The 10 Best Seine River Cruises to Book in 2018

See Paris from the water

The River Seine famously cuts through the heart of Paris, rolling slowly between the Right and Left banks and around the tiny island where Notre Dame sits. Most of the city’s most famous monuments can be seen from a stroll along its riverbanks (which are themselves listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but somehow they look even more magical from a boat on the water itself. There are several options for a Seine river cruise, from the famous open-topped Bateaux Mouches to luxury vessels that serve gourmet meals or a champagne toast as you roll along. Some boats cruise during the day, some at night, and they vary in length, but the point of all of them is the same: to get what might be the very best view of the gorgeous city of Paris. These are the best Seine river cruise options that Viator has to offer.

  • 01 of 10

    Floating slowly down the Seine while enjoying a three-course gourmet meal as the city twinkles in the background feels quite like a scene out of a movie. This tour departs from near the Eiffel Tower and takes place on a glass-topped boat, so it’s ideal in any weather. The sample menu includes delicacies such as roasted chicken alongside a carrot-and-potato gateau seasoned with aniseed and a chocolate-raspberry millefeuille. If you select the 8:30 p.m. departure time, the cruise also includes live music. The tour lasts either 1.5 hours (for the 6:30 cruise) or 2.5 hours (for the 8:30 cruise), and the price includes both table wine and a champagne toast.

  • 02 of 10

    If a dinner cruise feels a bit formal or even just a bit too late at night for your taste, you can still enjoy a meal on the water with this lunch cruise (which also admittedly saves a few bucks). The 2.5-hour cruise takes place in a similar elegant glass-topped boat and includes a pretty expansive three-course lunch along with wine and an aperitif. The menu includes options like duck foie gras on toast, a t-bone steak with a side of sweet potato puree, and a typical French cheese course. A live accordionist plays traditional French music hall tunes while you float slowly past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame Cathedral.

  • 03 of 10

    We’re slowly ratcheting down the formality levels (and price) here, but frankly, brunch may be the least-formal meal available on a Seine riverboat, but as far as meals go, brunch on a Seine riverboat is fancier than most meals you’ve eaten in your life, right? Brunch is a fairly new concept for French people, only having made its way across the Atlantic in the past 10 to 15 years (keeping in mind the gravitas with which the French protect their traditional foodways, a whole new meal encroachment is actually kind of a big deal), and it’s certainly a new idea for a river cruise, but it works quite well, especially on this particular boat.

    The boat features all-armchair seating, and all facing outward, so it’s kind of a cozy, relaxed setting in the first place, and with tasty little ​brunchy nibbles (pastries, fruit, salmon, etc.) and a warm cup of coffee or tea, plus a champagne toast if you so desire, it’s just a really pleasant experience all around. No, it’s not super-formal, but things don’t have to be formal to be elegant, especially not in Paris!​

  • 04 of 10

    France is famous for its wine and particularly for its champagne (as you probably know, if it’s from anywhere other than France’s actual Champagne region, it’s not true champagne and should just be referred to as sparkling wine), so why not combine two fabulous and très French activities into one great excursion. This hour-long sunset cruise includes a complete champagne tasting and lesson with an English-speaking certified sommelier as you cruise down the Seine, taking in the sights. You’ll learn the difference between a brut, a demi-sec, and a rosé, as well as how to taste and assess champagne (it’s a bit different than tasting ​wine, but shares lots of similarities) all while the lit-up monuments of the city drift past the windows. Sheer luxury!​

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Who are we kidding, any cruise down the River Seine is a luxury cruise, right? But this one takes it to another level. Instead of the typical flat-bottomed boat, you’ll board the Don Juan II luxury yacht and enjoy this vessel’s smooth ride as you feast on a multi-course tasting menu served by suited wait staff and professional sommeliers. Your table will be set with fine linens in the mahogany and brass-edged dining room, and when you’ve finished eating, you can retire to the spacious bar room, covered decks, or open-air area to take pictures and enjoy the night views.

    The seasonal menu is prepared by a chef who holds the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France and involves both familiar French techniques plus some daring flavors to encourage guests to try something new while they cruise. It’s quite the experience and a particularly ideal option for couples looking for an exquisitely romantic evening.

  • 06 of 10

    This is the classic Paris riverboat cruise — a large, flat-bottomed boat with an open top, from which you can see the amazing views of the famous buildings along the Seine: Notre Dame Cathedral, the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette spent her final night), and so much more. It’s a surprisingly affordable treat and, at just one hour, won’t eat up all of your day (or cause the kids to go stir-crazy). Purchasing your ticket in advance via Viator allows you skip-the-line access to the boat, which is also a time-saver. If you like, you can upgrade your tour to include a glass of champagne.

  • 07 of 10

    Most travelers are familiar with hop-on/hop-off bus tours, which run buses on loops throughout cities and stop at designated stops where you can, yes, hop on or hop off at your leisure. This boat cruise works exactly the same way, and because so much of Paris is right along the edge of the river, it’s actually surprisingly useful.

    You can purchase one- or two-day passes which you can then use to travel up and down the river in style and comfort, or simply enjoy riding the boat and taking the loop (it takes 1.5-2 hours to make a full loop, but there are multiple boats going so you never have to wait long at any stop). There are eight total stops, including one near the Eiffel Tower, one near Notre Dame Cathedral, and one near the Louvre, so if you’re doing big-name sightseeing, you’ll be able to knock those three (and several more) off your list easily. 

  • 08 of 10

    There are more waterways through Paris than just the Seine, many of which were built by Napoleon as he modernized the city. The second-largest is the Canal Saint Martin (recognizable to fans of the movie Amelie — this is where she skipped stones) and it’s possible to reach one from the other (and many places beyond) via a system of locks.

    This cool tour takes you down the Seine and then into the lock system (super-cool in and of itself — kids, in particular, will enjoy seeing the mechanics of the system) to see even more of the city from the waterways that meander through its lesser-known neighborhoods. It’s about as off-the-beaten-path as you can get on a boat, so if that’s more your speed, consider it. (Note that the tour sometimes works in reverse, where you catch the boat out in the outer arrondissements and then float into the center of the city; double-check before you book so you know where to catch your boat.)

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    The Seine, like basically all rivers, connects to other waterways, and one of these is the Marne. This cruise begins in front of the Orsay Museum in central Paris, floating down the Seine, past the city’s monuments and beyond, until you eventually reach the beautiful French countryside. A three-course lunch (including wine) is served on board and an English-speaking guide explains the highlights as you pass by, from the centuries-old monuments in central Paris to the stadiums and government buildings at its edges and then on to the swan-filled lawns of country estates, farms, and fishermen. The tour lasts about six hours.

  • 10 of 10

    It doesn’t get much more iconic than this evening in Paris with its two amazing views of the city. You’ll begin your night with a pick-up in a luxury vehicle which will whisk you away to the Eiffel Tower. You’ll ride the elevator to the first floor (190 feet above the ground) where you’ll be seated at the luxury restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel to enjoy a three-course meal with wine while enjoying the sky-high view of the city below. At the conclusion of your dinner, you’ll take a short stroll to the edge of the River Seine, where you’ll catch your glass-topped boat for a cruise down the Seine, watching the City of Lights glide by against the dark night sky. At the end of your cruise, you’ll meet your driver back at the base of the Eiffel Tower for a comfortable ride back to your hotel.

Our writers spent two hours researching the most popular Seine river cruises on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 20 different cruises overall, read over 60 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested one cruise themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.