Enjoying the Water: Cruising Canals and Waterways in Paris

Tour Companies, Cruise Packages and More

The Canal St Martin features an intriguing lock system.
••• The Canal St Martin features an intriguing lock system. Courtesy of Canauxrama.

If you've already taken a sightseeing and/or dinner cruise on the Seine River and are looking for a more offbeat kind of tour, there's much more to Parisian waterways than the world-famous river. Why not do something different and go explore the city's 81 miles of canals and underground waterways, running all the way from the Ile Saint Louis near Notre Dame Cathedral to the northern tip of the city at the Canal de l'Ourq? Or get out of the city for a day and cruise the gorgeous banks of the Marne River, following in the footsteps of impressionist painters such as Manet, Renoir and Pissaro?

If you've already made the rounds of the Parisian sights and tours recommended in your average guidebook, I definitely recommend going off the beaten path and exploring the waters in and around Paris from a very different vantage.

Touring the Canal St Martin: Another Side of Paris

Historically used as an industrial waterway, the Canal St Martin runs for 4.5 miles, connecting the Seine River to the northerly Canal de l'Ourq. Unbeknownst to most, the canal runs underground for a stretch, between the Bastille and Republique metro stations on Paris's right bank (rive droite).

Several tour companies offer regular cruises on the canal, which allows you to see some of the city of light's less-trodden areas, many of which are charming. The canal operates on an elaborate system of locks, making for an intriguing display as the water rushes through and rises and bridges are raised to let the boats pass.

Canauxrama: Guided Tours of the Canal

Canauxrama offers two-and-a-half hour cruises of the Canal Saint Martin, including a lively commentary on the history of northeastern Paris, one of Paris' best-kept secrets. Cruises begin at the "Marina Arsenal" docking point and end at the lively and ultramodern Parc de la Villette  and the Cite des Sciences (or you can start and end in the inverse direction), allowing you to continue exploring secret nooks of the city.

Marne River Tours: Take a Day Trip On the Impressionists' Trail

Interested in taking a day trip to the verdant banks of the Marne River, which inspired impressionist painters included Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet? Canauxrama also organizes daylong cruises to this beautiful and consistently underrated area of the Parisian region. Pack a picnic lunch on a sunny day and enjoy your meal on the riverside. I have tried this tour and highly recommend it.

Departure information: Boarding is possible from several places. Consult this page at the official website for detailed information on boarding points, current prices, ticket prices, and cruise schedules.

Languages: Tours are available in ten languages, including English, Spanish, German, and Italian. Boats are equipped with a bar.

Address: Bassin de la Villette - 13, Quai de la Loire
Tel:  +33 (0)1 42 39 15 00
Visit the official website

Paris Canal

This is another well-respected tour company offering cruises on the Seine and canals. Paris Canal offers half-day cruises on the Seine and the Canal. Sights include the Musée d’Orsay, The Louvre, and the city's winding network of underground waterways. Tours are available in English and several other languages.

Contact info and schedules:

Tour schedules and offerings vary throughout the year. Call or write for more info on current prices and to make a reservations: resa@pariscanal.com or visit the official website (in English).
Tel: +33(0)142 409 697
 

Traveler Reviews of Popular Boat Tours:

Read fellow traveler's reviews of city boat tours at TripAdvisor for more ideas on where to book.