UK Student Life homepage
Study, work or travel in the UK. British culture and life.
A-Z index
Message Board
Contact us
Trips to Paris from London
cheap coach tickets and timetable for eurolines coaches from london to paris
Buy tickets for Disneyland Paris
Buy a Paris Pass for sightseeing in Paris
< Up
Travel / Tours / Paris / Islands
Visit the islands (Ile de la Cité and Ile St Louis) in Paris
  Notre Dame Cathedral
  Flower market / bird market
  Deportation Memorial
  Ile St Louis
  Further information


A visitor's guide to some of the attractions on the islands in central Paris: Ile de la Cité and Ile St Louis

Ile de la Cité is the oldest inhabited part of Paris, chosen because the river provided security against attacks. A Celtic tribe called the Parisii settled here first (this is the origin of the name of the city). The Romans, under the leadership of Julius Caesar, took over in 53 BC (they called it Lutetia).

A medieval clock (built in 1370)
on the corner of Quai de l'Horloge

Artists sometimes
sell their paintings ...

... in Square du Jean XXIII
(behind Notre Dame)

Back to top


The most famous building on Ile de la Cite is La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (Notre Dame Cathedral). This was started in 1163 and completed in about 1345. The style of architecture is Gothic. There were plans to add spires to the two towers but they were never built. The cathedral is Catholic and is dedicated to Mary (the mother of Jesus) - "notre dame" means "our lady" in French (this is the equivalent of "ma donna" in Italian).

Visitors enter the cathedral from the door on the right-hand side. There is no charge, but donations are welcomed. People often buy a candle and light this to remember people who have died. There are three famous large round stained glass windows in the cathedral, known as rose windows because of their shape.

Front view of the cathedral

Lighting a candle

One of the rose windows

One of the fine features of the cathedral is the carvings on the central entrance. At the top in the centre is an image of Jesus with his right hand raised. Angels are on either side as well as Mary and Saint John. Under this is a scene representing the Last Judgment. The people on the left (next to the angel) are going up to heaven, while those on the right (next to the devil) are being dragged down to hell.

Queues outside the left entrance door of the cathedral are for people who want to climb the 387 steps up the north tower to see the gargoyles (stone animals or devils which hand over the edge of the balcony, scaring away bad spirits) and to enjoy the views. There is an entrance charge for this.


There have been many famous paintings of Notre Dame, which is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. The cathedral is also known throughout the world because of the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (originally called Notre Dame de Paris) written by the French author Victor Hugo (who also wrote the novel Les Misérables).

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (book)
Author: Victor Hugo
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Date: June 1996
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame [1996] (DVD)
Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Date: May 2002
Les Miserables (book)
Author: Victor Hugo
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Date: April 1998
Les Miserables (CDs)
(original soundtrack of musical based on the book)
Label: First Night
Date: May 2002

Back to top


The Conciergerie at 1 Quai de l'Horloge was originally part of the Palais de Justice (the "palace of justice") but was converted into a prison. Thousands of prisoners were held here during the French Revolution. Many were tortured before they were sent to have their heads chopped off by the guillotine in Place de la Concorde. Marie Antoinette (the wife of Louis the Sixteenth) was kept in a small cell here for six months before she was killed. Robespierre, one of the revolutionary leaders, was also eventually imprisoned here and sent to the guillotine.

Conciergerie: Marie Antoinette
was kept as a prisoner here

Back to top


Sainte-Chapelle, built in 1248, is a church which is famous for its magnificent stained glass windows and vaulted roof. The construction was ordered by Louis the Ninth, a very religious king who became known as Saint Louis. There is an entrance charge. Guided tours are sometimes available.

The spire of Sainte-Chapelle
(view from the top of Notre Dame)

Most of the stained glass windows
tell stories from the Bible

King Louis the Ninth

View from outside the chapel

Back to top


The Marché aux Fleurs (flower market) operates daily in Place Louis-Lépine (near the Cité metro station exit). On Sundays it is replaced by the Marché aux Oiseaux (bird market).

Flower market
(Monday to Saturday)

Bird market
(on Sundays)

Back to top


Just beyond the gardens at the back of Notre Dame is the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation. This is a place to remember those who died in the concentration camps which were set up by the Nazis. The building is in the shape of a triangle, because this is the shape of the coloured symbols the victims were forced to wear to classify them (different colours were used for Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and other categories of prisoner).

Triangular recesses in the walls contain
the names of the main concentration camps

The inscription reads: "Here lies
an unknown deported person"

Back to top


Ile St-Louis is the smaller of the two islands. Since the 17th century it has been a fashionable residential area: it is still mainly made up of expensive apartments. It is also the home of Berthillon, a local maker of ice creams and sorbets.

Back to top


Book a trip to Paris:
Anderson Tours: Travel/Tours/Company/AndersonTours
International Friends: Travel/Tours/Company/InternationalFriends

Useful websites:
Notre Dame Cathedral: (location: map)
Conciergerie: (location: map)
Sainte Chapelle:

Independent travel to Paris:
To book a Eurostar train ticket from London to Paris: Shop/Company/Eurostar
To book a Eurolines coach ticket from London to Paris: Shop/Company/NationalExpress
To book a flight to Paris: Travel/Transport/Air

Hostels/hotels in Paris:
Click here for: Accommodation in Paris

Weather forecast for Paris:

Back to top


Visit Paris: Travel/Tours/Paris
Visit other parts of France: Travel/Tours/France

Home page: Home

Back to top

© UK Student Life 2002-2009

* Search this website ( or the web: