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Seine River Cruises

Cruising the waters of the Seine while 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

Seine River Cruise | ©J Shim

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

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

The Seine River cruise is one of the most demanded experiences in Paris, not only by tourists but also by 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 ride 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 is a very good alternative to do with children as they have a discount on the ticket and it is also perfectly adapted for travelers in wheelchairs or with reduced mobility.

Where do they leave from?

The departure in all cases is from the Bateaux Mouches pier located near the Alma Bridge; you will recognize it because it is the first one you will find walking from the Eiffel Tower towards the Louvre Museum.

Points of interest to be toured

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

When to do it

If you go for this option I recommend you to choose the last schedule to be able to see the illuminated city. In high season (April to September) there are departure times every 30 minutes from 10 am to 10:30 pm, in low season (October to March) a boat leaves approximately every 40 minutes from 11 am to 9:30 pm.

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 that is known as the cruise with free stops. The difference with the other types of cruises is that this one makes stops at different points in the city and people can get on and off as they please; that is, it serves as transportation as well as a tour to enjoy the sights.

Because of the way this activity works, you do not pay per trip but for the use of the cruise for one or two days depending on the mode you choose. That is to say, with the price of the day pass for the Cruise with free stops you can get on the cruise as many times as you want, stop at the stops you want or, if you prefer, do the whole tour.

When to do it

In my opinion, one of the advantages of this cruise is to be able to do the complete tour during the day and repeat it 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 toured

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Orsay Museum
  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Jardin des Plantes/Cité de la Mode
  • Hôtel de Ville
  • Louvre Museum (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 illuminated by returning to do the tour late in the evening.

4. Seine River cruise with Eiffel Tower climb

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

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

At the Eiffel Tower

First of all, you will meet a specialized guide in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower (once you book your experience, you will be given the meeting point). He will accompany you and the rest of the group during the climb to the second floor of the tower while he tells you the history of this monument and contextualizes all the views you will see from the tower.

The cruise

After this visit, you can head at your own pace to the stop on the Seine where the boat will be waiting for your river cruise (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 pictures and listening to audio commentary. The tour on the Seine will end at the same point of departure.

5. Seine River cruise with entrance to the Eiffel Tower and tour bus

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

This is the most complete option. If you are going to spend 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 ride, Eiffel Tower ticket and tourist 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

I would recommend this tour to those who want to do something special on their first night in the city and get an idea of everything that awaits them or "say goodbye" to the city by doing a general review on the last day of the trip.

What this tour consists of

The full duration of this tour of Paris with Seine River cruise included is about five hours. Among the advantages is the fact that you will be accompanied by a guide throughout the day to whom you can ask any questions or ask for recommendations that will be useful during your trip and also includes audio commentary that will tell you details of all the sites that you will see during the various tours.

Points of interest

Although the tour along the Seine has views of many of the most important monuments of Paris, others are not visible from the river's bank, so 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 intended for those who do not want a simple boat ride to see Paris. This type of cruise is a relaxing experience intended to enjoy the ride without thinking about anything else. It is a three-hour VIP cruise on the Seine that starts at 7:15 pm and includes music on board, a three-course dinner, and pick-up and drop-off from your hotel in the center of Paris.

The price of this cruise is higher than other options, but because the experience is much more exclusive; it is less about sightseeing and more about celebrating a special occasion. One of the advantages of this cruise is that there are many details that you can customize such as your seats or the dinner menu. All dining options include three courses prepared by the chef on board and beverage.

Points of interest you tour

  • 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

7. All you need to know about Seine river cruises

Cruise on the Seine passing by the Ile de France | ©Joe deSousa
Cruise on the Seine passing by the Ile de France | ©Joe deSousa

Booking tickets in advance is important

Regardless of the type of cruise you choose, it is recommended that you reserve your tickets in advance to ensure your place on the day and time chosen for the tour. The operation of these cruises, 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 the Eiffel Tower, the meeting point will be different, but otherwise the most usual is to leave from one of the docks that the city of Paris has (you will be told from which of them your boat leaves when you buy your tickets, but all are located in central locations in the city and will be easy to reach them).

About the guides and comments

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

Photographs

You will be able to take all the pictures you want from the boat, but if the weather permits, make sure you choose one that does not have a roof to have better views. If you can, stand next to the water for the best angle and if you have a zoom lens you can use that as well. Anyway, I won't fool you: the pictures you will take from a Seine cruise are not the best; it is better to enjoy the experience and not worry too much about taking pictures.

8. Paris Pass

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

If you have a tourist card, make sure if it has any cruises included. The Paris Pass, for example, includes a free Seine River cruise so you won'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 with this tourist card you get the best possible prices. I have written an article on Paris Pass where you can check 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 liked the experience of taking a cruise on the Seine, keep in mind that there are a variety of other options besides the usual ones. For example, there are cruises along the Canal Saint-Martin of Paris, further away from the usual tourist route, others that leave the capital to visit other regions of France, or some that are private or high luxury.

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

Seine cruises are a comfortable way to see the city and learn about it, but they are not the only ones. Personally, I recommend two more experiences in which you will tour a good part 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 Hop on Hop off Bus Tours. From the boat, there will be monuments that are not visible and that is a problem that the bus solves without giving up the comfort and time savings when traveling distances. If you have never taken a tourist bus during one of your trips, from experience I advise you not to dismiss this option without pondering its upsides.

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 getting closer to it in a special way, and on the other hand, in the tours, I have always learned stories that have made me love the city even more. If you want a selection of the best tours in Paris you can read this other article about Paris Tours.

Frequently asked questions

  • Which Seine River Cruise is the best?

    The Hop-on Hop-off Seine River Cruise is the best reviewed cruise and it will let you explore Paris at your own pace while you enjoy a relaxing experience. If you're looking for a romantic cruise, choose a Champagne Tasting Cruise at night for a stunning scenery.

  • What time is the last Seine River Cruise?

    Usually, the last river cruise departs from Ile de la Cité at 22:30, so during the summer months this will be your safest bet to enjoy the best of the city lights.

  • When is the best time of the year to go on a Seine River Cruise?

    August is usually very busy with tourists, but it's generally a good idea to take a cruise as the river will help beating the heat. Also, the Christmas season is a particularly good time to take a cruise on the Seine under the charming lights.