Discover the Quais de la Seine in Paris

0

The banks of River Seine (Quais de la Seine) in Paris have been listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 1991. Along the Seine are found some of Paris’ most famous monuments and landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre-Dame, the Conciergerie, the City-Hall, the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand…

 

 

The Quais de la Seine: a bit of history

Map of Paris in 1223

Map of Paris in 1223

From the 9th to the 19th centuries, bridges were built in Paris, and the city’s banks were established by raising quays and drying the marshlands. Little by little, the original appearance of the river was transformed by human development. Banks were built up either side of the river which narrowed it, but kept its significant role as centre of urban activity. Water-related activities and houses concentrated along its banks.

Engravings of annual jousting contest on river Seine in Paris by Jacques Callot in 1630

Engravings of annual jousting contest on river Seine in Paris by Jacques Callot in 1630. On the left, the Nesles tower. On the right, the Louvre and the tour du Bois

The Seine: a historic part of Paris

The Seine has always played a historic part in the making of Paris.

Dating back to when the Parisii tribe first established a fishing village along its banks, the waters of the River Seine have always been the heart and soul of Paris.

The construction of the quays started in 1312 when King Philip IV (the Fair) commissioned the development of today’s Quai des Grands Augustins (Left Bank) in the interest of the river trade. The example was soon followed on the Right Bank with the layout of Quai de la Mégisserie and Quai des Célestins.

Mérian Map of Paris cc 1615

Mérian Map of Paris cc 1615

King François I in 1530 and King Henri IV at the beginning of the 17th century had the discontinued quays connected to each other with the constructions of additional quays.

On the Île de la Cité, the first developed quays appeared much later (between 1580 and 1600) as its ports were of less importance.

The quays of the Seine

In the 19th century, the quays were restructured to feature two levels: the “quais hauts” (high quays) and “berges” (low quays).

In the 1960s, a controversial development of the quays introduced expressways on the low quays in favour of car traffic.

Today, the Paris authorities are inclined to limit car access along the Seine. Significant efforts have been initiated from the 1990s to reclaim the banks of the river back for pedestrians.


Romantic Paris: my new eBook is out!

Order your copy now and get inspired by over a hundred of beautiful photos!

Romantic Paris eBook by French Moments

My new ebook is a collection of 115 photos taken along the banks of the River Seine, with 30 inspiring quotes in English and French.


The Seine in Paris

Seine Map

Map of the River Seine

The River Seine rises at Source-Seine in the Langres Plateau, 30 km northwest of Dijon, Burgundy. 776 km long, it crosses Troyes, Paris, and Rouen before flowing into the English Channel at Le Havre. Over the centuries the Seine has become an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin, particularly between Paris and Le Havre.

Seine in Paris Map

The River Seine in Paris

The Seine runs through Paris on a curve over 13 kilometres long cutting the city into two parts: the Left Bank (rive gauche) and the Right Bank (rive droite). With a depth varying between 3.40 m and 5.70 m and a width between 30 and 200 m, the river is crossed by 37 bridges, including 4 footbridges.


The Banks of the Seine in Paris

For nearly 2 km, the river is bordered on both sides by double-decker quays. Lined above by knobbly plane trees and below by cool, green poplars, the quays are wonderful places for walking and picnics. The most impressive part of the banks is found around the two islands of Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis.

Île de la Cité

The ship-shaped island is the historical heart of Paris which was known as Lutetia (Lutèce) during the Roman era. It is linked to the Right and Left Banks by eight bridges, and a ninth leads to the smaller Île Saint-Louis.

Quais de la Seine, Paris © French Moments

Quais de la Seine: Ile de la Cité from Pont des Arts © French Moments

The Île de la Cité includes three major medieval monuments: the Conciergerie, the Gothic Sainte-Chapelle and cathedral of Notre-Dame.

Find out more about the Île de la Cité.

Île Saint-Louis

The calm little Île Saint-Louis has nothing in common with its larger neighbour Île de la Cité.

Quais de la Seine - Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Quais de la Seine : Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Named after King Louis IX (Saint-Louis), it includes no great monuments except a few interesting mansions such as Hôtel Lambert. Nevertheless, the island is appreciated for its beautiful quays and peaceful residential district in the centre of Paris.

Find out more about Île Saint-Louis.


