Paris River Cruises

View All

River Cruise Destinations: Paris

Global tourism numbers are on the rise, and unsurprisingly, demand for our Paris river cruise offerings continues to soar. In the past 20 years, the number of international travelers has increased from 527 million to 1.1 billion; and despite an increasing interest in lesser-visited regions of the world, as well as strengthening tourism campaigns in emerging nations, Europe remains the leading international tourism destination, commanding more than 50 percent of all travel. 

Within the European continent, France is king. More than 80 million people visit the country every year (the most of any nation), and of those travelers, about 80 percent incorporate a trip to Paris during their stay. This, however, is not a new phenomenon. The French capital has lured sophisticated and discerning travelers for centuries. From early American political figures, such as Benjamin Franklin, to novelists, poets, aristocrats, and stage and film actors, those with the means and a desire to be immersed in a rich and refined culture have flocked to Paris. As such, French river cruises through Paris continue to be some of our most sought after adventures, and there is no time like the present to start planning your journey! 

Known as The City of Light (la Ville Lumière), Paris earned the nickname not only because it was one of the first cities to employ the use of public street lamps, but because it was—and remains—a center of art and learning. During the Age of Enlightenment (1715 – 1789), a philosophical movement throughout Europe that focused primarily on individual freedoms and religious tolerance, Paris served as the movement’s unofficial capital, hosting numerous salons where the great thinkers of the time could meet and collaborate.

Of course, you don’t have to be a philosopher, artist, or author to appreciate the wonders of Paris or the culture that it fosters. As those who have visited the city can attest, Paris offers something for everyone, and a European river cruise with Scenic is the perfect avenue to explore this must-visit destination.

The City's Royal Past

The origins of France’s famous city date to before the birth of Jesus Christ, when the Parisii, a modest Gallic tribe, settled on the Île de la Cité, a small island in the Seine River, which today marks Paris’s center. In 52 BC, the Romans conquered the area and established Lutetia, a city that many people consider to be the beginnings of the now French capital. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was occupied by the Frankish king Clovis I, who made the city his capital in the year 508.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, Paris was the largest city in Europe and served as an important commercial center and a hub for progressive religious thought. And just as it is today, the Seine River served a pivotal role in the city’s development. In historic Paris, the Île de la Cité contained the city’s main religious institutions, while the Left Bank was home to intellectual centers and the Right Bank dedicated to commercial enterprises. This division of the city was further cemented at the start of the 13th century, when King Phillip II formally recognized the founding of the University of Paris. Numerous other institutions for higher learning were founded shortly thereafter.

The Birth Of Modern Paris

Paris’s transition from a medieval city to a modern one took shape during the Renaissance, as stately mansions were built with fervor. Under the reign of Louis XIII during the first half of the 17th century, Paris continued to expand with the creation of the Luxembourg Palace; the Cours-la-Reine, a promenade for carriages; and the unification of two uninhabited islets on the Seine, which formed the Île Saint-Louis. Beautification and expansion efforts continued throughout the century under the rule of Louis XV; and by the late 19th century, Paris had established a reputation as a bastion for technological advancements thanks to National Expositions that were held there earlier in the century, as well as the World Fair in 1889. In fact, it was that World Fair that prompted the construction of the 984-foot-tall Eiffel Tower, which held the record for the world’s tallest building until the mid-1930s.

The Eiffel Tower: An Unmistakable Monument

Today, the Eiffel Tower remains one of the greatest attractions of a river cruise stop in Paris, despite the fact that its creator, Gustave Eiffel, never intended it to be a permanent structure. Weighing about 7,000 tons, the tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world; and while millions of people flock to see and photograph it each year, it has not been universally loved. French author, Guy de Maupassant—whose short stories rank second only to Shakespeare’s works for the number of movie adaptations that they’ve inspired—is said to have eaten his lunch at the base of the tower almost every day because it was the one spot in the city from which the tower could not be seen. 

