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Bastille to Cité

Along The Water

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Why you will love it?

This citinerary will take through some of the most iconic places in Paris, as well as off the beaten tracks spots. A walk through the leisure port of Paris and the banks of the Seine will please the romantic while a visit to Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle will surely quench your thirst for beauty and knowledge. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

Place de la Bastille, 75012 Paris
Line 1/5 - Bastille

Our Insiders' Article


Exit the metro station “Bastille” via any exit. Today’s busy roundabout used to be a prison fortress taken over and destroyed by the revolutionaries on July 14th 1789 (Bastille Day), marking the start of the 10 year French Revolution. There are only very few remains of the famous prison: part of the prisons’ wall can be seen on the platform of metro Line 5 (Bobigny direction). The Opera Bastille, constructed in 1984 to replace an obsolete train station on the east of the roundabout, is home (along with the Opéra Garnier) to the National Opera of Paris and showcases world-class opera performances. The iconic July Column, with the golden “Spirit of Freedom” on top, now stands in the middle of the roundabout. Built in 1840, it symbolizes King Louis-Philippe’s access to the throne of France in 1830.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Under the July Column is the final resting place of about 700 people that participated in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, but also a few 4,000 year old mummies brought by Napoleon and buried in haste here!

Arsenal Port

Take the boulevard de la Bastille, and then turn right on the walkway that goes down to the canal and port. Port de l’Arsenal links the Seine River to the end of Canal Saint Martin, a 4.5km canal originally dug to bring drinkable water to Paris. Up until the middle of the 20th century, the port was a busy commercial port, where ships would unload their stacks of wine, wheat and wood. In 1983, it was decided to convert it into a leisure port. On your way towards the other end of the port, you will see many different kinds of boats, from small leisure boats to large inhabited barges.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Many locals come here on sunny weekends to get away from the heavy traffic and get the sensation to be close to the sea.

Morland Lockgate

At the end of the docks, cross the canal using the Morland lockgate walkway. The Morland lockgate is the 9th and final lockgate on the Canal Saint Martin. If you are lucky, you will be able to see a boat coming in or out of the Port de l’Arsenal, and therefore see how the lockgates function. Once you are on the other side, turn left in the little tunnel and walk towards the Seine River. Turn right on the banks of the Seine on Quai Henry IV. Built in 1843, this quay has been renovated and welcomes many large barges mostly used for events and private parties. This large pedestrian walkway along the Seine welcomes a lot of sunbathers during the summer days and offers an interesting perspective on Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and Ile Saint Louis. Walk up to street level just before going under the Pont de Sully Bridge and walk up the slope after the bridge to reach Quai des Célestins and Henri Galli Square.

Henri Galli

The Square Henri Galli, on your left when heading back to the Pont de Sully bridge, would not even draw your attention if it weren’t for the fact that inside the small park, there are relics of the Bastille Fortress. Built in 1383, the Bastille fortress was used to protect Paris against invaders as well as the king (Charles V) in case of a revolution. Turned into a state prison in the 17th century, it became the symbol of monarchial excessive power. On the 14th of July 1789, although only 7 prisoners remained (for 100 armed guards), the people attacked this symbol and sacked the fortress. This event is considered as the first real revolutionary action of the French Revolution. It is only in 1899 that, when building the Metro Line 1, workers found some of the stones of one of the fortress towers. These stones were brought to Square Henri Galli and reassembled.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Other stones of the Bastille prison were carved in the shape of the fortress. One of those stones can be seen in the Musée Carnavalet (free, 10AM-6PM, closed on Monday), dedicated to Paris. Some stones were also used to build the Pont de la Concorde (Concorde Bridge)

Saint Louis Island

Cross Pont de Sully (Sully Bridge) and you will find yourself on Ile Saint-Louis, one of the 2 natural islands of Paris. At the tip of the island, on the left, is the Square Barye, a quiet place where you can have a nice view on the Seine and eastern Paris, and access the pedestrian banks of the island, a local favorite for picnics and sunbathing in summer. On the right, take Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile, the liveliest street on the island. The island, known as “Ile aux Vaches” (Cow Island) used to be an abandoned field and it is only in 1640 that plans were made to inhabit it. Many palaces were built, therefore known as the island of palaces in the 17th century. In 1725, the island took the name Ile Saint Louis after the late King Louis IX, an extremely devout King of France, who purchased the Passion Relics in 1237.  At 19 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, enter the church Saint-Louis en l’Ile, a beautiful 17th century church.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The church was designed by François LeVau, brother of Louis LeVau, the main architect of the Chateau de Versailles. Both brothers lived on the island and designed some of its beautiful mansions.