The Quais de la Seine: a Unesco Site

The Banks of the Seine in Paris became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The listed area extends over 365 hectares between Pont de Sully and Pont de Bir-Hakeim including their surroundings. The protected zone also covers the islands of Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, and 23 of the 37 bridges across the Seine in Paris. It includes some of Paris’ most famous monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, the Hôtel des Invalides, the Louvre, and Notre-Dame.

Seine in Paris Map Unesco

Seine in Paris Map Legend

Quais de la Seine : Pont Neuf © French Moments

Quais de la Seine : Pont Neuf © French Moments

A World Heritage Site

UNESCO justifies the listing by the distinction between two parts of the Seine in Paris, upstream and downstream:

“Upstream, beyond the Arsenal, begins Paris the port and river transport town; downstream is the royal and subsequently aristocratic Paris, which had only limited commercial activity. It is this latter section of the city which was selected for the World Heritage List. The powerful hand of the state is extremely visible here through its constructions and the legislation in effect.

A geographical and historic entity

It can be seen how the site and the river were gradually brought under control with the articulation of the two islets, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis with the bank, the creation of north-south thoroughfares, installations along the river course, construction of quays, and the channelling of the river.

Paris from Tour Saint-Jacques © French Moments

Paris from Tour Saint-Jacques © French Moments

Similarly, although the successive walls of the city have disappeared (the ramparts of Philip-Augustus, Charles V, and the Fermiers Généraux), their traces may be read in the difference in size and spacing of the buildings (closer together in the Marais and the Île Saint-Louis, more open after the Louvre, beyond which are a greater number of major classic constructions laid along three perpendicular axes:

  • Palais Bourbon-Concorde-Madeleine,
  • Invalides-Grand and Petit Palais,
  • Champ-de-Mars-École Militaire-Palais de Chaillot.

The ensemble must be regarded as a geographical and historic entity. Today it constitutes a remarkable example of urban riverside architecture, where the strata of history are harmoniously superposed.”

(source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/600/)


Book a cruise to see the most beautiful bridges of Paris!

Seine Paris © French Moments

A cruise on the River Seine, Paris © French Moments

Fancy discovering the bridges from the river once the pandemic’s over? Book one of the following cruises with our partner Tiqets.

Choose from a day time promenade to a dinner cruise!


The bridges of Paris

Paris in Autumn © French Moments

Paris in Autumn – Pont Royal © French Moments

No less than 37 bridges span the Seine in Paris. Five of them are pedestrianised and two are rail bridges (métro and RER).

The Left and Right Banks of Paris are linked by eight bridges to Île de la Cité and four to Île Saint-Louis. One bridge (Pont Saint Louis) links the two islands to each other.

Bridges of Paris © French Moments

Bridges of Paris © French Moments

The list of the bridges of Paris

The list below takes an inventory of all the bridges from upstream to downstream of Paris with the year of construction and/or re-construction:

Seine in Paris Bridges Map

Bridges from Boulevard Périphérique (East) to Ile Saint-Louis

1 Pont amont (part of the Boulevard Périphérique) 1969
2 Pont National 1853
3 Pont de Tolbiac 1882
4 Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir (pedestrianised) 2006
5 Pont de Bercy (for road traffic and another level for the line 6 of the métro 1991
6 Pont Charles-de-Gaulle 1864 and 1998
7 Viaduc d’Austerlitz (for the line 5 of the métro) 1904
8 Pont d’Austerlitz 1807

Bridges of Ile Saint-Louis and Ile de la Cité

9 Pont de Sully (crosses the eastern tip of Île Saint-Louis) 1638 and 1877
10 Pont de la Tournelle (from the Left Bank to Île Saint-Louis) 17th c and 1930
11 Pont Marie (from Île Saint-Louis to the Right Bank, historic monument) 1635
12 Pont Louis-Philippe (from Île Saint-Louis to the Right Bank) 1834 and 1862
13 Pont Saint-Louis (pedestrianised, from Île Saint-Louis to Île de la Cité) 1634 and 1970
14 Pont de l’Archevêché (from the Left Bank to Île de la Cité) 1828
15 Pont au Double (from the Left Bank to Île de la Cité) 1626
16 Pont d’Arcole (from Île de la Cité to the Right Bank) 1828 and 856
17 Petit Pont (from the Left Bank to Île de la Cité) 1st C BC and 1853
18 Pont Notre-Dame (from Île de la Cité to the Right Bank) Roman era and 1914
19 Pont Saint-Michel (from the Left Bank to Île de la Cité) 1378 and 1857
20 Pont au Change (from Île de la Cité to the Right Bank) 9th century and 1860
21 Pont Neuf (crossing the west tip of Île de la Cité, historic monument) 1607

