The “bateaux mouches,” Paris’ pleasure boats, are a surefire way to spend an hour or so any evening or night. The Seine is best experienced by night, when monuments are illuminated and feet are generally tired and ready for a break. Originally from Lyon, these boats have been a top attraction for tourist since the 19th century, and it’s easy to see why.
While they’re definitely worth shelling out for, there are a few different options to sift through. Here’s our Cheapo guide to choosing the Seine river cruise that’s right for you… and your budget.
With departures from both Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, the Bateaux Parisiens offer the most basic of the “bateaux mouches.” With pre-recorded audioguides detailing the sights along the one-hour trip, it’s a perfectly fine and basic way to experience Paris from the water. Just be sure to go later in the evening or night when there are slightly fewer groups crowding the docks.
At just €13 (€14 from Notre Dame) and €5 euros (or €6) for children, it’s not a bad choice, even if it can feel a bit over-the-top touristy at times.
There’s something about having a real human commentating that makes this company seem a bit more interesting, even if the poor commentator might still not have every English conjugation under their belt. The one-hour tour offered by the Vedettes de Pont Neuf are a bit less of a cattle call than the Bateaux Parisiens and leave centrally from their dock off the Pont Neuf. While passing by all of the same monuments, the boats have the added advantage of ending up back at the Pont Neuf, smack in the center of the city.
Deals on their website might allow you to score tickets for €8 instead of the normal €13 ticket price. Pre-buy if possible!
My pick for exploring the river, the Batobus is Paris’s water taxi, taking tourists from major attraction to major attraction. Its eight stops include the Musée d’Orsay and the Jardin des Plantes, meaning you can get off and wander a bit before hopping back on to the next dock. Or just grab a spot on the deck and watch the city go by. You can stay on all day if you want! And there’s no pesky commentary in several languages to distract you.
Tickets start at €15, but Groupon can be your friend here!
While the Seine is the main aquatic thoroughfare in Paris, don’t forget the canal which runs through the east of the city, meeting the river by the Bastille neighborhood. The trendy area is worth a visit from the Canauxrama, the slow-moving cruise that passes through the old lochs and even underground, while offering commentary in several languages. Kids love watching the water rush in and out as the boats pass up and down the canal.
While canal cruises cost €16 for a 2.5 hour cruise, online tickets are reduced to €13.50. For further savings, try Groupon, which regularly discounts the boat tickets up to 50%.
Do you have a favorite way to see Paris by boat? Share your experience with us in the comments section.