Cruising the Seine

by Gray Cargill on January 28, 2011

Boat on the Seine

One of the richest assets the city of Paris has as a tourist destination is its location on the river Seine.  Aside from the practicalities of being able to transport goods on the river, it makes Paris all kinds of photogenic.  There are bridges criss-crossing the river linking the city’s neighborhoods on either side, and  a long walking path along the Seine makes for a lovely stroll in nicer weather.  Many of the major tourist attractions, like Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Musee D’Orsay are located along the river or at least close enough to be seen from the river.  This makes a boat cruise on the Seine a terrific introduction for visitors to the City of Lights.

A Bateaux Mouches boat

A Bateaux Mouches boat

Unfortunately, for most of the week I was there, the weather was so wet and cold, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of a boat cruise.  Finally, on Saturday night, after a brilliantly sunny day in Paris, I decided it was now or never.  I happened to be walking along the Seine anyway near Pont de l’Alma and saw the Bateaux Mouches landing.  It was an ideal time for a boat cruise, as the sun would set in less than an hour.  So I bought my ticket (10 Euros) for a cruise departing at 4:30pm, as the sun was setting.  (There are more expensive options if you want to join a lunch or dinner cruise.)

Contemporary Paris seen from the Seine

Contemporary Paris seen from the Seine

Was it worth it? Absolutely.  The only downside of tours like this is the other passengers.  There were a large number of teenagers being loud and obnoxious and unsupervised children running all over the boat. While the former was annoying, the latter really upset me. What would have happened if they had fallen overboard and no one noticed?  On the bright side, I noticed I wasn’t the only solo passenger aboard the cruise.

Notre Dame from the Seine

Notre Dame from the Seine

The cruise itself was as lovely as you would expect at sunset and dusk. . . except that it was also brutally cold, thanks to the wind blowing off the water.  I could have sat downstairs in the heated enclosed room, but I toughed it out on the upper deck, because I really wanted photographs of everything.  One by one, everyone sitting outside got up and went inside. I was one of the last holdouts, but after an hour, even I couldn’t take it any more.  The heated enclosure was like heaven at that point.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the river

The Bateaux Mouches cruises are narrated in several different languages (English, French, Spanish, German, and others I couldn’t identify) so tourists can identify what buildings and monuments they are looking at.  I really appreciated that at the time, though in reviewing my photos, I realize I can’t remember what some of them are. It was also fun to practice my knowledge of German, Spanish and French during those narrations.

For a different perspective of the major buildings and monuments of Paris, I highly recommend the boat cruise on the Seine.  In warm weather, I imagine this would be one of the most worthwhile activities you could enjoy in Paris.  But even in winter, it’s beautiful.  Just bundle up before you go.

Anonymous January 30, 2011 at 7:01 am

Oh, I wish I did my cruise at sunset. I still want to take one of those dinner cruises when in Paris again. I think it would be wonderful

Gray January 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Save your pennies, they’re pretty expensive.

Jennifer January 30, 2011 at 1:28 am

I would love to do this. Sorry your trip had some rain, but Paris is so lovely, I’d bet even the rain can’t bring it down too much.

Gray January 30, 2011 at 2:38 am

I hope you have the opportunity to do it sometime, Jennifer. Paris is indeed a beautiful city. You should see the architecture!

Andrea and John January 29, 2011 at 1:55 am

What is it with unruly, unsupervised children in the most dangerous places like trains and boats? We encounter them all the time. Our theory is that parents have had enough and just want them making noise anywhere other than in front of them. Terrible parenting! I do remember those Paris Seine cruises being very nice, though. I love how so many beautiful sights are next to the water.

Gray January 29, 2011 at 2:31 am

Quite probably that, plus being oblivious to the dangers. On trains too? Yeesh.
It is indeed a beautiful cruise, so many beautiful sights along the river.

Sabina January 29, 2011 at 1:34 am

You are strong, Gray. Staying out in the cold like that on a moving vessel is not a good time. Good for you. And it is disturbing that the little kids were running all over the place when they could have fallen overboard. It’s amazing how little caution is sometimes taken in that regard. On the one cruise I went on, there was nothing preventing little kids from slipping through the railings and going overboard. It’s not good.

Gray January 29, 2011 at 2:35 am

Right? And you know darned well if, God forbid, that happened, the parents would find a way to blame the cruise company.

Anonymous January 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm

While I haven’t been on one in ages, I still always recommend this to first-time visitors to the city! It’s a great view of the city, and you see a lot of the main sites very easily. My favorite is in summertime when you can see all the women sunbathing on the side of Notre Dame during their lunch hours 🙂

Gray January 29, 2011 at 12:29 am

LOL! Oh, now all the straight guys visiting Paris are going to want to take the boat cruise in the summer! 🙂

Aviewtoathrill January 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Nice, thorough report of the cruise. It brings back great memories and you are right, we got some of our best pics from the upper deck of the boat. I think it is a definite must do for anyone visiting Paris.

Gray January 29, 2011 at 12:28 am

Thanks for the endorsement, Renee. 🙂

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