The 5 iconic Paris sights you can see best from the River Seine

Every year millions of tourists flock to Paris drawn to the city’s world famous monuments, but this popularity inevitably leads to big crowds of people all trying to see the same thing at the same time. The city is so popular that even in low season it can be difficult to get the sights of Paris to yourself.

But there is a way to see the most emblematic places in Paris easily and in your own time. And most importantly, without the crowds. Take a cruise down the River Seine and make the most of the chance to see the sights from a relaxed and unique perspective. Here’s our guide to the 5 iconic Paris sights you can see from the River Seine.

Sunrise at the Eiffel tower, Paris

The most iconic of them all – the Eiffel Tower

The 324-metre tower needs no introduction. As well as the most popular Paris sight, the Eiffel Tower is about as iconic as monuments come and is often used as a city symbol.

Despite its fame nowadays, the Eiffel Tower was actually intended as a ‘pop-up’ monument, built just for the 1889 Exposition Universelle by Gustave Eiffel. But its popularity meant that the Paris authorities decided to let it stay as a permanent landmark on the city skyline. Until 1929 the Eiffel Tower was the highest building in the world.

Visible from almost anywhere in Paris, the tower has a privileged position on the Champs-de-Mars esplanade on a wide meander in the River Seine. Although impressive enough by day, the Eiffel Tower is at its most magnificent after sunset when hundreds of golden lights outline the giant metal structure topped by a huge beacon. Don’t miss the lights when they sparkle (for 5 minutes every hour on the hour).

Why see the Eiffel Tower from the River Seine?

Easily the best views of Eiffel Tower are from the river, which gives you a chance to get the tower into perspective. The views are especially good from the Pont d’Iéna bridge that joins the tower with the Trocadero district on the north side. (And no one is in the way of your view!)

Paris Cathédrale Notre Dame 4

A treasure island of Paris treats – Ile de la Cité

This important island might be small but it comes packed with must-see (and crowded!) Paris monuments – see them from the river and they’re all yours.

At the east end of the island is the instantly-recognizable Notre Dame, 1 one of the world’s finest and largest Gothic cathedrals.  A river view gives a great perspective on the cathedral’s size and also its architecture. Notice the flying buttress structure and the 93-metre spire in the middle, plus the world-famous twin towers, home to the equally famous bells and the hunchback, Quasimodo. You also get a good view of the dozens of gargoyles and chimeras that line the roof.

You’ll also find the Conciergerie on this central island, a royal palace in the 14th century it was put to more sinister uses when it became a torture chamber and prison. During the French Revolution some 4,000 prisoners were housed here including Marie Antoniette Antoinette. The river views of the Conciergerie are simply stunning, particularly at night when the entire building is lit up.

Why see l’Ile de la Cité from the River Seine?

A river cruise gets you up close and personal with the bridges that join the island to the city of Paris on both sides of the Seine. Look out for Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris despite its name, and at the western tip of the island, the pretty Square du Vert-Galant gardens, famed as one of the most romantic spots in Paris. (And you have the views all to yourself!)

A pedestrian bridge (Le Pont des Arts) links the Institut de France and the central square of the Palais du Louvre.

Fine art inside and out – the Louvre

Originally a medieval fort the magnificent Louvre is now the world’s largest museum, home to treasure after treasure. The collection of over 5,000 art works includes the world-famous Mona Lisa, and the Venus de Milo, not to mention the genius of the Louvre’s pyramid design entrance itself. Its juxtaposition with the surrounding classically-styled buildings is a brilliant merge of the old with the new.

Further down river are the ornamental Tuileries gardens, designed by Queen Catherine de Medici in 1560, and a giant playground for Parisians ever since. The view of the geometric design and long lines of trees is particularly fine from the river especially in autumn when the leaves glow yellow and orange.

Why see the Louvre from the River Seine?

Perhaps nowhere else gives you a better idea of just how grandiose the Louvre is than from the river. From a boat you can take in the entire building with varying perspective – from afar as you approach and then up close as you glide past. (And of course with no crowds getting in the way!)

Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees and Pont Alexandre lll in Paris, France

Little and large – Grand Palais and Petit Palais

The two palaces at this bend in the River Seine – the Grand Palais and its smaller sister the Petit Palais – were built for the Exposition Universelle in 1900. Well over a century later, their imposing glass roofs and stunning façades form part of the must-see monuments in Paris.

The Grand Palais combines classical architecture with Art Nouveau in its columned façade and giant metallic glass roof. The palace’s 4 corners are home to huge bronze horse-drawn chariots. The main characteristic of the Petit Palace is its glass dome that mirrors the larger stone one on Les Invalides on the other side of the river. Both palaces are especially stunning at night when the glass roofs reflect the statues inside.

Why see these Palais from the River Seine?

To see these glass masterpieces you need to go under the Pont Alexandre III, a deck-span bridge many consider to be the finest in Paris. Where else gives you a better vista of the Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs and golden winged horses than the river itself? (And of course, completely crowd-free!)

Musee d'Orsay

All stations to – Musée d’Orsay

Facing the Louvre on the other side of the River Seine is another of the great iconic sights in Paris and one of its best-known museums, the Musée d’Orsay. Originally built as a train station in 1900, the fine and perfectly symmetrical north façade is one of the main landmarks on this side of the river between l’Ile de la Cité and the Eiffel Tower. Look out for the two clocks in the façade; the largest is reminiscent of the clock in the film ‘Hugo’.

The trains disappeared in 1939 and after narrowly escaping demolition, the Musée d’Orsay opened decades later in 1986 as home to the world’s finest collection of Impressionism as well as examples of Art Nouveau and Nabis art. Masters showcased here include Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Rodin, Mackintosh…

Why see the Musée from the River Seine?

You can only fully appreciate the splendour of the museum architecture from a river cruise, especially beautiful when its illuminated façade is reflected upon the River Seine at night. And as you approach the Musée d’Orsay you also see the Louvre on the other side of the river at the same time. (And yet again, without the crowds!)

Want to get the best views of Paris without the crowds? Talk to us about vacations along the River Seine. There are river cruise holidays available and hotel barges like La Nouvelle Etoile and Panache have itineraries that cruise through the city.

Top 10 blogs about France (in English)

Top 10 English blogs about France - 2016If you’re looking for know-how on France you’re spoilt for choice. For a first hand perspective though, you’ll generally find sites blogging about France as the most insightful. But there are plenty and covering myriad topics too. From French wine to top tips for a holiday in Paris, discovering hidden corners of Brittany and French for beginners…

But how do you know which to bother reading? How do you sort the great blogs from the mediocre? The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you and sifted through lots of popular blogs about France in English to come up with the top 10 blogs about France. Happy browsing!

Discovering Paris with a foodie 

The author of Chocolate & Zucchini, Clotilde Dusoulier is a native Parisian with a serious love of food. Her blog combines foodie tips for France generally (we liked her post on how to buy cheese like the French) and her own food discoveries in Paris. Her list of the 5 best croissants in the City of Love is well worth bookmarking for your next city break in Paris.

Her blog also includes a good pinch of traditional French cuisine with lots of easy recipes using fresh produce and many are vegan-friendly. Dedicated to delicious French and Parisian food, Clotilde also includes colourful and mouth-watering photos of her creations.



Do France this way

Says Marcus Smith the owner of France This Way, a site he started when he moved to the Dordogne from the UK. The blog section offers useful information on life in France (some of it very specialist advice such as how to learn to drive in France). And the rest of the site comes jam-packed with guides to French regions, facts about France and a useful travel distances section so you can see how long it will take to get from one beautiful French place to another. And for a bit of fun, France This Way includes some top 10 lists. We particularly liked the Top 10 infamous French criminals!


Everything France and French

The award-winning blog The Good Life France covers a range of things French from Champagne to typical traditions and includes an interesting section about expats in France. Outside the official blog section of the website, you’ll find a treasure trove of information about France – there’s practical advice on aspects of everyday life and posts about things to do in France. All the main tourist regions are featured here so you can read about the market in Dijon, find out where to see lavender in Provence, see photos of the Loire Valley in winter… And you can subscribe to The Good Life France weekly newsletter.



