As romantic life experiences go, taking a boat tour of Paris definitely ranks high on the list. The city and many of its most iconic sights and attractions are spread out before you as you lazily drift down the Seine river.
By taking one of these popular tours, you can get a glimpse of some of the city's most mythical and celebrated spots, enjoy a romantic dinner, or just sit back and revel in the fresh air and delicious floating in a scenic setting. It's no wonder we've included a sightseeing cruise on our list of the top 10 sights and attractions in the French capital.
How to Decide on a Cruise Package
This will depend on your budget and interests. Before settling on a tour, decide whether you would prefer a narrated tour that focuses on Paris history and sights, enjoy a scenic lunch or dinner accompanied by a nice bottle of wine, or follow your cruise with a cabaret show or another additional attraction. Finding a tour that fits your budget shouldn't be a problem, but you should always compare packages and check for current deals offered by tour companies such as Viator or Tiqets.com.
Trusted booking agents such as these and others regularly offer special packages allowing you to book a combined cruise, dinner and/or cabaret show if you so choose, or follow up your Seine-side tour with a visit to popular monuments such as the Eiffel Tower. While these options are more expensive than the typical one-hour cruise that most visitors choose to take, they can offer better value. Many operators also offer special cruises for occasions including New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, and other holidays. Browse the popular tours listed below to help you make an informed choice.
When to Go on a Cruise
The best time is generally May through mid-September, when skies tend to be clearer and temperatures in Paris are generally warm. Fall and winter tours are still worthwhile, but keep in mind that wind from off the water and frequent rain can make sitting on the open-air deck less than desirable. However, some companies offer blankets and heated panoramic decks to keep you warm so that you can enjoy the magical experience.
What to Expect
Ah, the Seine. It's not an exaggeration to claim that no other river in the world has been the subject of so much poetic fussing, inspired picture-taking, and all-around worship. What's more, many of Paris' most-recognizable places grace the river's banks. All of the tour companies listed below offer cruises that include views of the following major attractions and monuments; on commented tours, you can expect some useful facts and information on these historic sites in the capital.
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Eiffel Tower
- Musee du Louvre
- Musee d'Orsay
- Assemblée Nationale (The National Assembly building)
- Hotel des Invalides
- Pont Neuf (Paris' oldest bridge, dating to the 16th century)
- Pont Alexandre III (an Art Nouveau bridge dating to 1896)
- Grand Palais (a Belle Epoque building housing the National Galleries)
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Probably the city's most popular and trusted boat cruise operator, Bateaux-Mouches offers a variety of Seine river cruises throughout the year. The most budget-friendly of these is the basic sightseeing cruise, which offers audio commentary in numerous different languages and comfortable seating inside or on the top deck. The total tour time is about 70 minutes.
Starting from nearby the Pont de l'Alma metro station, this cruise departs every half hour during high season (April to September) between 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. In low season (October to March), departures are every 40 minutes, starting at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. each evening. You can reserve tickets in advance here. Children under the age of four board for free.
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Bateaux Mouches: Lunch or Dinner Cruise
If it’s less of a guided tour and more of a relaxed, romantic occasion you’re after, you may want to opt for a lunch or dinner cruise with Bateaux-Mouches. Lasting around one hour and 45 minutes, the lunch cruise departs from the Pont de l'Alma at 12:30 p.m. and includes an aperitif, starter, main course, cheese or dessert course, plus a bottle of wine and water for two. There are vegetarian options available for each course.
The dinner cruise—a better choice for a romantic Parisian outing but more expensive—is available in three different packages and price-points: the 6:00 p.m. "early bird" service, the "Prestige" menu, and the "Excellence" menu. Vegetarian options are available for all three of these. Cruise time for the early bird service is one hour and 15 minutes; for the pricier packages, you'll have around two hours and 15 minutes to enjoy the surreal nighttime scenery from the water.
For current prices, available dates. menu options and reservations, visit this page.