Saint Louis Island

There are many small shops and restaurants on Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile, but the most legendary of them all is Bertillon (31 rue Saint Louis en l’Ile), an ice cream shop since 1961. All their flavours are natural and delicious: try their wild strawberry sorbet specialty. If you have time, don’t hesitate to walk around the island. Many famous people have lived on the island, including Pierre and Marie Curie (Physics and Chemistry Nobel Prize winners), Pompidou (French President), Baudelaire (French poet) and many of today’s top French actors.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Cross the small bridge linking Ile Saint Louis to Ile de la Cité at the end of Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile. This bridge collapsed 6 times since 1630!


After crossing the Pont Saint Louis bridge, turn left and enter the park just after the bridge. At the very tip of the park is the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (open from 10AM to 5PM except on Monday), a memorial to the 200,000 people that were deported during the occupation of France by the Germans. After going down the stairs and entering the memorial through a very narrow corridor, you will find yourself in a darkened room, in front of a long fenced corridor with 200,000 glass stalks. The grave of an unknown deported victim lays at the end of the corridor, while quotations from famous authors can be read in the two other rooms of the memorial.

Parisianist Tip: The memorial being small, only a few people can enter at a time. There can be a small queue, but the waiting time is not long. Silence is requested inside.

Archeveché Bridge

Exit the park on the south (left) side when walking out of the Memorial. On the left is the Pont de l’Archevêché bridge. There are mainly 2 places in Paris where people use padlocks to symbolize their love: the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’Archevêché. The latter was built in 1828 and a fee was applicable to anyone crossing it before 1850. It is now the narrowest bridge of Paris, and since 2010, lovers have come here to seal their love symbolically with a lock.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Unlike the Pont des Arts, where the authorities will take off all the locks because of the weight and its undesirable effects on the stability of the bridge, there are no recent plans to take down the locks on Pont de l’Archevêché.

Rue Chanoinesse

Enter the gardens behind Notre Dame Cathedral (Square Jean XXIII) and turn right before Notre Dame. Created in 1848 to replace the burned Palais de l’Archevêché, this little park is the oldest public park in Paris. Exit the park on Rue du Cloitre Notre Dame and head straight into Rue Chanoinesse. Reserved only to priests before the 15th century, it later opened up to noble people who would reside here to avoid paying taxes. At 24 Rue Chanoinesse is an old priest house (now a restaurant called Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole), while at 26 Rue Chanoinesse, the stones used to build the courtyard were once tombstones of the many small cemeteries belonging to the many churches around Notre Dame Cathedral (cannot be visited).  

Parisianist Fun Fact: Legend has it that in 1387, at 18 Rue Chanoinesse, a barber and a pastry chef were neighbors. The barber (also doubling as a murderer) used to sell fresh human meat to the pastry chef, who would use it for his original creations, inspiring the story of Sweeny Todd. Both of them were burned alive at this address when the scam was revealed.

Rue de la Colombe

Turn right in Rue de la Colombe and stop right before 3 Rue de la Colombe. Take a look at the street and you will notice that different colored stones mark the area where the wall of Cesar once stood. During the 3rd century, the inhabitants of left bank Lutetia (former name of Paris) fell back on Ile de la Cité, destroying all the bridges to avoid barbarian invasion of the island. A defense wall was built to secure the area, named after the great Roman Emperor Julius Cesar. At the corner of Rue de la Colombe and Rue des Ursins is the restaurant “La Réserve de Quasimodo”, once a very famous cabaret called La Colombe, with the 2 first floors built in the 13th century.

Parisianist Fun Fact: It is said that the name of the street comes from a love story between two doves (“colombes”). On the wall of the restaurant is a sculpture of a dove. Above it are traces of ancient street signs.

Rue des Ursins

Turn right in Rue des Ursins. Famous writer Jean Racine lived at 7 Rue des Ursins in 1673. But the most curious building in this street is at 1 Rue des Ursins: a fake medieval house. Although it is a very old house, in 1958, architect Fernand Pouillon decided to restore it in a very particular way, making it look very medieval: the high staircase tower, the small double window and the entrance door are very medieval looking. The house cannot be visited. Take a right turn in Rue des Chantres, then turn right and immediately take left turn in Rue Massillon. 16th century poet Joachim Du Bellay lived and died at 1 Rue Massillon.

Notre Dame

Turn right at the end of Rue Massillon and a few meters ahead is the entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral. This iconic cathedral is the most visited monument in Paris. Built from 1163 to 1345, Notre Dame has 850 years of incredible history. Dazzling architecture, a priceless treasure (the Holy Crown of Thorns), an impressive list of famous visitors, make it an absolute must do in Paris. Planned for destruction in 1830, it was saved by Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame novel.

Parisianist Tip: Queues to visit the inside of the cathedral can seem long, but the waiting time is short (free, daily from 8AM to 6:45PM). The queue to climb the towers (8,50€, daily from 10AM to 5:45PM, 422 stairs without an elevator / no toilet) is endless so we do not recommend it during this walking tour, but come another day at 9:30AM.

