The Cite, the center of the city’s life since the 3rd century was founded here on what was the largest of the islands in the Seine.
It was the first settlement and first religious center, and here were erected the Cathedral and the Palais de Justice.
Numerous bridges link it to the banks of the Seine, along which run the picturesque “quais”.
One of the most animated and colorful of the quays is the Quai de Montebello, extending between the bridges called Pont de I’Archeveche and Pont au Double.
It is full of life and its parapets are lined with the typical “bouquinistes”, the sellers of rare and strange books and prints old and new.
PONT NEUF AND SQUARE DU VERT GALANT
Walking along with the Quai St Michel and the Quai des Grands Augustins, we reach this bridge, which is the oldest in Paris, planned by Du Cerceau and Des Illes.
Begun in 1578 under Henri III and completed under Henri IV in 1606, it has two slender round arches and in the middle of it is the equestrian statue of Henri IV.
The square is reached by a stairway behind the statue of the king. It is the furthermost point of the Cite and one of the most beautiful parts of Paris.
PLACE DU PARVIS
Turning back along the celebrated Quai des Orfevres, we pass the headquarters of the Judicial Police at number 36 before reaching the Place du Parvis, which is the point from which road distances in France are measured: the bronze plaque in the center of the square in front of the cathedral indicates the starting point for all the nation’s roads.
On the north side of the square stands the grandiose Hotel-Dieu, a hospice founded in the 7th century but rebuilt between 1868 and 1878; on the west side is the headquarters of the Prefecture de Police. Overlooking the square is the imposing Notre-Dame, the cathedral of Paris.