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Bateaux Parisiens: One-Hour Sightseeing Tour
Almost equally as popular as Bateaux-Mouches is Bateaux Parisiens, another company whose main ticket offices are moored nearby the foot of the Eiffel Tower. For the one-hour sightseeing cruise, this operator offers the added convenience of being able to board at two different locations: near the Eiffel Tower, or on the Quai de Montebello beside Notre-Dame Cathedral. This is a plus if you don't want to have to cross to the other side of the city to hop on the boat.
The one-hour cruise covers all the main sites and attractions as the ones you can see with Bateaux Mouches and comparable operators, and audio commentaries are available in several languages. Additionally, this tour especially accommodates children: they get to listen to their own age-approproate audio commentaries, and select cruises offer music and storytelling performances from costumed staff.
For information on daily schedules, current ticket prices, and to reserve online, visit the official website.
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Bateaux Parisiens offers lunch and dinner cruises featuring traditional French cuisine, served on their fleet of all-glass boats. Live musical entertainment is included. All lunch and dinner cruises depart from the foot of the Eiffel Tower at the Porte de la Bourdonnais.
The two-hour lunch cruise departs at 12:45 p.m. and includes three different levels of service: a basic menu comprising starter, main, and dessert, and two pricier options that include a selection of fine wines and a window-side table.
Choose between the 6:15 pm service (the less expensive option) or the 8:30 or 9 p.m. services (these include more expensive "privilege" and "premier" menus that include champagne). Vegetarian options are included.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Yet another well-respected operator offering Seine sightseeing cruises of around an hour is Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf, moored near the Pont Neuf bridge in central Paris. This might be a convenient choice if you've just visited sights such as the Louvre Museum or the Centre Georges Pompidou and want to board a boat tour nearby.
Offering live commentary in French and English (rather than pre-recorded audioguides) on a fleet of glass boats, the cruise departs daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. On some days, the last cruise is at 9:45 p.m.; check schedules in advance.
For more information on current prices and schedules, see the official website.
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Vedettes du Pont Neuf: Champagne Cruise
A good option for those who'd like a little luxury on their Seine cruise but can't quite afford a full lunch or dinner option? The Vedettes du Pont Neuf champagne cruise "A la Parisienne," an evening option which combines live commentary with a champagne aperitif.
Boarding at either 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. from the Port de l'Arsenal near the Place de la Bastille, the two-hour cruise winds its way down the Seine and ends near the Eiffel Tower, which bursts into a scintillating light show. There's a full drinks and snack bar onboard.
For reservations, boarding locations and current prices, visit this page. The Vedettes du Pont Neuf also offers a variety of lunch and dinner cruise packages, including a champagne dinner with views over the Eiffel Tower during its hourly light show.
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This is a great option for anyone who gets restless on a tour and likes to break it up with some walking. The Vedettes de Paris sightseeing cruise covers largely the same sights and attractions as its main competitors, but allows for a stopover at Notre Dame Cathedral, near the Pont Marie bridge.
You can hop off, explore the neighborhood around Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter, hop back on if you so choose or continue your exploration of the city from there. There's a bit more flexibility with this sightseeing cruise that some visitors will appreciate.
The Vedettes de Paris also offers a two-hour dinner cruise that offers good value for the quality, and leaves at 9:15 p.m. daily from nearby the Musee d'Orsay. There are vegetarian options for each course. See more details on the dinner cruises here.
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Last but not least, visitors who like the flexibility of true hop-on, hop-off tours will also enjoy Batobus, a city-run boat "shuttle" with nine stops around the city, including the Eiffel Tower, Musée d'Orsay, St-Germain-des-Prés, Notre-Dame, Jardin des Plantes/Cité de la Mode et du Design, Hôtel-de-ville, and the Louvre.
You can buy one- or two-day passes that allow unlimited use of the boats, boarding and exiting at any point on the route. The glass boats are heated and offer panoramic decks similar to those found on fleets of other popular operators. There may be no frills with Batobus, but if you want to avoid the metro and get around the city in a way befitting of a Venetian, this is an ideal option.