Last Updated on 10th January 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
Setting aside the iconic Eiffel Tower and the flying buttresses f there’s one architectural feature that Paris is known for, it’s the City of Light’s beautiful bridges and overpasses. Here’s your ultimate guide to the most beautiful bridges in Paris (and the history of each).
The River Seine
Of course, the only reason for bridges in the River Seine! The River Seine snakes its way through the city and is the very reason that the Roman’s chose to found Paris (which, at the time, was known as Lutetita) some two millennia ago.
The water source has provided to be a life source for the city ever since, though of course, as Paris has expanded, the citizens of the city have had to find a way to traverse the waterway. Once upon a time, Paris was completely confined to the area of the city which is home to the likes not Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle and that is now known as Île de la Cité.
As the population grew, so did the need for space and so the city was expanded in a Southern direction to occupy what is now the Latin Quarter. Eventually, Paris spread to the Northern side of the river too, thus increasing the need for bridges to span the River Seine. Today, there are a staggering 37 bridges in Paris, all allowing Parisians to traverse the river in one form or another (while some bridges are pedestrian only, others can accommodate cars and buses).
The oldest still-standing bridge in Paris is called ‘Pont Neuf,’ which is rather ironically translated into English as ‘New Bridge’. Construction of the bridge was completed at the beginning of the 17th-century, and at the time, the crossing was the only bridge spanning the Seine to have no houses built atop of it.
Today, Pont Neuf is one of the most magical places in the city from which to enjoy the sunset. The bridge is also the only Seine bridge to span the left bank, right bank, and Île de la Cité. Nearby, you’ll soon find yourself in Place Dauphine, a delightful Parisian square boasting several eateries, as well as being the place where many Parisians hang out in the summer to play Boules.
Pont Alexandre III
Hands down the most beautiful bridge in Paris is that of Pont Alexandre III(the structure also happens to be one of the best spots in the city from which to watch the sunset). Classified as a National Historic monument since 1975, Pont Alexandre III was constructed between 1896 and 1900 in the Beaux-Arts style.
The attention to detail when implementing the Beaux-Arts style means that the Parisian structure is the most ornate bridge in the city and is characterised by its four gilt-gold statues of Fames (the four horses which stand on the 17 metre high columns flank all four corners of the bridge), art nouveau lamps, and golden foliate designs that hang all the way along the side of the golden arch.
Pont des Arts
After Pont Alexandre iii and Pont Neuf, one of the most famous bridges in Paris is that of Pont des Arts. Formerly known as the ‘love lock bridge,’ on account of the fact that the bridge once hosted the tens of thousands of ‘locks’ that tourists would chain to the bridge to ‘secure their love,’ this Seine crossing spans the river between the Institut de France and the Louvre Museum.
Also known as Passerelle des Arts, the first bridge on site was constructed at the turn of the 19th-century, though weathering over the years, not to mention heavy bombardment during the second world war, meant that the bridge was eventually demolished in 1979.
The reconstruction of Pont des Arts took place between 1981 and 1984 under the watchful eye of Louis Arretche. Though the new bridge was supposed to be identical to the one it was replacing, Arretche took the decision to reduce the number of arches in the bridge from nine to seven, i.e. the seven you see today. If you visit Pont des Arts now, then you’ll find one of the best places in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, as well as a number of benches where you can sit and watch the world go by.
One of the lesser-known Paris hidden gems of bridges in the city is that of Paserrelle Debilly. Situated just a short stroll away from the Eiffel Tower, the pedestrian-only walkway is characterised by its
The footbridge was originally installed in the city so as to serve as a gateway between the Right Bank and the Left Bank during the World’s Fair (known in French as the Expositions Universelle) of 1900. The Parisian bridge was therefore inaugurated at the same as Pont Alexandre III
At the time, the plans were approved by Alfred Picard and the idea was that the construction was to be in situ for just 20 years, just like the nearby Eiffel Tower. Luckily for us, the bridge proved more popular than previously anticipated and so the pedestrian walkway is still standing today, in turn providing one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the entirety of the city.
Pont de Bir-Hakeim
One of the most unusual bridges in Paris is that of Bir-Hakeim, and indeed there are no other bridges in the city quite like it. After all, this double decker bridge accommodates an open-air portion of the metro and the ground level portion of the bridge provides passage for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorised vehicles.
The Seine River crossing connects the 15th and 16th arrondissements and was constructed between 1903 and 1905, though it was built to replace an earlier 19th-century bridge. Today, on account of its unique-to-Paris viaduct appearance, the bridge is particularly popular for wedding photography shoots.
Pont de Grenelle
Head towards the Western side of Paris and you’ll be greeted by a rather peculiar sight: a 1/4 life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty standing on a man-made isle in the very heart of the River Seine. One of the best views of this replica can be found by simply standing on Pont de Grenelle, which was constructed in 1966.
Unlike the other two Seine islands, that of Île aux Cygnes, the Isle of Swans as it is so-known in English, is actually manmade (which accounts for why its so rigid in shape) and was only created in 1827 to protect the Pont de Grenelle Bridge. Today the uninhabited isle boasts a pleasant park which is especially worth visiting during Paris in the fall.
Pont de la Tournelle
One of the more unusual bridges in Paris is that of Pont de la Tournelle on account of its asymmetrical nature. Overlooking Notre Damde cathedral, as well as the Eastern side of intra-muros Paris, the current bridge on site dates back to 1928.