Man with a long beard, sunglasses and hat
Paris,  Sunday Stills

Going back to Paris, and to the Place Dauphine

We’ll always have Paris

Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca

Never go back, they say. And it’s a rule we tend to follow when it comes to travelling, but we make a few exceptions. And prime among those exceptions is Paris. It’s a city we both love and it’s easy to get to – easier now, with Eurostar, than some UK cities.

We spent the first part of our honeymoon there, recently celebrated our fortieth anniversary there, and in between those two trips have visited together on five other occasions. And that doesn’t include a visit each back in our even more ancient and separate histories!

Terri’s Sunday Stills theme this week is Going Back, and with our latest anniversary trip so fresh in my mind, a look back at previous visits to Paris seems apposite. But not to Paris as a whole, just one particular corner.

When we got married we didn’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on a honeymoon (we had just bought our first home); and we were young and used to budget travel. So we chose a downmarket hotel, the Hotel Henri IV, in a rather upmarket location, the Place Dauphine. Of course back then it wasn’t that upmarket, or it would not have harboured that hotel! But it was very central, rather pretty and in my favourite area of Paris, by the Seine; on the Île de la Cité in fact.

Henri IV

The Place Dauphine was developed under Henri IV to fill in the triangular space at the point of the island, following the building of the Pont Neuf in 1606. This ‘new’ bridge is in fact the oldest in Paris. It just catches the tip of the Île de la Cité as it crosses the river. At that point is a dramatic statue of the king, added in 1614. He is looking downstream as if at the prow of a boat, albeit on horseback.

Photos from 2017

The Place Dauphine

At the rear of the statue is the narrow entrance to the Place Dauphine, which was completed in 1616. The buildings were originally just three storeys tall, consisting of two ground floor shops in each unit, two floors of residential space and a small attic. Over time most have been heightened and extensively remodelled, but the square’s general layout has remained unchanged. Another rare feature is that the buildings here were built for merchants and commoners rather than the elite. In this they differ from other architectural developments of the period such as the Place des Vosges.

Open square with trees, cars and buildings
The Place Dauphine in 1981, with the Hotel Henri IV centre-shot ~ and you might just make out the statue of Henri IV in the distance, far right

We loved our stay in this quiet corner at the heart of the city, and have made a point of revisiting the Place Dauphine on most of our subsequent visits to Paris. In 1995 and in 2005 the hotel was still there and looked much the same from the outside. Online reviews however indicated that it had been slightly smartened up. It has since closed and been turned into what look like rather smart (and no doubt expensive) apartments.

In 1981, 1995 and 2005

The square itself has changed little over the years; each time we visit we are transported back to that first stay.

Open square with autumn trees
The Place Dauphine in 2005, looking towards the Palais de Justice

When we were there in 2017 it was around lunchtime. A small group of locals were playing pétanque, watched by the man in my featured photo; look closely and you’ll see the square reflected in his sunglasses!

Photos from 1995 and 2017 ~ me walking in the square and an old bookbinding premises at #16 (now closed)

Going back

More recently a number of restaurants have opened there. For our 40th anniversary dinner we chose one very near where the hotel used to be (in fact partly in the same premises as the former bookbinders’ above)

We had a wonderful meal at a table outside on the pavement, with a great view of the square. Locals were again playing pétanque beneath the trees, long after it seemed too dark to be able to see the boules, while others walked small dogs and stopped to chat to each other.

Square with trees and people playing boules
View from our restaurant table in 2021, with the Palais de Justice in the background

The restaurant was busy, as was the one on the opposite side of the square, and the atmosphere couldn’t have felt more Parisian! It was the perfect place to celebrate, proving that going back can be a very good idea.

Dinner at Le Caveaux du Palais in 2021

I visit Paris often, most recently in 2021; these photos were taken on several trips, as dated in the captions


  • Kirstin

    I always enjoy reading about the history or story of places. Thank you for sharing. I’d love to visit France. When we were in Switzerland in 2019 on our last night, we stayed just over the border in France.

  • rkrontheroad

    I must say I’m jealous of the ease in which Europeans can visit other countries. What a treat to revisit this place that holds such memories for you for your anniversary. It looks lovely, then and now.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I know, we are spoiled in that respect. But during this pandemic I’ve envied Americans for having such a huge country that they can explore without having to cross any international borders!

  • wetanddustyroads

    How wonderful that you can return to Paris so often – and especially because you have such fond memories of your time there! I love your old and new photos … sometimes things change, but somehow it’s still the same ☺️.

  • Easymalc

    Everyone falls in love with Paris, and I’m so pleased that the magic hasn’t faded away for you.. Congratulations to you both, and I believe that everyone needs a special place in their life to remember, whether it be Paris or Newcastle


    Paris isn’t just one of our favourite cities, we still believe in it as a truly romantic city, so for you guys to enjoy this visit with so many memories is seriously appropriate! Love the look of the square where you ate, looks, as you say, so Parisien…fabulous

  • Susanne Swanson

    Aw wonderful! I love your collection of Paris photos and the history that goes with them. I’ve only been there once but hope to squeeze in another trip someday! Maybe for our 40th? Not his year, but the next! 🙂

  • maristravels

    Another great trip down memory lane and although I’m not familiar with this part of Paris, the feelings you evoke are all too readily recalled. Love your feature image. It’s brilliant.

  • leightontravels

    Aw I’m a sucker for a gallery of photos spanning the years! Sounds like Paris is a special place to you, as it is for so many. Place Dauphene looks like an elegant spot, love the cover shot of the old man. I have only been to Paris once! Guess I need to squeeze in at least one more before I depart this realm.

  • lisaonthebeach

    Oh, your visits sound just lovely! And I love that feature photo of the man observing! Beautiful post! Isn’t it fun putting together these posts and reliving the moments? 💙

    • Sarah Wilkie

      We’re very lucky to have Paris so close, and you’re right, it doesn’t really change much – although it was sad on this visit to see Notre Dame after the fire (but great that rebuilding work has already started!)

  • sustainabilitea

    I’m glad you’ve been able to get back, Sarah. Sounds like you’ve enjoyed each visit immensely and that’s what counts. Thanks for letting me trail along with you through time and this bit of Paris and happy belated anniversary. We’re celebrating 37 years tomorrow, but we got a late start age-wise. 🙂


  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    Paris looks so lovely, Sarah! You live close enough to be able to go back regularly which makes it extra special. You look so cute in the 1981 shot, too. I chuckled at the stately statue with the pigeon on king’s head 🙂

    • Anonymous

      I also liked the 1981 photo at the hotel door. Prix modérés! Somehow it got me singing:
      Vor der Kaserne, vor dem grossen Tor,
      Stand eine Laterne, und steht sie noch davor.
      So wollen wir uns da wieder seh’n,
      Bei der Laterne wollen wir steh’n,
      Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen
      (In front of the barracks by the main gate,
      There used to be a lamp, which still stands there.
      I wish we could meet there again,
      And stand under the lamp again,
      Just like before, Lili Marlene, just like before.)

  • CliffClaven

    Everyone has Paris. But the city is wonderful enough to share with everyone. I spent the Summer of ‘69 living and loving in Paris with a Bulgarian girl who, like me, was supposedly there to study. Every day after toiling at the Alliance Française to transform our foreign French into passable Parisian, we escaped the classroom to walk hand in hand by the Seine, eat cheap pizzas in backstreet restaurants, watch impenetrable films in dark leftbank cinemas and laugh at the tourists – because, after all, we were in love and living in Paris.

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