The River Seine in Paris

Even though many people think about the River Seine just being the river in Paris it far more than that, although today it is one of the major tourist attractions and landmarks in Paris with many fabulous bridges to see along with the two islands in the middle of the river.

Facts about the River Seine

The River Seine is a major river in the North West of France and is actually the second longest river in France after the River Loire at an impressive 776km in length, the mouth of the river is located on the English Channel between Le Havre in the Haute Normandie region and Honfeur in the Basse Normandie region.

Also the River Seine is probably the most well known river in France and it actually starts its journey just outside of Dijon in the Burgundy region and flows to the North West through Troyes in the Champagne Ardenne region.
River Seine in Paris
It then continues its journey in to Paris, the capital city of France which is located in the Ile de France region and this is where it divides the city into two, then goes around Fontainbleau and the forest.  The journey of the River Seine then continues on to the city of Rouen, which is the capital of the Upper Normandy region before reaching the English Channel.

Many ocean going vessels can actually navigate the tidal section of the River Seine from the English Channel over 120km right up to the historical city of Rouen where there is a larger dock, however, commercial river boats can actually navigate this river for approximately 560km from its mouth.

Originally the water levels of the River Seine did fluctuate quite dramatically, but locks were installed in the 1800s to compensate for this and today, the levels of the river are still very closely monitored.

You will find four large multiple locks in a section between Rouen and up to the mouth of the River Oise and there are an additional two locks at Suresnes that lift the commercial vessels and canal boats up to the same level as that of Paris.

Because the River Seine became such a major commercial waterway and a major trading route, it was also linked by canals to the River Loire, the River Rhine and the River Rhone, which made trading in the past even more convenient throughout much of France.
However, with the scenery you can pass like tiny villages, gothic cathedrals and much more, even though the River Seine is still used commercially to this day, cruising along the River Seine with tours, packages or by renting a boat has become very popular and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The River Seine in Paris

The River Seine has always been at the heart of Paris, even dating back to when the first Parisii tribes set up their fishing villages along the banks of the river and it is no wonder that the Roman Empire took over the area, when it became a major commercial waterway.

Yet the River Seine is actually only about 24m above sea level in Paris and is only around 8m deep, so this makes it a slow flowing river that is easily navigated and even today it is still a major waterway and a major source of water for Paris.

The river actually divides Paris in two and the first settlers were always on what is known as the Right Bank, however it was during the Roman Empire times when Paris was prospering through the extensive river trading, that the city expanded to the Left Bank as well.

Now talking of the Right Bank and the Left Bank.  There are many people that get confused about what this means in terms of where famous monuments in Paris are located, but it was classified this way for a very simple reason.
Pont Alexandre III over the River Seine
Pont Neuf over the River Seine
Because the river meanders through ten out of the twenty different Arrondissements, no matter where you are, if you look at the river downstream, which means the way the water is flowing, then the left bank is to your left and the right is of course the right bank of the River Seine.

Also, where the river forks in the centre of Paris, it creates two islands within the River Seine, one called the Ile Saint Louis and the other, which is classified as the very centre point of Paris that is called the Ile de la Cite.

So to give you some bearings, the most famous landmark in Paris called the Eiffel Tower is on the left bank, or Rive Gauche in French, as is the Musee d’Orsay and many other landmarks like the Invalides with the Tomb of Napoleon.

But on the right bank of Paris, or Rive Droite in French, you have the most famous museum in Paris called the Louvre, also the fabulous Champs Elysees avenue and the Sacre Coeur Basilica.

However, there are numerous other monuments in Paris that are located right by the River Seine, and on the Ile de Cite island you can get to see La Conciergerie, which was a palace turned into a prison in the French Revolution, plus there is the impressive Notre Dame Cathedral on the same island.
Notre Dame next to the River Seine
There are 32 different bridges that cross the River Seine so that you can access different monuments and areas of Paris, whether it be in one of the tour buses like l’Open Tour or on foot with one bridge called the Pond des Arts being specifically for pedestrians.  However, the oldest bridge is called the Pont Neuf that has featured in many films and pictures over the years.

The quays along the banks of the River Seine are pretty easy to get to and some of these go into walkways and cycle paths and are often used for sunbathing and picnics, but others are where you can enjoy a canal trip or boat trips.

And as you can probably gather, the River Seine is always a hive of activity both on the water and along its banks and these days there is a dedicated bus service called the Batobus, which is basically a bus on water that stops at certain quays along the river giving access to some of the major tourist attractions in Paris like the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower.

However, cruising along the River Seine has also become a major tourist attraction and one of the oldest tour operators are from the firm called Bateau Mouches that provide dinner cruises on traditional boats, yet there are many others that offer some fabulous gourmet French cuisine dinner cruises, plus there are others that offer far longer trips, such as from Paris to Le Havre and then travelling via the Eurostar train back in to Paris.

But lets get back to the River Seine

There are numerous forms of entertainment in Paris and even on the River Seine this is no exception, as not only do you have the cruises with commentary and dinner cruises where you can get to see the bridges and monuments all lit up of an evening, but there are also several boats moored permanently on the river.
Passerelle Debilly over the River Seine
Jardin Tino Rossi next to the River Seine
One such venue for night entertainment with DJs is the old lighthouse boat called the Batofar, or you have an old wooden Chinese Junk called the Lady of Canton, which formerly known as the Cabaret Pirate which hold shows for children, concerts and much more.

For something completely different, how about swimming?  Ok, so you would not want to go swimming in the River Seine, but you can now go swimming on it!  Yes, there is a barge moored on the banks of the river that is home to the Piscine Josephine Baker, which is actually the newest swimming pool in Paris that was completed in 2006 ready for the Paris Plage, yet is open all year round and has a cover for those not so nice days.

Talking of the Paris Plage, this is the highlight for many in August as a section of the bank along the River Seine is turned into a beach with palm trees, deckchairs and numerous activities are organised, which is called the Paris Plage and has become a resounding success.  Yet is ideal if you are with children or want to relax and soak up some sun whilst you are on holiday in Paris.

But there are always other things happening, whether it be on a by the river, especially during the summer months with open air concerts, people just in groups playing the guitar, etc and these can be heard and experienced at numerous locations along the river, yet we could never mention everything.

Just make sure that you do spend some time along the River Seine and enjoy the history of Paris with its monuments, etc from a completely different perspective.