Last Updated on 28th May 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
Often said to be the most beautiful bridge in the world (after all, it is constructed in the Parisian Belle Époque style), you can’t go wrong when visiting Paris by setting aside at least a little time in your schedule to admire the stunning architecture of Pont Alexandre iii and its surrounds, including views onto the Eiffel Tower and Napoleon’s final resting place, Invalides. Here’s a history of Pont Alexandre iii, as well as how to visit and things to know before you go.
A history of Pont des Arts
Classified as a National Historic monument since 1975, Pont Alexandre iii was constructed between 1896 and 1900 in the Beaux-Arts style. This 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 flank all four corners of the bridge), art nouveau lamps, and golden highlights all the way along the side of the golden arch.
As you may well have already guessed, the bridge is named for Tsar Alexandre iii, who completed the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892, and the bridge is thus a symbol of the friendship between France and Russia. Indeed, the Tsar’s son, Nicholas II, laid the foundation stone of the bridge is in October of 1896.
One of the greatest feats of architectural engineering from the latter end of the 19th-century, the bridge is formed of a single steel arch (the chief architects were tasked with the rather large ask of refraining from blocking the view of the Champs Élysées and Les Invalides). The four pillars hosting the horses stand at 17 metres high and are there to provide a counter-weight to the bridge’s arch.
The bridge was inaugurated for the 1900 Exposition Universelle World’s Fair and has been enjoyed by the public ever since. Other iconic structures that you can still admire today and which were inaugurated for the 1900 World’s Fair include Musée d’Orsay (at the time it was the Gare d’Orsay train station), Grand Palais, Petit Palais, and even the two original metro station entrances.
The World’s Fair did not just bring plenty of iconic landmarks to the city, but also marked the beginning of wireless telegraphy (radio), electric lights in Paris, talking films, and escalators, among other innovative inventions that we take for granted today.
Iconic features of Pont Alexandre iii
The four winged horses on the four corners of the bridge represent Arts, Sciences, Commerce and Industry. Meanwhile, other mythical creatures depicted on the bridge in a surprising amount of detail include cherubs, lions, cupids, nymphs, sea monsters, and a whole plethora of other fantastical beasts you’ll love admiring.
In total, the bridge measures 160 metres in length and has a width of 40 metres. The bridge is unique in that it has been equipped with electric lighting ever since its inauguration in 1900. Unlike other bridges in the city such as Pont des Arts and Passerelle Debilly, the bridge is not just for pedestrians but can also accommodate cars.
Pont Alexandre iii in Popular Culture
Due to its sheer beauty and significant importance to the fabric of Paris, the bridge has starred as the backdrop for many film, TV, and music videos in the century since it was constructed. Perhaps most notably, the bridge features in ‘Midnight in Paris‘ (in multiple scenes, including the ending!).
Pont Alexandre iii also serves as a backdrop for Adele’s Music Video from 2011 ‘Someone Like You,’ and in the final scene of the film ‘Me Before You’. Most recently, the bridge was featured in a rather extended scene of the hit TV show ‘Emily in Paris’.
How to visit Pont Alexandre iii
One of over thirty bridges that spans the River Seine in central Paris, Pont Alexandre iii is a must-see when in Paris. The bridge is open 24/7 and is free to visit, meaning that you can wander from one side to another whenever you like.
Situated in the 8th arrondissement of the city, an area known for the likes of Parc Monceau, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs Élysées, there are plenty of other worthwhile attractions to check out while you’re in the area.
I personally recommend visiting the bridge at sunset when you’ll be rewarded with candy coloured skies and gorgeous views over the Eiffel Tower. The location is pretty popular for wedding photography, and you’ll often see at least several brides and grooms having their photos taken on the bridge (and just below it) at any given time.
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