Flower Market

Walk towards the end of Jean Paul II Square on Rue de la Cité, opposite Notre Dame. There, you may want to visit the crypt of Notre Dame. Visiting the crypt (5€, 10AM-6PM, closed on Monday) is a great way to understand what the island was like before the 12th century. Turn right on Rue de la Cité and take the first street to the left (Rue de Lutèce). Not far on your right you will see the flower market that has existed since 1808, open from 8AM to 7PM every day.

Parisianist Tip: If you are here on a Sunday, don’t miss the bird market, where you will be able to see many different kinds of birds, some of them being very exotic!

Sainte Chapelle

Walk to the end of Rue de Lutèce, cross the street and turn left on Boulevard du Palais. A few meters ahead is the entrance to Sainte Chapelle. This prime “Rayonnant” architectural style church is a tourist-favorite in Paris, re-popularized by Dan Brown’s famous novel “The Da Vinci Code”.  The church was built in 1248 as part of the Royal Palace to welcome the Holy Relics that Saint Louis (King Louis IX) purchased in Constantinople. The entrance is on the first floor, which used to be reserved to the servants of the King, while the second floor, was reserved to the King and family. This is where you will see very long stain-glassed windows soaring towards a beautiful vaulted ceiling, giving the ensemble a sense of weightlessness.  

Parisianist Fun Fact: the Holy Relics where purchased at 3 times the cost of the final construction of the chapel.


When exiting Saint Chapelle and the Palace of Justice, turn left on Boulevard du Palais. At 2 Boulevard du Palais, enter the Conciergerie should you want to visit the biggest prison during the French Revolution (8.50€ / daily 9:30AM – 6PM). What was once part of the Royal Residence of the Kings of France between the 10th and 14th century became a state prison in 1370 and the antechamber of death during the French Revolution (1789 – 1799), as only a handful made it out alive. You will be able to witness how the prisoners were quickly trialed, treated and taken to their execution place.

Parisianist Fast Fact: Queen of France Marie Antoinette was held prisoner here before her execution. A reconstruction of her cell is visible. Marie Antoinette left the Conciergerie at 4AM and was guillotined on October 16th 1793 on Place de la Concorde at noon.

Palais de la Cité

When exiting the Conciergerie, turn left on Boulevard du Palais. On the corner of boulevard du Palais and Quai de l’Horloge, look up. There is a beautiful clock that dates back to 1370: it was the first public clock in Paris. Turn left on Quai de l’Horloge and walk alongside the ancient Royal Palace. The Royal Palace was built throughout the centuries, starting in the 4th century and gradually enlarged and improved. There are 4 characteristic towers: The Tour de l’Horloge (clock tower), on which the public clock is located, the Tour César (built on the ancient Cesar Wall), the Tour d’Argent (reference to the royal treasure kept inside), and finally the Tour Bonbec where prisoners were tortured.

Parisianist Fast Fact: The ancient Royal Palace is now the Justice Palace with several high courts.

Square du Vert-Galant

Take a left on Rue de Harlay and immediately turn right on Place Dauphine. This square was the second Royal Square in Paris in the 17th century, after Place des Vosges, and is nowadays a very quiet and serene square with a few traditional French restaurants and cafés. Walk towards the end of the Place Dauphine and cross the road (Pont Neuf) to access the tip of the island. Before the construction of the Pont Neuf Bridge in 1607, there were 3 small islands. Go down the stairs, you will end up on the Square du Vert-Galant, which was one of the islands. This is where Jacques de Morlay was burned alive in 1314. De Morlay was the last knight of the Order of the Templars, sentenced to death by King Philippe IV as the Order was considered heretic. Don’t hesitate to go all the way to the tip of Ile de la Cité by walking along the banks of the Seine and not through the park.

Parisianist Tip: on the right side is the dock of the “Vedettes du Pont Neuf” boats, one of the many boats that offer a sightseeing cruise on the Seine River.


Walk back up and turn left to cross the bridge. Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris, but was not the first bridge ever built in the city. Built between 1578 and 1607, the bridge got its name “New Bridge” because it was the first bridge in Paris which was not lined on both sides with houses. The 3 islands were merged to the main island at the time of the bridge’s construction.

Parisianist Fun Fact: King Henri III laid the first stone under pouring rain on Mai 31st 1578, but this was not enough to hide the king’s tears. Indeed, on that same morning, the King had attended the funeral of his 2 favorite boyfriends killed in a duel. The bridge was dubbed the Bridge of Tears in its early years.

Parisianist Tip: This is the perfect place to have a nice view on the Eiffel Tower, especially when lit and glittering at night.

The subway station is right at the end of the bridge (Pont Neuf Metro line 7) on the left.

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