The Seine, named after the Gallo-Roman goddess of water, crosses France from the southeast to the northwest passing through the major cities of Paris, Rouen and Le Havre. The solid ports and industrial enterprises on its banks are interspersed with cozy hotels in old stone houses, national cuisine restaurants and campsites. The tranquil landscapes of the sun-drenched banks of the Seine inspired the Impressionists’ world-famous paintings.
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From Rouen to Paris, the meandering Seine has many islands, with tidal phenomena persisting for 35 km from its mouth. The Seine River is 776 km long and reaches an average depth of 9.5 m near Paris. Much of the basin – plains with flat sandy banks, under threat of flooding during the winter months, only in the southeast, closer to the source, on the Langres plateau in Burgundy, the height above sea level reaches 900 m. The floods of the Seine during the cold season have become a real scourge of coastal areas. To save Paris from floods, in the 19th century the city built high stone embankments and began to carefully monitor the water level. The last extreme rise of the Seine was observed in 2016, thanks to the coordinated work of the city services there was no special destruction, although it was necessary, as usual, to evacuate tens of thousands of works of art from the basement funds of the city’s museums. In dry years in the summer, on the contrary, the Seine is threatened by shallowing, endangering navigation on the river.
History of coastal towns and villages
Written records show that the banks of the Seine River were settled by Celtic tribesmen, fishermen and farmers in the 3rd century B.C. The Romans who came to Gaul also appreciated the convenient waterway, in the 6th century they were forced out by the Germanic tribe of Franks, which gave its name to the state. Because of its flat character and slow course, navigation along the Seine is easy, a fact that was taken advantage of in the ninth and tenth centuries by the Vikings, who reached Paris and laid siege to the city. Subsequently, they retreated and spent some time in the vicinity of Rouen, closer to the sea.
At the mouth of the river lies Le Havre, the largest seaport in France. Between the Seine and the basin of Le Havre stands a concrete causeway, allowing only ships to pass. This port is the leader in France in terms of passenger traffic, while in terms of cargo flows it is second only to Marseille. Port of Le Havre provides not only maritime but also river transport. The city owes its heyday in the 16th century to the fact that more popular ports on the Seine, Honfleur and Arfleur, located a few kilometers from Le Havre, were in the silted part of the river.
The next major city on the Seine to the east is Rouen, pierced by tributaries of the river, a significant French port. In 1431, a tragic event for the history of France occurred in Rouen – the trial of Joan of Arc was held. The savior of the country was burned at the stake, and the ashes were scattered over the Seine.
The most important suburbs of Paris were formed on the banks of the Seine, the main transport artery of the region. Epinet-sur-Seine, which absorbed the name of the river, is located 11 km north of the capital, Corbeil-Eson lies in the southern part of Paris, at the confluence of the Eçon into the Seine. Food was brought to the capital by boat from the suburbs, and corpses were transported back by water during plague epidemics – hence the French name of the hearse. Mantes-la-Jolie, 53 km west of Paris, was a fortified port that protected the capital from invasions.
Voyage on the river
Large ocean-going ships travel on the Seine River 120 km to Rouen, barges and riverboats over 500 km to Marrille-sur-Seine. A trip from Paris to Honfleur and back with a tour of Rouen usually lasts about 5 days. The cost of the trip is 1000 euros for accommodation in a double cabin with full board. On rented boats you can sail the Seine and, through a network of canals, on other rivers of France.
Paris on the Seine
On the left bank of the Seine River are concentrated museums and tourist sites, led by the Eiffel Tower, on the right – the business centers and government agencies. However, the division is conditional – on the right bank remain the Louvre, Tuileries, Bois de Boulogne and Montmartre, no less popular among visitors. The most convenient option, which allows you to think about the route yourself, is a trip on the river streetcar Bateau Bus, following the river with 8 stops.
Tickets on the Bateau Bus are valid for a day or two from the first boarding, so tourists can sightsee and then continue their walk. The route along the Seine River runs through the tourist center of the city, from the Botanical Gardens to the Eiffel Tower. From March to September streetcars run frequently, every 20 minutes, in low season you have to wait about 25 minutes. Starts at 10:00, ends at 19:00 in winter and 21:30 in summer. The ticket costs 16-19 euros for a day or two for adults, 7-10 euros for children from 3 to 16 years.