French one word at a time 

This blog won’t teach you the basics but it does give you a new and interesting word in French every day. In each daily post Kristin, editor of French Word-a-Day, teaches you how to pronounce it (via her husband Jean Marc’s audio download) and then she puts it into context via an anecdotal story about life in France. You get to share the funny, sad and unusual things that happen to Kristi, her two bilingual children and her retriever Smokey. There’s also a cookery section with easy recipes and yet more useful expressions. And of course, “ça ne mange pas de pain” (it doesn’t cost a thing”!


French made easy

This blog is part of the umbrella education site and it’s an amazing language resource jam-packed with tips and tricks for getting to grips with French. From basic conjugations of irregular verbs to the complex subjunctive tense via the four different ways to say “yes” in French, this blog makes French so much easier. The blog is written and compiled by Brittany-based Camille whose sister site French Today also has a useful blog section plus a weekly newsletter with tips on learning French.


Mouthwatering pastries from San Francisco to Paris

Although David Lebovitz trained as a pastry chef in San Francisco, his blog about cooking took off when he moved to Paris in 2004. His website offers foodie tips for Paris – his long list of recommended places to eat in the city is excellent and gets frequent updates so you know the information is the latest. The recipes posted on the blog include typical French creations such as sables Bretons alongside Texan staples like braised short ribs. David’s cooking mostly caters for those with a sweet tooth and the long list of recipes focuses mainly on sweets and pastries. In the Paris section watch the mouth-watering video David made when he visited Jacques Genin’s chocolate shop and kitchen.



Not on the Bordeaux postcards

Tim Pike’s blog Invisible Bordeaux discovers those places in and around Bordeaux that don’t feature on postcards. It goes beyond the usual tourist sights in Bordeaux and aims to reveal the real city and surroundings. But the blog doesn’t forget the essential things to see – these are covered too – and it makes some good suggestions on what to see if you want to get off the beaten track. Discover Bordeaux’s version of the Statue of Liberty, Wallace fountains and and WW2 U-boat pen. Invisible Bordeaux includes useful interactive maps and self-guided walks, available as pdfs or as apps for iPhones.



Posts from Provence

When you’re planning a holiday somewhere it’s always good to find out what’s on and if your holiday is in Provence this is the blog for you. American Julie Mautner is based in St Remy de Provence where she has lived since 1999 and her blog shares events in Provence and pieces of local news that are difficult to find elsewhere. Each blog post begins with a nice display of photos to give you a feel for the topic before going on to give you the information. The Provence Post also provides useful information for visitors such as a list of tourist offices and a calendar of French holidays for the year.



Those Parisian secrets

As discovered by American Heather who hails from Arizona but has lived in the City of Light since 1995. Secrets of Paris takes you to the Paris off the beaten tourist track and uncovers anecdotes and hidden sights while giving you a lot of insider knowledge of the city. The blog posts include lots of photos and occasional video clips making them fun and easy to read. Another great feature for the Paris visitor is Heather’s Paris Resource Guide where you can find her thoughts on the best restaurants in Paris, hotels and sightseeing as well as more unusual topics such as running in Paris and Naughty Paris (ladies only!). And if you’re on holiday in Paris check out the monthly calendar packed with things to do and see.



Wine Territory 

No list of blogs about France would be complete without one dedicated to French wine. In Wine Terroirs freelance photographer and wine aficionado Bertrand Celce visits vineyards and wine cellars throughout the main wine producing regions in France and then writes about them. His regular Wine News section reviews wines and offers interesting anecdotes such as when he bought a bottle of very, very vintage Chateau Kirwan at a flea market in Paris for 2 euros. As you’d expect, there are lots of photos and we especially like his range of pictures that take you from planting the vines to trying the wine at the end of the process.


So there you have it – at least 10 more reasons you’ll be salivating just by browsing the internet! And just a teeny bit more incentive to get yourself to France pretty quick…!