quai de Bourbon and Quai d’Anjou on the north side and Quai de Béthune and Quai d’Orléans on the south.
Quai de Bourbon was named after the royal Bourbon dynasty.
Champaigne, the architect who undertook the construction of Saint-Louis en l’Isle Church, lived at no11.
Quai d’Anjou pays tribute to the Duke of Anjou, one of the sons of King Henry II.
Hôtel de Lauzun on Quai d’Anjou
The Hôtel de Lauzun at no17 is one of the landmarks of the affluent Ile Saint Louis.
You’ll recognize its magnificent portal topped by a wrought-iron balcony.
Louis Le Vau built it in 1656-57 for Charles de Gruyn; Lebrun, Monnoyer, Patel, Lepautre, Anguier and Bourdon produced the lavish interior decoration.
Antonin de Caumont, Comte de Lauzun acquired it in 1680.
The Hôtel de Lauzun, however, changed hands many times over the years.
The City of Paris acquired the mansion in 1828 and has since used it for ceremonial receptions.
Unsurprisingly, the Hôtel de Lauzun is a listed Historical Monument.
Quai de Béthune and Quai d’Orléans
The south facing Quai de Béthune was known as Quai des Balcons until the 18th century, because all the mansions that border it have a balcony.
It was renamed after Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully.
The Maréchal Duc de Richelieu acquired the mansion located at no16 in 1729.
The late President Georges Pompidou lived at the same address until his death in 1974.
Quai d’Orléans is bordered with another set of elegant mansions, which all contribute to the aristocratic image of the island.
The Ile Saint Louis has hardly changed since the 17th century as it is a protected enclave.
Don’t look for a metro station, bank, post office or cinema; there are none!
Bridges on Ile Saint-Louis
That said, the Ile Saint Louis is well connected to the mainland.
The Pont de Sully is unusual, as it traverses the eastern tip of the Ile Saint Louis to connect it to both banks.
Finally, the footbridge Pont St-Louis will take you to the Ile de la Cité.
Directions: 4th District
Metro: Pont-Marie or Sully-Morland on Right Bank, or Cité on Ile de la Cité on Lines 4, 7
Coordinates: Lat 48.851893 – Long 2.356395