More comfortable than the riverboats, sightseeing boats start from the third pier of the promenade Bourdonnais. The cost of an hour tour is 6-14 euros. Restaurants on the boats are booked in advance, the cost of a two-hour lunch on the River Seine up to 100 euros per person. Dinner with live classical music lasts longer and costs up to 215 euros.
The Seine in the history of painting
The banks of the Seine have traditionally been the object of attention of French landscape painters, but the real boom of interest in the river began with the advent of Impressionism. Edouard Manet and Gustave Caibotte lived permanently in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, and the other members of the Salon des Outcasts came to visit them and work in plein air. The island on the River Seine west of Argenteuil, in the Château, was so called the Island of the Impressionists. Here, the Maison-Fournes restaurant and chamber museum hold works by the artists, among them Auguste Renoir’s Breakfast of the Oarsmen.
The flat river scenery is not varied, and the monotony of a walk along the Seine is diluted by an exploration of architectural sights and museums. Among the must-see religious buildings are the 12th-century Rouen Cathedral, the 15th-century Church of St. Catherine in Honfleur, and the Abbey of Graville St. Honorin in Le Havre. A lesser known but interesting site, the Gothic church at Vernon, was built from the eleventh to the fifteenth century and recently restored.
At the mouth of the Seine River lies the Normandy Bridge, which reaches a length of 2.35 km. Its central span is 935 m long. In Mant-la-Jolie an old bridge of the XII century is preserved. There are 6 bridges in Rouen, one of them, named after the writer Gustave Flaubert, is the longest ascending bridge in Europe. Its length reaches 86 meters. An example of modern architecture can be seen near the Seine Museum in Codbec-en-Caux. There are 37 bridges in Paris, the oldest of them Pont Neuf, built in 1607. The shortest, only 32 m, is the Little Bridge, which runs to the island of Cité.
Since 1870, the Austerlitz Bridge in Paris has had a flood scale on display, warning citizens of the dangers. If the incoming water washes the knees of the statue of Zouave on the Pont d’Alma, the danger is not yet too serious, reaches the waist – you should be worried, beards – disaster is near.
The River Seine has not often inspired architects to create masterpieces like the Loire, but there is a lot to see here as well. The most famous castle, the possession of the royal family, is the Conciergerie in Paris, the construction of the surviving parts of which began in the XIII century. Now it is part of the Palace of Justice. The ruins of the castle of Chateau-Gayard are located 95 km to the west of the capital. It was built by Richard the Lionheart in the end of XII century and partly demolished in 1599 by Henry IV. The fortress walls and the main tower, towering above the river Seine, have survived. To get inside you can in the warm season, to wander at the outer walls – all year round.
The most interesting museums on the banks of the Seine are related to rivers, seas and water transport. The Maritime Museum of Rouen with its hangars is located next to the bridge of Gustave Flaubert. In Rouen, the Great Barrier Reef is reproduced in Panorama XXL, waiting for visitors from 10 to 18-19 hours, tickets cost up to 9.5 euros. The Museum of Waterways is open at the meeting point of the Seine and the Oise, where models of ships are on display. The Seine Museum in Codbec-en-Co, open from February to November from 1 to 6:30 p.m. and in July and August from 10 a.m., tells the history of the river and the inhabitants of the coastal villages from antiquity to the present day. The ticket costs 5 euros, with a guide 6 euros.
Information for tourists
Until recently, the Seine was unfit for swimming and fishing, but the efforts of environmentalists have led to its purification from sewage. In its waters returned to the Atlantic salmon, it’s a good indicator, but still often recorded excess heavy metals. However, walking on the Seine River does not prevent it, and for a beach holiday in France there are many other opportunities. On the outskirts of Paris in the summer, at the peak of the heat, artificial beaches are poured from imported sand, where you can sunbathe and have fun. Bathing, however, is prohibited. At the mouth of the river Seine botanical garden of Honfleur with butterflies, exotic birds and plants, the cost of visiting up to 9 euros. Boucle de la Seine Normande Reserve can be visited near the exit of Le Havre, on the borders of Rouen there is a zoo and amusement park.
Recreation on the river
In addition to cruises on the Seine River, tourists can relax in the many boarding houses and campsites, outside the industrial areas found at every kilometer. Cafes, snack bars, gas stations, and car rentals are usually set up near them. In the seaside part of the Seine River – a lot of yacht clubs. In Paris, you can rent a barge standing by the waterfront with a mini-terrace as a hotel. The cost of living in it – about 200 euros per day for a group of up to 5 people.
