The bridges of Paris
Paris is a city overflowing with beautiful landmarks, and its bridges are some of the most magnificent. There are 37 bridges spanning the river Seine – each combining architecture and history with spectacular views.
Pont Saint Michel
Connecting the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Île de la Cité to the left bank’s Latin Quarter, this current version of the Pont Saint Michel is just one of several incarnations that date back to the city’s medieval days. It’s been timber-clad, inhabited with houses, and during the Renaissance was even the widest of all the old bridges in Paris. The most recent redesign came under the guidance of Paul Vaudrey and Paul-Martin Galllocher de Lagalisserie back in 1857 – subtle but stylish when compared to some of its more famous downstream neighbours, there’s a wonderful simplicity to the delicate ‘N’ embellishment that’s repeated to catch the eye above each elliptical stone arch.
Pont Alexander III
The Grande Dame of Paris’s beautiful bridges is undoubtedly this classic beaux-arts-style crossing by the Champs-Élysées. Linking the Grand et Petit Palais to the glorious green space of the Esplanade des Invalides, it’s a confection of beautiful Belle Époque eccentricities that was built for the Paris Exposition of 1900. Named in honour of Tsar Alexander III, this single span steel arch is a six-metre-high marvel that showcases the craftmanship of 19th-century engineering at its most iconic. It’s a bridge that honours the finest of ornate details – from the gilded statues that majestically crown each entrance to the river nymphs that commemorate the country’s alliance with Imperial Russia. The striking succession of Art Nouveau lampposts are a reminder that Pont Alexander III was the first bridge in the city to be illuminated with electricity.
Pont de Bir-Hakeim
Anyone who’s seen the epic dream-action hit Inception won’t struggle to recognise the double-decker steel structure of this famous viaduct bridge. Joining the 15th and 16th arrondissements, the Pont de Bir-Hakeim – renamed in 1948 after the famous battle of WW2 – is an eye-catching masterpiece of early 20th-century engineering that allows pedestrians, trains and cars to use the bridge all at the same time. Striking steel colonnades support the railway viaduct that sits on top, while Art Deco streetlights add a classic touch to the footpath that looks out to the most stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.
Adjoining the historical Île de la Cité to both banks of the river is this 400-year-old city landmark and Paris’s oldest standing bridge. Despite it’s ironic ‘new bridge’ name, the Pont Neuf is an age-enduring testament to 17th-century design. After a series of construction stops and starts, the Pont Neuf was eventually opened by Henry IV in 1604 and has been a first-generation triumph standing in situ ever since. It was the first bridge in the city to add pedestrian pavements into the design, but it’s mostly distinguished by its succession of striking arches. The 381 stone masks that detail both sides of the bridge are 19th century reconstructions of the original mascarons that were sculpted by French Renaissance artist Germain Pilon.
Pont des Arts
Paris’s famous ‘love lock’ bridge is a classic architectural example of Parisienne-chic style. This second incarnation of an irreparably damaged 19th century original is a delicate yet distinguished addition to the impressive cityscape that surrounds it. Linking the Louvre on the city’s right bank to the Institut de France on the left, there’s something intriguingly subtle about the minimalist steel structure which perfectly pairs with the supporting stone pillars beneath. A fragility of the bridge led to the removal of all the metal padlocks back in 2015, but the views that you can spot from this pretty cross-river pathway are just as impressive as they always were.
Pont de Grenelle
This partner in crime to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim is another of the bridges that connects the Île aux Cygnes to the 15th and 16th arrondissments. The bridge that you can see here today is a third-generation steel girder river crossing – commissioned between 1966 and 1968, its contemporary style is less about its look than its proximity to one of the city’s most interesting monuments. The bridge – and its walkway – travel behind the quarter-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted to the city by its American community in 1889. Sculpted by Auguste Bartholdi as one of the working models before he created the real thing, this smaller replica stands at just 11.5m/38ft tall and was installed in Paris only a few years after the Liberty Island statue as a commemoration for the centenary of the French Revolution.
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