This is one of my favourite bridges in Paris. Spanning the River Seine, Pont Alexandre III dates back to 1900 and is reminiscent of the Belle Epoque era. Nowadays the city’s most ornate bridge connects the Grand and Petit Palais to the Hôtel des Invalides. Let’s have a closer look at the bridge’s history and decorative features.
Why was Pont Alexandre III built?
Pont Alexandre III was built in the same period as the Grand and Petit Palais, in time for the 1900 World Exhibition.
Russian emperor Nicholas II himself laid the first stone on the 7th October 1896 in the presence of French President Félix Faure.
The new bridge symbolises the Franco-Russian friendship and the alliance signed between the two nations (Tsar Alexandre III and French President Sadi Carnot) in 1891.
A commemorative inscription on a column (Right Bank) reads:
“Le 14 avril 1900, Émile Loubet président de la République Française a ouvert l’exposition universelle et inauguré le pont Alexandre-III”
The 14th April 1900, French President Emile Loubet opened the World Exhibition and inaugurated the Alexandre III bridge.
In fact, the sumptuous bridge was dedicated to the Tsar’s father, Alexander III (1845-1894).
In the same political spirit, Nicholas II of Russia commissioned the Trinity Bridge in Saint-Petersburg (Russia). The French firm Société de Construction des Batignolles was completed in 1903, in time for the 200-year anniversary of Saint Petersburg.
The bridge connects the tree-lined street of Cours-la-Reine (8th arrondissement) and Quai d’Orsay (7th arrondissement). On the Right Bank, it continues Avenue Winston Churchill which gives access to the Grand and Petit Palais.
A technical success!
Engineers Resal and Alby designed the proposed bridge according to the technical requirements of the day. Rules prevented it to:
- interrupt river traffic passing along the Seine.
- be built with several arches.
- mask the beautiful perspective leading to the Invalides.
Technically, the bridge was an engineering success. It includes a 6m high single-span steel arch across the Seine.
- The total length is 160 metres and the width is 40 metres.
- The bridge has been equipped with electric street lighting since its construction in 1900.
- The bridge serves motor vehicle traffic and pedestrian.
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An extravagant beloved bridge
This bridge ranks amongst the Parisians’ favourite bridges. By walking on it, you’ll clearly understand why. Observe the many exuberant Art Nouveau features:
- winged horses, and
- an array of sculptures (lions, cupids, water sea monsters, scalloped seashells, lizards…).
In the centre of the bridge, statues in beaten copper represent the nymphs symbolising:
- the River Seine on the downstream side and
- the River Neva (in Russia) on the upstream side.
32 bronze candelabras decorate the bridge. The remarkable street lamps have been lit up with electricity since the bridge’s construction. They are positioned across the bridge at regular intervals.
The street lamps contribute to the splendour and exuberance of the bridge, particularly at night time. But they are also beautiful to admire when not in use in bright daylight!
Get closer and you’ll recognise the coat of arms of Paris!
The candelabras placed towards the end of the bridge are much bigger in size. They feature cherubs and sea monsters.
Take the time to admire the decoration along the bridge deck. You’ll find aquatic fauna and flora featured finely executed.
If you are visiting the bridge, I challenge you to find this little lizard!
The pillars topped with winged horses
At each extremity of the bridge are two monumental pillars.
The 17 metres high masonry structures provide stabilisation and counterweight for the bridge’s arch. While not interfering with the monumental views from and outside the bridge!
Four gilt-bronze statues of Fames bringing Pegasus to heel dominate the bridge. They were restored in 1991 and nowadays sparkle with light!
- The Pegasus and Fames on the Right Bank depict Peace:
Renommée des Sciences (“Fame of the Sciences”) and Renommée des Arts (“Fame of the Arts”)
At their bases, La France Contemporaine (“Contemporary France”) and France de Charlemagne (“France of Charlemagne”).
- The Pegasus and Fames on the Left Bank depict War:
Renommée du Commerce (“Fame of Commerce”) and Renommée de l’Industrie (“Fame of Industry”).
At their bases, La France de la Renaissance (“France of the Renaissance”) and La France de Louis XIV (“France of Louis XIV”).
Finally, at the feet of the pillars, you’ll discover groups of lions led by children and genies with fish and shells.
My favourite time of the day!
This bridge is beautiful at all times… but my favourite part of the day is at sunset on a glorious Winter day.
If you’re patient enough, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most spectacular views of Paris!
Also, a cruise on the River Seine gives you the great opportunity to admire (and pass beneath!) the bridge from a different perspective!
The river journey starts right at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The tickets feature:
- Instant ticket delivery
- Smartphone tickets accepted
How to get to Pont Alexandre III?
Pont Alexandre III is a very accessible bridge to see thanks to its central location.
You can easily reach it on foot from the Champs-Elysées, the Place de la Concorde, the Eiffel Tower or the Hôtel des Invalides.
Alternatively, find your way to two métro stations:
- Invalides (lines 8, 13, and RER C) on the Left Bank
- Champs-Elysées Clemenceau (lines 1 and 13) on the Right Bank