Paris is blessed with the River Seine and three canals (Canal St. Martin, Canal St. Denis and Canal de l'Ourcq) making it a perfect place to take a cruise and see the city from a different angle.
37 bridges cross the River Seine which winds its way through the city center, it has several beautiful quays and many of Paris' main attractions can be seen from the water. From the water you can see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre, Orsay Museum and the Palais de Chaillot among other sites.
Early morning on a Paris canal. Photo courtesy of Gray Line Tours
The shortest river cruises are 1 hour long and are run by Bateaux Parisiens (which boards near the Eiffel Tower) and Vedettes du Ponf Neuf (which boards near Notre Dame). Holders of the 2 day Paris Pass get a free Seine Cruise. The 1 hour cruises (approximately $18) includes an audio commentary and travels down the Left Bank before returning along the Right Bank. Bateaux Parisiens offers lunch cruises, dinner cruises and day sightseeing cruises along the Seine.
Due to the convenient departure points it is possible to combine a Paris boat trip with other sightseeing activities on land. Companies such as Viator offer combination tours of a Seine River cruise and visit to the Eiffel Tower and other sites on land. There are also cruises at night so you can take in the lights of Paris when the sun goes down. A night cruise can be combined with a bus tour of the city four hours in length for $60. A cruise can also be combined with a show at Moulin Rouge or the Lido, dinner at Chez Clement on the Champs Elysees or other top Paris restaurants.
If you want to see more than just the River Seine, there is a 2.5 hour cruise along the Seine and Canal Saint Martin which includes a live commentary. The cruise departs (March 17th – November 11th) from Musee d'Orsay or Parc de la Villette. Along the canal you will see a different side to Paris. The canal climbs through a series of 19th century locks and travels through the charming older sections of the city.
Dinner cruises are on boats with a glass top so that you can see the sites along the shore while staying warm and protected from the weather. This luxurious and romantic form of cruise includes a 4 or 3 course meal. Lunch cruises offer the same luxury but perhaps with less romance! Your dinner or lunch cruise along the Seine is usually accompanied by a live musical performer or singer providing background music. The wine connoisseur should consider a wine tasting and dinner cruise in a city known for serving the finest wines of France. If time is a consideration, there is a one hour Champagne Tasting Cruise offered by O Chateau.
If you want to have the ultimate river boat experience in Paris consider renting a houseboat during your stay. Instead of staying at a hotel you can rent a floating house with all the conveniences of a Paris apartment. A houseboat in Paris is called a peniche which is a barge that has been converted to floating home on the water. For more information on renting a Paris houseboat, click here.