Bridges from Ile de la Cité to Boulevard Périphérique (West)

22 Pont des Arts (pedestrianised, historic monument) 1804 and 1984
23 Pont du Carrousel 1834 and 1939
24 Pont Royal (historic monument) 1550 and 1689
25 Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor (formerly known as Passerelle de Solférino until 2006) 1869 and 1999
26 Pont de la Concorde (historic monument) 1791
27 Pont Alexandre III (historic monument) 1900 
28 Pont des Invalides 1829 and 1856
29 Pont de l’Alma 1856 and 1974
30 Passerelle Debilly (pedestrianised, historic monument) 1900
31 Pont d’Iéna (historic monument) 1814 and 1935
32 Pont de Bir-Hakeim (for road traffic and another level for the line 6 of the métro, historic monument) 1878 and 1905
33 Pont Rouelle (crossing Île aux Cygnes, RER C viaduct) 1900
34 Pont de Grenelle (crossing Île aux Cygnes) 1827
35 Pont Mirabeau (historic monument) 1897
36 Pont du Garigliano 1966
37 Pont aval (part of the Boulevard Périphérique) 1968

 

Pont d'Iéna, Paris © French Moments

Pont d’Iéna, Paris © French Moments

The Bridges of Paris Book

If you are interested in learning more about the bridges of Paris, check out this beautiful coffee table book: Bridges of Paris by Michael Saint James. We love it and our copy of the book is set on a favourite part of our bookshelves at home! Order your copy on Amazon (affiliate link):


The Bouquinistes of Paris

Bouquinistes of Paris © French Moments

Bouquinistes of Paris © French Moments

The banks of the Seine would not be the same without the established “bouquinistes”. The booksellers and their green painted boxes have truly become one of the many iconic symbols of Paris.

It was once said that the Seine is the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves!

Always in the open air during any weather :

by the wind, the rain, the frost, the snow, the fog, and the great sun, that they end by looking much like the old statues of cathedrals

(Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard).

Find out more about the Bouquinistes of Paris.


Quotes about the Seine and Paris

Ile Saint-Louis in autumn © French Moments

Ile Saint-Louis in autumn © French Moments

Here’s a little selection of inspiring quotes found here and there…

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

“Admirable, however, as the Paris of the present day appears to you, build up and put together again in imagination the Paris of the fifteenth century;

look at the light through that surprising host of steeples, towers, and belfries;

pour forth amid the immense city, break against the points of its islands, compress within the arches of the bridges, the current of the Seine, with its large patches of green and yellow, more changeable than a serpent’s skin;

define clearly the Gothic profile of this old Paris upon an horizon of azure, make its contour float in a wintry fog which clings to its innumerable chimneys;

drown it in deep night, and observe the extraordinary play of darkness and light in this sombre labyrinth of buildings;

throw into it a ray of moonlight, which shall show its faint outline and cause the huge heads of the towers to stand forth from amid the mist;

or revert to that dark picture, touch up with shade the thousand acute angles of the spires and gables, and make them stand out, more jagged than a shark’s jaw, upon the copper-coloured sky of evening.

Now compare the two.”

Pont au change © French Moments

Pont au change, Tribunal de Commerce and Conciergerie © French Moments

Margaret Anderson

“Paris is the city in which one loves to live. Sometimes I think this is because it is the only city in the world where you can step out of a railway station—the Gare D’Orsay—and see, simultaneously, the chief enchantments: the Seine with its bridges and bookstalls, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the beginning of the Champs Elysees—nearly everything except the Luxembourg Gardens and the Palais Royal. But what other city offers as much as you leave a train?”

Quais de la Seine - Place Louis Aragon, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Place Louis Aragon, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Vicente Huidobro, The Cubist Poets in Paris: An Anthology

“Morning”
SUN
That awakens Paris
The highest poplar on the bank
On The Eiffel Tower
A tricolored cock
Sings to the flapping of his wings
and several feathers fall
As it resumes its course
The Seine looks between the bridges
For her old route
And the Obelisk
That has forgotten the Egyptian words
Has not blossomed this year
SUN”

Quais de la Seine - Pont Neuf at dusk © French Moments

Pont Neuf at dusk © French Moments

Boileau

“La Seine a des Bourbons, le Tibre a des Césars.”

