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Discovering Paris’ islands

How many islands are there in Paris?  Two, three? Surprisingly so, there are many more, the least known of which are true places of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of the capital.  Read on to discover your new haven of relaxation, as outlined by the team at Paris ZigZig.


Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis: the most central (and historical)

Île Saint-Louis (left) and Île de la Cité (right) as seen from the Arab World Institute. (Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0)

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a relaxing spot on Île de la Cité.  It is, after all, home to Notre-Dame de Paris, the most visited site in the capital.  If you go early in the morning, however, while the city still slumbers, you will discover an island that is relatively calm and undisturbed.  As for Île Saint-Louis, it is not far away, but the atmosphere is completely different: quiet, serene, and pleasant for walks. Have a seat on one of the benches in Square Barye, at the tip of the island, where you’ll be sure to feel like “the king of the world” aboard the Titanic.

Métro : Cité


L’île aux Cygnes: the most American

Île aux Cygnes, Paris June 2010 (author: Aleksandr Zykov, Wikimedia Commons)

L’île aux Cygnes is probably the least known of Paris’ large islands.  Straddling the 15th and 16th arrondissements of western Paris, this slim, 900 meter-long island stretches from the Pont Bir-Hakeim to the Pont Grenelle and is home to a replica of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the American expat community in Paris to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution.  This island is perfect for walkers and joggers, boasting beautiful weeping willows, poplars and ash trees, as well as a sheltered fitness area beneath Pont Grenelle.

RER : Avenue du Président Kennedy


L’île du Bois de Boulogne: the most secret

The Lac Inférieur of the Bois de Boulogne (Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike the others, this small, secluded island is not located on the Seine, but on the Lac Inférieur of the Bois de Boulogne.  An exceptionally tranquil setting, the island is only accessible by ferry, free of charge. Fans of Marcel Proust will surely recognize the landscape: in “Du côté de chez Swann”, the author makes several references to the island, describing its many hidden wonders.  At its center, the Chalet des îles restaurant is the ideal spot for a snack break: Zola and Proust themselves frequented this once-was literary cafe back in the 19th century.

RER : Avenue Henri-Martin


Les îles du Bois de Vincennes : the wildest

Lac Daumesnil in autumn, Bois de Vincennes, Paris XIIe arrondissement. (Author: PRA, Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s head now to the opposite side of the city, where Paris’ other large forest lies: the Bois de Vincennes, home not one, but five islands. The most famous, l’île de Bercy and l’île de Reuilly are located on Lac Daumesnil.  L’île de Bercy, accessible by footbridge or boat, has its own hidden gems to be discovered (a belvedere and mini caves) while l’île de Reuilly is much less frequented and more remote.  Strolling around here will truly make you feel like you’ve left Paris.  The same can be said of the three islands on the Bois de Vincennes’ Lac des Minimes: l’île de la Porte-Jaune, l’île Nord, and l’île Sud. Only the first island, however, accessible by a bridge, is open to the public.

Métro : Porte Dorée



Featured Image: Île de la Cité as seen from Pont des Arts shortly before sunrise, Paris, France. Author: DXR, Wikimedia Commons

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