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Seine River Cruises in Paris

Cruising the waters of the Seine while still enjoying the sights and lights of the city is a unique experience not to be missed.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

Seine River Cruises in Paris

Seine River Cruise | ©J Shim

The Seine is the soul of Paris, the landmark that gives the city a magical touch. A cruise on the Seine is the best way to see its main monuments at a glance.

1. Types of Paris Seine river cruises

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Seine River
View of the Eiffel Tower from the Seine River

A cruise on the Seine is one of the most popular experiences in Paris, not only for tourists but also for locals. That's why there are different options:

2. One hour cruise on the Seine from the Bateaux Mouches pier

Notre Dame seen from the Seine River| ©Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz
Notre Dame seen from the Seine River| ©Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

This boat trip on the Seine is the most economical option. The tour starts at the Bateaux Mouches pier and lasts approximately one hour and ten minutes. It's a great option for children as they get a discount on the ticket and it's also perfectly adapted for wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility.

Where you depart from

The departure in all cases is from the Bateaux Mouches pier located near the Alma bridge; you'll recognise it because it's the first one you'll find walking from the Eiffel Tower towards the Louvre museum.

Points of interest to be visited

  • The Louvre Museum
  • The Hotel de Ville
  • The Conciergerie
  • Passage de la Monnaie
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • The Musée d'Orsay
  • The Eiffel Tower

When to do it

If you opt for this option, I recommend choosing the later timetable to see the city illuminated. In high season (April to September) there is a departure timetable every 30 minutes from 10am to 10.30pm, in low season (October to March) a boat leaves approximately every 40 minutes from 11am to 9.30pm.

3. Two-hour cruise on the Seine with free stops

Alexander III Bridge, Paris| ©Léonard Cotte
Alexander III Bridge, Paris| ©Léonard Cotte

There is a type of cruise on the Seine known as a cruise with free stops. The difference with the other types of cruises is that it stops at different points in the city and people can get on and off as they please; in other words, it serves as transport as well as an excursion to enjoy the sights.

Because of this, you don't pay per trip but for the use of the cruise for one or two days, depending on the mode you choose. In other words, with the price of the one-day pass for the Cruise with free stops you can get on the cruise as many times as you want, stop at as many stops as you want or, if you prefer, do the whole tour.

When to do it

Personally, I think one of the advantages of this cruise is that you can do the whole tour during the day and do it again at sunset (only in winter it will be at night) to have both views of Paris from the Seine River. The full tour lasts two hours and the boats pass every 25 to 30 minutes at each stop.

Points of interest to be visited

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Orsay Museum
  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Jardin des Plantes/Cité de la Mode
  • Hôtel de Ville
  • Musée du Louvre (between Pont Royal and Pont du Carrousel)
  • Champs-Elysées
  • Pont Alexandre III / Invalides

Ana's Traveller Tip

If you choose a cruise with free stops, make the most of it to see the city lit up by returning late in the evening.

4. Cruise on the Seine with ascent of the Eiffel Tower

View of the Eiffel Tower on a stormy day
View of the Eiffel Tower on a stormy day

If the Seine River tour is one of Paris' must-see attractions, the other is the climb up the Eiffel Tower. Combining these two experiences will save you money and time, as you'll skip the queues to climb the Eiffel Tower. The combination of the Seine River cruise and the full Eiffel Tower tour will take about three hours and you can choose between morning or afternoon.

At the Eiffel Tower

First of all, you will meet a specialised guide in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower (once you have booked your experience, you will be given the meeting point). He will accompany you and the rest of the group up to the first floor of the tower while he tells you the history of this monument and gives you the context of all the views you will be able to see from the tower.

The cruise

After this visit, you can head at your own pace to the Seine river stop where the boat will be waiting for your river trip (the guide will tell you the exact spot). At this point, you can enjoy the views of the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Conciergerie, among other monuments, while taking photos and listening to audio commentary. The tour along the Seine will end at the same starting point.

5. Cruise on the Seine with entrance to the Eiffel Tower and tour bus

Sacre Coeur, Montmartre| ©Pedro Szekely
Sacre Coeur, Montmartre| ©Pedro Szekely

This is the most comprehensive option. If you're only spending a short time in Paris and don't want to leave without getting an overview of the city, this could be a good option. This combination of cruise, Eiffel Tower and sightseeing bus includes a tour of the city from three different perspectives: the top of the Eiffel Tower, the waters of the Seine River and the streets of Paris aboard a vehicle with panoramic views.

When to do it

Personally, I would recommend this tour to those who want to welcome the city and get an idea of what to expect or "say goodbye" to the city with a general overview on the last day of their trip.

What this tour consists of

The full duration of this tour of Paris, including a cruise on the Seine, is about five hours. Among the advantages is the fact that you'll be accompanied by a guide for the whole day, who can answer any questions or ask for recommendations that may be useful during your trip, and who also includes audio commentary that will tell you details of all the sites you'll see during the different tours.

