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Secrets Along the Seine

Click on our interactive map to see favorite spots on Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis.

They are the Siamese twins of Paris. Joined by a tiny bridge, these two slivers in the Seine are as close as brothers, yet as different as a saint and a sybarite. Île de la Cité, solemn and museum-like, is Paris's religious and judicial center. Its old palaces, grandly wrought hospital, venerable law courts, and medieval churches—including the Gothic splendor of Notre Dame—contain Paris's oldest stories and architectural wonders. Île Saint-Louis is the playboy next door. Far from time-frozen, its streets parade a lively mix of cultishly sought fine-food shops, boutique hotels, and top dining experiences. No wonder that the island's baroque townhomes have long housed bons vivants and aristocrats from Baudelaire to the Rothschilds. For tales and tips about these yin-yang mini-worlds, we got the lowdown from well-known Parisians, expats, and frequent visitors.