The Ile de la Cité, ancient cradle of the city of Paris, was for centuries the hub of Paris, before it spreads beyond the Seine and new fashionable districts bloom such as Saint-Germain-des-Près, Le Marais… A historic heart that was deeply upset at major Haussmann works, which amended the medieval appearance of the island to give it its present appearance. Despite this, many monuments, squares and streets have preserved traces of this glorious past.
Rendez vous with your private licensed guide from your hotel and go to Le Pont Neuf or New Bridge. For the first time Parisians could enjoy the view of a bridge on the Seine, up until then all bridge views were obscured by houses and shops which crowded bridges in Paris. From this point you will discover La Conciergerie – A splendid Gothic palace became one of the principal places of detention during the French Revolution and La Sainte Chapelle – Built in seven years only, it was intended to house precious Christian relics. Be dazzled by the 1,113 stained glass windows at this jewel of the Rayonnant Gothic period.
Always on île de la Cité you could have a walk between the lovely metal pavilions composing the Queen Elisabeth II flowers market, formally known as Bird and Flower market. Here a wide array of flowers, plants and trees can be found. Tens of thousands of pots are displayed: Primavera’s, Violets, Bilberries, Pomegranates and other beautiful plants are offered each season. On Sundays, the picture is complete with the opening of the Bird Market where you can find rare species and all the accessories to go with them.
Finally, you cannot miss France’s most visited monument the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Masterpiece of gothic art, a World Heritage Unesco, situated at the very tip of the île de la Cité. Construction of the cathedral began in middle Ages and continued over several centuries. Badly damaged during the French revolution, the cathedral was restored in the 19th century. During a day tour you can benefit of your private guide knowledge to admire its rose windows, stained glass, chapels, spire and gargoyles. You can also discover the Notre Dame treasury and climb to the top of the towers to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the capital, especially on certain late night openings in summer. The visit of the towers led to the mythical chimera gallery, located 45m from the ground, the meeting the fabulous bestiary designed by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. The arrow, his apostles, the statue of the archangel Gabriel still retain the look on the narrow path that leads to southern belfry and its thirteen tons bell, the Bourdon. After having climbed the 422 steps of the tower, about 70meters high you will enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Paris in 360 from its historical and geographical heart, and revealing its urban breakthroughs, its succession of bridges and monuments. Still accompany with your guide you could also admire the structure from Notre Dame to a glance to capture the beauty of its architecture and understand the role between arch buttresses and pinnacles. A visit to the cathedral ends with the crypt, accessible from the esplanade, where visitors can discover the foundations and vestiges of buildings constructed between the Gallo Roman epoch and the 17th century. While on the esplanade, be sure to have a look at the “kilometre zero” plaque from which point road distance in France are calculated.
Then using Pont Saint Louis, reach the second central island of Paris: l’Ile Saint Louis.
The city of Paris has helped preserve the dream of a “beau quartier” by not putting any metro stations on the island, and walking down rue Saint Louis en l’Ile is somewhat like walking down main street. Continue on and enjoy this French ice cream and sorbet institution “Berthillon”. Bethillon carefully selects ingredients for its ice cream: vanilla from Madagascar, chocolate from the Ivory Coast, and the freshest fruits. These ingredients are mixed with a daily delivery of milk to provide 69 flavors of homemade ice cream and sorbet. You can relax in the salon de thé and pay a premium price for the space, ice cream concoction and shade, or you can wait in line outside and get your ice cream to go. Both options have advantages, but whatever your budget, don’t miss out on this so Parisian treat!