The magnificent buildings along the quays of the River Seine add to the attraction of a cruise on the river being an enjoyable option when visiting Paris. These boating tours are offered by a number of different companies, by day or by night, and they are hugely popular with visitors all year around.
The use of the term bateau-mouche (literally translated as fly boat) dates back to the nineteenth century. At that time the boats, transporting goods and sometimes passengers from one spot to another along the rivers and canals of France, were purely utilitarian in nature and the use of boats for transporting people became less common as roads and railways developed.
The Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches was the first to propose pleasure trips on the River Seine after World War II, when Jean Bruel acquired one of the last boats that had been built for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867 and began to offer excursions upon the Seine.
A boat trip on the River Seine generally takes in a large number of the many important tourist sights which Paris has to offer. Several tour companies are located near the Eiffel Tower at the Pont de l’Alma. Their routes take them past the Eiffel Tower to the Statue of Liberty, a miniature replica of the one which stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbour, which was given to the United States by the people of France in 1886. The course then proceeds along the river past the Alexander III bridge, offers a glimpse of Les Invalides, the burial place of Napoleon Bonaparte, sweeps past the Musée d’Orsay, a former railway station that houses a large number of impressionist paintings, the Louvre palace, the Pont Neuf and the cathedral of Notre-Dame before turning and heading back to the departure point.
There are a number of rival companies which offer boat tours on the Seine and, in peak season, there are numerous boats that run up and down the river all day long, some with the capacity to carry hundreds of passengers at a time. Apart from the original Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches, there are also Les Bateaux Parisiens at the Eiffel Tower and the Vedettes de Pont Neuf, based under the famous bridge, as the name implies.
There are also a number of operators proposing themed visits or dinner cruises. It is possible to enjoy any number of cruises, year round, which turn these watercraft into floating dining rooms with gourmet meals and musical entertainment as the sights of the city pass by. Lunch cruises are possible on boats such as Capitaine Fracasse and Paris en Scène or with the Yachts de Paris operator. It is even possible to spend a night on the river; the yacht hotel VIP Paris proposes dinners and romantic overnight stays on board this luxury yacht, which has 22 cabins.
It is no surprise to learn that a cruise on the Seine is considered by many to be the ultimate in romance. Who knows how many proposals have been made and accepted, how many birthdays and anniversaries celebrated on board these craft? There are also boats which can be hired for special occasions, birthdays, corporate events and even wedding receptions.
The tourist cruisers are not the only passenger boats on the Seine. Since 2008, the Voguéo shuttle boat carries passengers from the Austerlitz train station south to Maisons Alfort, just outside Paris, with stops at the newly rebuilt neighbourhoods of Bercy and the impressive François Mitterrand Library. With a capacity of 70 on board, this boat is free for Parisians who hold a monthly transport card. This system is also being developed as an alternative to the traditional public transport route to get to and from work each day.
The Parisian public transport company, the RATP, also offers a boat service along the Seine for tourists and Parisians alike. The route takes in eight hop-on, hop-off stops as it winds its way along the river. There is no commentary, which differentiates the Batobus from the tours which are exclusively aimed at tourists and include commentary in several languages, but, for visitors on a budget, it is an excellent alternative. The Batobus service runs from the Eiffel Tower to the Jardin des Plantes, stopping at the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and the cathedral of Notre-Dame amongst other places.
With all of those beautiful buildings overlooking the river, a boat trip along the Seine is definitely a great way to see many major sights.
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