No matter the season, the Seine River never fails to charm visitors in Paris. In wintertime, the dashing lightshows of the Eiffel Tower are reflected in the still water of the Seine. In springtime, you’ll see couples attach a lovelock to the Pont des Arts and throwing the key into the river symbolizing their eternal love. In summertime, Paris Plages take over the banks of the Seine River, as people swim in floating pools or stretch out on the sandy beaches. In autumn time, the leaves of Parisian trees turn golden brown and float down the river, followed by the numerous tour boats.
It’s clear the Seine River is an integral part of life in Paris, and cannot be missed by any traveler! In this post we’ll tell you a little more about the most famous river in France, and also describe some of the best spots to view the Seine from in Paris.
Seine River Facts
The Seine River is a total of 776 kilometers (482 miles) long, and flows from Source-Seine near Dijon to Le Havre and into the English Channel. From Le Havre, almost 120 kilometers (75 miles) of the Seine River is still navigable by large ships that sail the oceans. Almost the entire length of the Seine is navigable by regular-sized riverboats, and recreational boats can be found across the entire length of the River.
In Paris, the Seine used to be a shallow river with sandy banks. However, over the years locks were installed to raise the water level, and nowadays there are no natural sandy banks left in the city. The river depth is also tightly controlled, and averages 9½ meters (31 feet). Nonetheless, the Seine has flooded Paris on numerous occasions, some even recently. For example, in 2003 the water level rose so quickly that about 100,000 works of art, which were stored underground, were moved out of the city. Paris hadn’t seen a relocation of art of this scale since the Second World War.
Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis
Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis are the only two natural islands left in Paris. Both lie in the center of Paris, in between the Rive Droite and Rive Gauche, respectively the Right Bank and Left Bank of the Seine River. The two islands are connected to the two banks by numerous bridges. Pont Saint-Louis connects the two islands, and you can often find many street performers on this bridge.
Île Saint-Louis is largely residential, but also has many amazing restaurants. The island has a main road that runs from west to east: Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. Here you can find most of the restaurants of the island, as well as the ice-cream parlor Berthillon. It is said you haven’t really tasted ice cream until you’ve tasted Berthillon’s sorbets! To find out more about the island, check out this Île Saint-Louis video tour.
If you explore the narrow streets of Île Saint-Louis, cross Pont Saint-Louis to the more famous Île de la Cité. Île de la Cité houses some of Paris’ best-known landmarks: the Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Pont Neuf and more.
All of these landmarks are very much worth paying a visit, but there are also some less-known spots on the island where you can see amazing views of the river. For example, behind the Notre Dame, you’ll find a gorgeous garden right beside the Seine. This is called Square Jean XXIII, and runs to the most southeastern point of the island. You can find an even quieter park on the other side of the island west of Pont Neuf. If you stand on this bridge, you can see a triangle-shaped small park called Square du Vert-Galant beneath you. Stairs next to the Henry IV statue lead to this tiny green haven. Here you will get one of the best views of the Seine River in Paris. It’s lovely to pack a picnic and have it right on the edge of the island, while taking in the splendid views.
The Ponts of the Seine River
In total, there are 37 bridges within Paris that span the Seine River. Two of the most famous are the aforementioned Pont des Arts and Pont Neuf. Here are some of the most famous:
- The Pont des Arts (pin 1) is the first bridge west of Pont Neuf. The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge, and links the Institut de France on the Rive Gauche to the Louvre on the Rive Droite. While you should definitely check out the lovelocks on the bridge, and perhaps attach one yourself, don’t forget to admire the panoramic views as well. To the east you’ll have a splendid view of the Île de la Cité and Pont Neuf, while to the west you can catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
- Pont Neuf (pin 2) has a bit of a deceptive name, as it’s actually the oldest bridge in Paris. The River Seine flowing through the ancient arches makes a great picture.
- Another very picturesque bridge is the Pont Alexandre III (pin 3). This extravagant bridge connects the Grand Palais to the Invalides. Built in 1900, the bridge is easily recognizable by its art nouveau decorations, including statues of cherubs and nymphs.
- Two bridges that are less ornate but nonetheless still impressive are Pont Saint-Michel (pin 4) and Pont Notre Dame (pin 5). A collective of Parisian architects, who imagined the bridge with only three arches, designed Pont Saint-Michel. Lastly, Pont Notre Dame is famed because it stands on the exact spot where the first bridge in Paris ever crossed the Seine River. The metal bridge you see today is more recent, however, as it was constructed in 1919.
Seine River Boat Cruises
Although there are many ways to explore the River Seine in Paris, the best way is of course from the river itself. By taking a boat tour along the Seine you will not only get a chance to discover the river from an entirely different vantage point, but also to see many of Paris’ best-known landmarks in one go.
There are different cruise companies that offer river tours, but Bateaux-Mouches is probably the biggest. This company offers different kind of cruises. Regular tours cost about €11,50 for one adult. There are also options to take a lunch cruise or even dinner cruise. Our advice is to try and book a cruise just before sunset, so you’ll both get to see Paris during the day and discover why it’s truly the city of lights in the evening.
If you really enjoyed spending some time on the water, why not stay a little longer? We have a unique accommodation available in Paris on a real cruiser boat, which is completely adapted into a 1-bedroom loft-style apartment. The boat is located in the residential and exclusive district of Neuilly sur Seine, but it’s always possible to organize your own private cruise of the Seine River! If you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, we also offer many vacation rentals in Paris that are close to the Seine River, so you can experience all it has to offer right from your doorstep!
Have you ever taken a boat cruise along the Seine River?