Last Updated on 23rd November 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Overlooking the Eiffel Tower and spanning the River Seine, Passerelle Debilly has stood in situ for well over a century, allowing hundreds of thousands of foot passengers to traverse from the Right Bank to the Left Bank (and back again) each year. Here’s a quick history of Passerelle Debilly, as well as things to know before you go!
A history of Passerelle Debilly
Linking the two sides of the Seine, 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. 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.
As such, the bridge was constructed to as to serve a suitable pedestrian passageway between the Army and the Navy and the Old Paris halls on the other side of the Seine. Curved in nature, the structure was designed by Jean Résal, who also designed the Pont Alexandre III (i.e. one of the most Instagrammable photo spots in Paris).
A pioneer of such modern bridges during the late 19th-century, other works designed by Résal include the Pont Notre-Dame and the Pont de Bercy. Otherwise, you should know that the works themselves were undertaken by Daydé et Pillé, who were a company well-known for their modern constructions at the time.
The bridge was officially opened to the public on the 13th April 1900, though the Passerelle was not given its current name (Debilly) until a little while later, after Jean Louis Debilly, who was killed in battle in 1806. He had served under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Jena.
After the Universal Exhibition, the bridge (originally intended to be a temporary structure) was moved a little bit, leading it to become a permanent fixture in the Parisian landscape. Unfortunately, in 1941, the Président of the Architectural Society pronounced that the bridge was useless and a relic of a time gone by.
Luckily for us, the bridge was popular enough to be saved destruction and so remained a Parisian fixture of the landscape from which admirers of Paris could enjoy fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower, River Seine, and beyond. The bridge now is 120 metres long and 8 metres wide.
How to visit Passerelle Debilly
Since all those decades ago, the bridge has since become an important feature of the Parisian landscape and since 1966, it’s been listed as a historical monument of Paris. Connecting the modern quays of quai de New York to the quai Branly the bridge is close to the Eiffel Tower and can easily be visited on a self-guided walking tour of the area. In total, there are four passenger footbridges over the River Seine.
Free to visit and easy to wander across (the bridge is also open to cyclists) thanks to its flat layout, the pedestrian bridge is open 24-hours a day, though some times of the day are better to visit than others! For example, thanks to the position of the bridge, the Passerelle is easily one of the best places to enjoy the sunset in Paris.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for one of the best views of Paris at night, then head to the bridge to enjoy the sparkling Eiffel Tower in all its glory. The Iron Lady sparkles every hour, on the hour for five minutes between dusk and 1 AM (2 AM in the summer) so be sure to time your visit accordingly!
Now, the nearest metro station is that of Subway – Iéna (line 9), while the closes buses are those of 42, 63, 72. If you’re looking to learn more about public transportation in Paris, then check out my guide to using Paris metro tickets. Nearby, attractions of note include the expansive green space that is the Champ de Mars and the exhibition spaces of Palais de Tokyo.