Points of interest

Although the Seine tour has views of many of Paris' most important monuments, there are others that are set back from the riverbank and are not visible from the river, which is why the panoramic bus is the ideal complement to the visit. Throughout this tour you will see sites such as:

  • Place des Pyramides
  • Place Vendome
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Champs Elysées
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Trocadero
  • Les Invalides
  • Louvre Museum
  • D'Orsay Museum
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Conciergerie
  • Eiffel Tower
  • George Pompidou Museum
  • Sacre Coeur
  • Montmartre
  • La Défense

Ana's Traveller Tip

If you're looking for a comfortable way to see the whole city and not miss any of the main sights, combine your Seine cruise with a sightseeing bus.

6. Three hour cruise on the Seine with dinner included

Views from the Seine River
Views from the Seine River

This is the VIP option for those who don't want a simple boat ride to see Paris. This type of cruise is for those who want to relax and enjoy the experience without thinking about anything else. It is a three-hour VIP cruise on the Seine starting at 7.15pm and includes music on board, a three-course dinner and pick-up and drop-off from your hotel in the centre of Paris.

The price of this cruise is higher than other options, but this is because the experience is much more exclusive; it's less about sightseeing and more about celebrating a special occasion. One of the advantages of this option is that there are many details you can customise, such as the seats you want to sit in or the menu you want to eat. All menus include three courses prepared by the onboard chef and drinks.

Sights to see

  • Eiffel Tower
  • National Assembly
  • Alexander III Bridge
  • Les Invalides (Army Museum)
  • D'Orsay Museum
  • Ile de la Cité
  • Conciergerie
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Louvre Museum
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Grand Palais
  • Trocadero
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Musee du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

Everything you need to know about Seine cruises

Cruise on the Seine via the Ile de France| ©Joe deSousa
Cruise on the Seine via the Ile de France| ©Joe deSousa

It is important to book your tickets in advance

Regardless of the type of cruise you choose, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance to ensure your place on the day and time chosen for the tour. The way these cruises work, regardless of what each one includes, is very similar: once you have booked online, you will receive a voucher or receipt via email that you must present at the point indicated on the day and time you have chosen for your cruise.

The meeting point

If the cruise includes other attractions such as climbing the Eiffel Tower, the meeting point will be different, but otherwise you'll usually depart from one of the docks in Paris (you'll be told which one your boat departs from when you buy your tickets, but they're all centrally located in the city and easy to get to).

About the guides and comments

Most Paris Seine river cruises include on-board audio commentary in several languages, but not all include a dedicated guide. If the difference is important to you, make sure before you book your ticket what services are included in the cruise. In any case, with or without a guide, most commentaries are very well done and you will always learn something about the points of interest included in the tour.

Photos

You'll be able to take as many photos as you like from the boat, but weather permitting, make sure you choose a boat without a roof for the best views. If you can, stand next to the water for a better angle and if you have a zoom lens you can use that too. However, I'm not going to kid you: the pictures you'll take from a Seine cruise are not the best; this experience is more about enjoying it than photographing it.

Paris Pass

Aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe
Aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe

If you have a tourist card, make sure it includes a cruise. The Paris Pass, for example, includes a free Seine River cruise so you don't need to book it separately. Many children also get a discount on sightseeing cruises.

The Paris Pass is highly recommended if you are planning to make the most of your trip by visiting as many attractions or museums as possible, as you get the best possible prices with this tourist card. I have written an article on Paris Pass where you can find out whether or not to use the Paris Pass, when and how to use it and how to get the most out of it.

Other options

If you enjoyed the Seine cruise experience, there are a variety of other options besides the usual ones. For example, there are cruises along the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, more off the beaten tourist track, others that leave the capital to visit other regions of France or some that are private or high luxury.

If you are interested in a cruise on the Seine, you will also be interested in

Seine cruises are a convenient way to see and learn about the city, but they are not the only way. Personally, I recommend two other experiences that will take you around much of Paris:

The first is the sightseeing bus with panoramic views and you can read more about this option in the guide I wrote about Paris Hop on Hop off Bus Tours. From the boat there will be monuments that you can't see and that's a problem that the bus solves without sacrificing comfort and saving time when travelling distances. If you have never taken a tourist bus during one of your trips, from experience I would advise you not to discard the option prematurely.

The second option is guided walking tours through different areas of the city. On the one hand, getting to know a city on foot is to get to know it in a special way, and on the other hand, I have always learned stories on these tours that have made me love the city even more. If you want a selection of the best walking tours in Paris you can read this other article on Paris Tours that I wrote about it.

Frequently asked questions

  • Which Seine cruise is the best?

    The Hop-on Hop-off cruise on the Seine is the top-rated experience, allowing you to explore Paris at your own pace while enjoying a relaxing stroll. If you're looking for a romantic cruise, the Champagne Tasting evening cruise is the perfect evening with stunning views in the background.

  • What time is the last cruise on the Seine?

    The last cruise usually leaves Ille de la Cité at 22:30, so during the summer months, this is your best chance to enjoy the stunning lights of the city.

  • What is the best time of year to go on a Seine cruise?

    August is generally the busiest month for tourists, but it's still a good idea to take a cruise to beat the heat. Also, the Christmas season is a particularly good time to take a cruise on the Seine under the enchantment of the Christmas lights.