Offering boat tours of the Seine River with commentary in ten languages, Bateaux-Mouches is arguably the most well-known Parisian tour operator. Thousands of tourists crowd the company's fleet of large white boats with bright orange seats to take in some of Paris' most famed sights and attractions on the banks of the river, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Musee d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre Museum. For first-time visitors, such a tour can be a great way to take in some of the city's main sights all at once, and it's also a boon for elderly or disabled travelers who may not be able to walk around for long periods of time.
It can also be great for couples looking for a romantic but relatively inexpensive activity, especially at night, when the river is bathed in glimmering light.
Whether you want to sit on the outside deck and see the sights in the open air, or enjoy the views from within the covered glass area (advisable in winter months), a spin on the Seine is always enjoyable. I've taken the tour many times with visiting family and friends, and while it's a no-frills experience, I and my guests have always found it worthwhile.
Practical Information and Contact Details
Bateaux-Mouches boats (there is a total of nine in the fleet) dock at and launch from Pont d'Alma near the Eiffel Tower. No reservations are necessary, but in peak months they are recommended.
Address: Port de la Conférence - Pont de l’Alma (right bank)
Metro: Pont de l'Alma (line 9)
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 25 96 10
E-mail (information): firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets and types of cruises:
You can choose between simple commented cruise tours, or enjoy a lunch or dinner cruise. The Bateaux-Mouches company also offers a combined cruise-Paris cabaret package that includes a boat tour and a dinner and shows at the Crazy Horse.
Commentary Languages Available
The company offers commentary in these languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Headsets are provided free of charge with a ticket for the basic cruise but are not obligatory.
What Will I See on This Tour?
The basic Bateaux-Mouches sightseeing tour offers glimpses, or better, of the following sights and attractions: the Eiffel Tower, Musee d'Orsay, Ile St-Louis, Hotel de Sens, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe, among a slew of other sights.
My Review of the Basic Sightseeing Tour
Please note: This review is in fact drawn from several experiences taking the basic sightseeing tour (I have not reviewed the lunch or dinner cruises).
I've consistently found this tour to be an excellent way to survey many of the city's most famous sights in a quick and relaxed way. On one occasion, I brought my grandmother, who's in her '70s and has limited mobility, and it proved a very enjoyable outing: one that allowed her to see a lot without having to worry about getting tired or finding accessible places to explore.
Touring in the daytime offers a different experience than taking the tour after dusk. During the day, you get a sharper view of most of the sites and, on a sunny day, can enjoy the light playing off the buildings. At night, you may have a more impressionistic sense of things, but the beautifully lit buildings (and the scintillating Eiffel Tower to the west) can be really memorable. I also recommend taking the tour during the evening hours if you're crowd-shy and/or wish to avoid crying babies and groups of young children.
School groups are out en masse during the daytime, and parents tend to bring babies aboard during the day more so than during the evening hours.
I'm admittedly not a huge fan of the audio guide. I found it at times repetitive and tiresome, and I wish they would simplify it while also avoiding the repetition of the same facts in different contexts. If you'd prefer, you can download a brochure that shows a map of what you'll see, and enjoy the challenge of trying to identify the monuments as you pass them by.
A last observation: I wouldn't recommend sitting out on the deck during cold winter days, and sometimes at night the winds off of the Seine can feel glacial unless you're properly bundled up.
Overall, this tour delivers on its promises and is arguably more than worth the modest ticket price.