What is the famous Parisian symbol of the river Seine
The Seine in Paris is the second longest river in France. It flows northwest through the capital before flowing into the English Channel.
The Seine River is 485 miles (780 kilometers) long, and its tributaries cover about 78,700 square kilometers. It is Europe’s greatest historic river, and its water network serves nearly all of the country’s inland waterways. From the early Middle Ages to this day, the Seine is the main waterway of Paris.
History of the Seine
Many people know what country the river Seine is in, but about its history can not say anything. It is no coincidence that the city developed around this trade and transport route. Not for nothing the early Parisian tribes were attacked here and overthrown by the Romans. Later, the conquered place became particularly desirable. At that time the river bore the Latin name of Secuana. It still represents a major trading route today.
Half of the water used in Paris still comes from the Seine. Try not to think about it when you look at the murky green water flowing under the bridge, or when the waiter brings you a glass of plain water.
How to get your bearings
It’s not enough to know where the Seine River is or where it flows into. Tourists often confuse the terms “right bank” and “left bank.” They walk through the streets with crumpled maps, trying to navigate and figure out which side of the bank they are on. The system is very simple and was developed because the winding length of the Seine River often made orientation difficult. Remember, if you see the river flowing down, that means the left bank is on your left and the right bank is on your right.
If you can’t tell the left side from the right, you’d better take a companion with you. If you can’t tell which way the water is flowing (don’t look at the boats, because they go upstream!), drop a crumb from a bun or see which direction it swims. Then you can get to Les Deux Magots Café in time instead of La Defense.
Famous bridges over the river
The Seine is crossed by 32 bridges. The oldest is the Pont Neuf, which has been immortalized by artists and poets. It is even depicted in films of the twentieth century (see “Lovers of the Pont Neuf”). Along the bridge is a beautiful little island that is now used by pleasure boats as a stopover. In spring or summer, you can sit here on a bench under the willows or sunbathe on the sloping stone promenade near the manicured gardens. To get there, simply walk to the equestrian statue of Henri V and find the steps leading to the docks. It’s a great place if you’re the kind of person who likes to look at floating boats. You won’t find a nicer place in Paris.
Another popular bridge is Pont des Arts which differs from its other brethren in that it’s made of metal and is completely pedestrian. It offers a beautiful view of Paris. Some bring wine and food, others bring guitars, so the atmosphere is almost always festive.
Beaches and riverfronts
Below the Pont Des Arts bridge on the left and right embankments you’ll see hundreds of sunbathers, cyclists, women with strollers, and joggers. The embankments run the length of the river and seem to divide the city in two. One part is a highway and the other is pedestrian and bicycle paths. The new mayor called this area “Paris Beach” and turned it into a summer attraction in the city. Thousands of tons of sand are imported to create the only artificial “beach” in Europe, along with full-size palm trees and sun loungers. It’s strange, but the French are happy with this arrangement.
Interesting fact! The Seine River is a popular place for fishing enthusiasts. Here even held the world championship in fishing.
On the banks of the Seine are located expensive restaurants, discos and cafes. Free benches are a great option for travelers who prefer to eat their own sandwich with the same view of the Seine. The floating houses can be seen up close from the right bank.
The stone walls of the embankments are such a code language of the river’s past. If you look closely, you can see the different water levels created by floods, the giant iron rings used to tie river barges to the docks, the cast-iron grating or doorway leading to the underground passage, the ancient sewer system, the subway entrances, the unknown catacombs. These stone embankments are now protected by UNESCO as world heritage sites.
Walking on the River
The best way to experience the river is, of course, to take a boat ride. In Paris, you’ll find many cruise tour operators offering different levels of service, from boat cabs to private dinners. The most famous is Bautaux-Mouches. Don’t miss the day and evening cruises from tour operator Marina De Paris, which start at the Orsay Museum. There is another sightseeing cruise on the St. Martin Canal.
Note: The Batobus sails up and down the Seine in the direction from the Eiffel Tower to the Institut du Monde Arabe with stops along the major landmarks. It operates in the same way as a regular bus. You can buy a day pass or a two-day pass to travel along the river at your pleasure. The boats are nice, too: wooden decks, glass walls and a roof.
The most popular hotels near the Seine are: The 3-star De Orsay, Hotel Verneuil and Albe. The 3-star Hotel Le Notre Dame, the Citadines Saint Germain Des Prés aparthotel and the 4-star Les Rives de Notre-Dame are located right on the riverfront opposite the cathedral. They are all located in the Latin Quarter.