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Paris Sightseeing Boat Cruises
Paris has been a river city since the third century B.C., when Celts founded the village of Lutétia on the Ile de la Cité. Today, the city's northern and southern portions are still described as the "Left Bank" and "Right Bank," and the Seine probably carries more river traffic today than at any other time in its history.
Of the many boats that ply the Seine, the most noticeable are the sightseeing boats of the , , , and other excursion fleets.
These tour boats run from morning until late at night, carrying tourists past the city's quays and monuments like waterborne tour buses. Some companies offer lunch and dinner cruises (albeit at steep prices).
The Seine isn't the only Parisian waterway with tour boats: Two excursion companies,and , operate cruises on the St-Martin and Ourcq Canals, which run through the city's northeastern neighborhoods.
Other Canauxrama and Paris Canal cruises include day trips on the Marne and the Seine.
For more information on the leading Paris sightseeing-boat companies, please read the descriptions below (and visit the companies' Web sites by clicking on the links).
Our personal favorite:
La Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches is the oldest boat-tour operator in Paris, and its name is often used (or misused) as a generic term for Seine excursion boats.
The company operates a fleet of nine modern cruise boats and six restaurant boats that are popular with tour groups.
A multilingual recorded commentary describes sights along the bank, and passengers are given a route map with information in 25 languages.
Seventy-minute sightseeing cruises depart every 20 to 45 minutes in summer and less frequently during the winter months.
Restaurant boats offer leisurely, high-priced dinner cruises at night and lunch cruises on weekends and holidays.
The Bateaux-Mouches pier is along the water just east of the Pont de l'Alma, in front of the Trocadero and across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.
Four glass-topped trimarans compete for the title of flagship in thefleet.
The boats--named Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Jeanne Moreau, and Pierre Bellon--hold up to 600 passengers each and offer recorded commentary in 14 languages through airline-style headphones.
The company also has nine smaller boats, some of which are used for dinner cruises and private events.
Cruise tours depart once or twice an hour year-round (typically every 30 minutes from April through September and every 60 minutes from October until the end of March).
High-priced lunch and dinner cruises are available on separate restaurant boats.
The main Bateaux-Parisiens pier is just to the right of the Eiffel Tower as you face the Seine.
A secondary loading point at the Quai de Montebello, on the Left Bank facing Nôtre-Dame Cathedral, offers a limited schedule of cruises on smaller vessels (with narration in four languages) during the warmer months.
This ISO 4001-certified company uses smaller vessels than most of its competitors do, and its traditionally-styled boats have special appeal for boat-lovers and romantics.
One-hour sightseeing cruises depart once or twice an hour, depending on the season. Vedettes de Paris also has dinner cruises, Champagne-tasting cruises, and other cruises that feature snacks or light meals.
Vedettes de Paris has a ticket office at Port de Suffren, just to the west of the Pont de l'Alma on the Eiffel Tower side of the river. (You can see a map on the company's Web site.)
Most of the Seine River's sightseeing fleets operate from piers near the Eiffel Tower and Trocadéro. The are a conspicuous exception: They depart from a pier on the Ile de la Cité, within easy walking distance of locations in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th arrondissements.
One-hour sightseeing cruises operate year-round, with a good selection of day and evening departures in all seasons.
The company's sightseeing boats have 150 to 550 seats, and a smaller vessel--the Sisley--carries 50 to 72 passengers for dinners and charters.
Walk-up ticket prices for sightseeing cruises were a bit higher than competitors' fares the last time we checked, but you can save four to five euros by booking on the Web.
The Vedettes du Pont-Neuf pier and snack bar are at the western tip of the Ile de la Cité, where a staircase leads down from the Pont-Neuf bridge.
Strictly speaking,isn't a sightseeing-boat company. It's more like a bus line, with glass-enclosed trimaran boats that offer "hop on, hop off" service at nine stops along the Seine.
From these locations, you can easily reach many of the city's sights.
Batobus boats run year-round, with frequencies of 20 minutes (summer) to 30 or 45 minutes (winter).
Instead of point-to-point tickets, Batobus sells one- and two-day passes, plus an annual pass for Parisians and long-term visitors. You can ride as often as you like during the validity period.
Discounts are available to holders of student cards and certain public-transportation cards (including Nagivo).
Batobus also sells a two-day "Paris a la Carte" pass that is valid on both the boats and L'Opentour "hop on, hop off" sightseeing buses. Children under 3 ride free.
You can board or exit the Batobus at any of the stops along the circular route, which include Tour Eiffel, Place de la Concorde, Louvre, Hotel de Ville, Jardin des Plantes, Notre-Dame, St-Germain-dés-Pres, Musée d'Orsay, and Invalides.
The Canal Saint-Martin, a.k.a. the St-Martin Canal, runs 4.5 km or 2¾ miles between the Ourcq Canal and the Seine.
The canal opened in 1825, during the reign of Napoleon III, to reduce barge congestion on the Seine while diverting potable water into the city from the Ourcq Canal.
In its heyday as a navigable waterway, the St-Martin Canal was used by more than 4,000 barges each year. Nowadays the canal is a popular recreation spot for Parisians.
operates St-Martin Canal cruises on medium-size sightseeing boats that run between the Place de la Bastille and the Parc de Villette at the northern edge of the 10th arrondissement.
The leisurely one-way cruise takes 2½ hours, with several departures per day.
Canauxrama also offers day cruises on the Seine, the Ourcq Canal, and the River Marne during the warmer months.
Canauxrama's St-Martin Canal cruises leave from either the Arsenal Marina or the Bassin de la Villette. For directions and a map, and for information on other Canauxrama cruises, see the link below.
If you'd like to bundle your Seine and St-Martin Canal cruising into a single voyage, is for you.
The company's boats run between the Musée d'Orsay, on the Left Bank of the Seine River, to the Parc de la Villette in the 10th arrondissement.
Journey time is about 2-1/4 hours, depending on traffic in the canal's locks.
Paris Canal also offers day cruises on the Seine, the Marne, the Canal de l'Ourcq, and the Canal St-Denis. See the company's Web site (link below) for details.
Paris Canal has two embarkation points for its St-Martin Canal cruises: one on the Quai Anatole France near the Musée d'Orsay, and the other in the Bassin de la Villette.
The last time we checked, the company offered four cruises per day (two in each direction, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon).
More boat cruises (with food)
Yachts de Paris
For more information on eating and cruising on the Seine, see our Paris Dinner Cruises article.
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