Quais de la Seine - Pont Neuf © French Moments

Quais de la Seine – Pont Neuf © French Moments

François Mitterrand

“Le destin de la Seine est-il d’arroser Paris ou bien d’aller à l’Océan?”

Quais de la Seine near Notre-Dame © French Moments

Quais de la Seine near Notre-Dame © French Moments

Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris

Paris est né, comme on sait, dans cette vieille île de la Cité qui a la forme d’un berceau. La grève de cette île fut sa première enceinte, la Seine son premier fossé.

Pont Royal © French Moments

Pont Royal © French Moments

Anatole France, Le crime de Sylvestre Bonnard

“Les bouquinistes déposent leurs boîtes sur le parapet. Ces braves marchands d’esprit, qui vivent sans cesse dehors, la blouse au vent, sont si bien travaillés par l’air, les pluies, les gelées, les neiges, les brouillards et le grand soleil, qu’ils finissent par ressembler aux vieilles statues des cathédrales. Ils sont tous mes amis et je ne passe guère devant leurs boîtes sans en tirer quelque bouquin qui me manquait jusque là, sans que j’en eusse le moindre soupçon.”

Quais de la Seine by night © French Moments

Quais de la Seine by night © French Moments

Sous le ciel de Paris

“Sous le ciel de Paris
Coule un fleuve joyeux
Hum Hum
Il endort dans la nuit
Les clochards et les gueux
Sous le ciel de Paris
Les oiseaux du Bon Dieu
Hum Hum
Viennent du monde entier
Pour bavarder entre eux”
From the song: Sous le Ciel de Paris – Lyrics: Jean Dréjac – music: Hubert Giraud  – sung by Jean Bretonnière in 1950 and Édith Piaf in 1954.

Quais de la Seine, Pont Neuf © French Moments

Pont Neuf © French Moments


Quais de la Seine: English-French Vocabulary

Quais de la Seine © French Moments

Quais de la Seine © French Moments

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin and (v) for verbs

  • bank = quai (m)
  • banks of the River Seine = quais de la Seine (m,p)
  • bridge = pont (m)
  • island = île (f)
  • Left Bank = Rive Gauche (f)
  • Lutetia = Lutèce
  • monument = monument (m)
  • Right Bank = Rive Droite (f)
  • river = rivière (f)
  • World Heritage Site = Site du Patrimoine Mondial (m)

More photos of the Quais de la Seine

Here’s a little selection of photos I took during my visits to Paris… photos taken in all seasons, from early morning to night-time!

The Louvre © French Moments

The Seine and the Louvre © French Moments

The bridges of Paris © French Moments

The bridges of Paris from Pont de la Concorde © French Moments

The River Seine in Paris © French Moments

The River Seine from Pont du Carrousel © French Moments

Paris from the towers of Notre-Dame © French Moments

Paris from the towers of Notre-Dame (looking to the west) © French Moments

Spring on the Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Quai D’Anjou, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Notre-Dame cathedral © French Moments

Spring time at Notre-Dame (before the 2019 Fire) © French Moments

Statue of Liberty, Paris © French Moments

The Statue of Liberty of Paris © French Moments

Pont Mirabeau in Autumn © French Moments

Pont Mirabeau in Autumn © French Moments

The Louvre in Autumn © French Moments

The view of the Louvre from Passerelle Léopold Sédar-Senghor © French Moments

Pont Alexandre III © French Moments

The magnificent Pont Alexandre III © French Moments

View from Pont de la Concorde © French Moments

A night view from Pont de la Concorde © French Moments

Quai du Louvre by night © French Moments

Quai du Louvre by night © French Moments

Notre-Dame cathedral by night © French Moments

A night time view of Notre-Dame cathedral (before the 2019 fire) © French Moments

 


Will you consider visiting the Quais de la Seine soon? Share it with us!

Inspired? Pin it for later…

Paris Eiffel Tower Quais de la Seine


 

Liked it? Take a second to support French Moments on Patreon!
Share.

About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

Leave A Reply

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.