No trip to Paris would be complete without a stroll or cruise along the city’s sumptuous Unesco World Heritage riverbanks, an unforgettable visual treat which blows all other “most stunning urban waterway” wannabes clean out of the water.
The car-free Rive Gauche and Rive Droite riverbanks are ideal for exploring on foot. If you want to go the whole Unesco World Heritage hog, allow approx. 1h30 from the Eiffel Tower to the Ile St Louis. Mornings are always best, as most self-respecting Parisians will not contemplate walkies until the mid-day meal has been ingested and digested.
Despite the undeniable waft of eau de tourist trap drifting off them, boat cruises (approx. 1h30) remain the most idyllic way of enjoying the sheer gorgeousness of the Seine (not to mention a good way of getting your bearings):
- Leave from either the Eiffel Tower or the Pont Neuf. Vedettes de Paris and Vedettes du Pont Neuf offer smaller boats. Ignore any and all meal deals- absolutely not worth it.
- If 1h30 of slow cruising sounds like 1h15 too long, landlubbers can opt for the Batobus, a river shuttle service stopping at all the main tourist sites and an excellent way of cruising the river without risking a Mutiny on the Bateau.
- For all three companies buy your tickets online and arrive early for the best seats.
- If you really want to (pardon the pun) push the boat out, go private with either River Limousine, My Paris River or Yachts de Paris (the latter being especially good for large gatherings).
Summer is when the Seine really comes alive:
- From mid-July to the end of August, Paris Plages transforms the riverbanks into Seine-by-the-Sea with deck-chairs, palm trees, refreshment stalls and a smorgasbord of activities on both banks of the river.
- For a one of a kind experience, head downriver to Port de Javel and the Javelle Effervescente, a fairy-light bedecked, modern-day, unpretentious and carefree reboot of the traditional guinguette. From yoga and meditation classes by day to impromptu concerts and tango lessons at night there is something for everyone. Food stalls change daily and drinks are great value for money. A great place to experience Paris like a local.
Seine Riverbanks Addresses
- Les Deux Abeilles, 189 Rue de l'Université, 75007 ✆ (0)1 45556404 - A charmingly old-fashioned, lavender-and-lace salon de thé offering tempting homemade tarts, crumbles and scones.
- L'Ami Jean, 27 Rue Malar, 75007- Just off the Rive Gauche, a tightly-packed, rustic bistro fizzing with bonhomie and atmosphere, in no small part thanks to hyper-active and hyper-talented Chef Stephane Jego who (loudly) leads his troops from his miniscule open kitchen. The seasonal menu is Basque-influenced, generous and hands-down delicious (special mention for the historic rice pudding) and the service sterling. A bistro to return to time and again (if you ever find a table). Book way ahead.
- Mini Palais, 3 Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008- With its lovely summer terrace, this is a good pick for a break if you've been visiting the Grand Palais or strolling along the Seine (the Petit Palais café across the road is also another break option).
- Flow, 4 Port des Invalides, 75007- A rooftop bar with first-rate views.
- L'Ébouillanté, 6 Rue des Barres, 75004- Tranquilly located in a cobblestoned medieval lane, a postcard-pretty bohemian spot for an alfresco break in good weather
- The pedestrian riverbanks offer a range of cafés and restaurants but no standouts.