Still, most Parisians have an affinity for the Eiffel Tower. This was proven during World War II when, after the city was captured by Nazi Germany, the French Resistance cut the elevator cables to the top. The action was as much a defense of the tower as it was a statement to the Nazis, as it forced Adolph Hitler to climb the tower’s stairs (at least 1,500 of them) if he wished to reach the top. Consequently, he did not.

The Louvre: The Trademark Of A City Full Of Art

Paris residents organized a similar war protest regarding what is now the city’s other main attraction, the Louvre. During the period when the Nazi armies began to invade the city, Parisians secretly emptied all but the heaviest pieces from the museum and hid them in the homes of wealthy French citizens living around the country. The Louvre did reopen under Nazi control; however, all of the art and artifacts displayed within its walls during that period were pieces that the German army had looted from the territories that it had conquered along the way.

Today, our Parisian river cruise guests can explore a museum that is home to more than 35,000 works of art and historical artifacts (including its most popular attraction, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa), which are displayed in 300 rooms across four floors. However, the building, itself, was constructed to serve as a defensive fort on the western edge of medieval Paris during the end of the 12th century.  More than 100 years later, the Louvre was converted into a royal residence, first for Charles V, and it later evolved into its current sprawling and adorned state under the rule of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. When the palace of Versailles replaced the Louvre as the monarchy’s residence in 1672, the Louvre began hosting the salons of the Enlightenment. It wasn’t until 1789 that the Palais des Tuileries—an extension of the royal residence—and the Louvre were open to the public and converted into spaces to permanently display the monuments of science and art.

Lesser Known Museums Of Paris

While the Louvre is the city’s most-visited museum—almost 10 million people toured it in 2015—Paris is also home to a handful of other exceptional art museums. For as much as Paris is considered the birthplace of the Enlightenment, many also consider the city the birthplace of Impressionism. This connection, and some of the greatest works of Impressionist art, are on display at the Musée d’Orsay, a converted railway station (built in the art nouveau style, circa 1900) that is home to the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist work. Other major Impressionist works, including a series of Claude Monet’s “Les Nymphéas” are exhibited in two oval rooms built to the painter’s specifications at the Musee de l’Orangerie, which is situated in the remains of the Palais des Tuileries.

Paris river cruise guests looking for a unique connection to a revered artist and his workspace should visit the Musée Rodin, which contains Auguste Rodin’s entire collection. The grand mansion was built in Paris’s 7th arrondissement during the 18th century and served as Rodin’s workshop and showroom. In 1908, the artist donated all of his works to the state on the condition that the mansion, Hôtel Biron, was maintained and used to display that art. The museum’s most famous piece is The Thinker, which Rodin created at the turn of the 20th century.

Paris museums aren’t dedicated to just the classics, the revered works by the masters, or the most heralded Impressionists. Modern art is also equally celebrated during a Scenic river cruise through Paris. Inside the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée National d’Art Moderne showcases more than 65,000 examples of modern art created from 1905 and onward. The museum features a 245-piece collection dedicated to Matisse and also offers panoramic views of the city from its sixth floor.

River Cruise Adventures in Paris: Cobblestone Explorations

At the turn of the 20th century, Paris again established itself as a leading center for technological advancement by being one of the first cities in the world to open an underground subway system. Today, the city is divided into 20 districts (called arrondissements) that spiral out in a clockwise direction from the city’s center. The Paris metro provides easy access to all areas of the city, but Paris is also home to more than 6,000 streets, many of them famous and worthy of a trip on foot. After all, as Thomas Jefferson once proclaimed, “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life.”

For example, our Paris river cruise guests can trace the steps of famed painters Picasso, Renoir, and Degas along the Rue de l’Abreuvoir in Montmarte; on Cour de Commerce-Saint-André they can order an espresso at the city’s first coffee house, Le Procope; and they can taste their way through the outdoor markets of Rue Montorgueil, as well as stop in to Stohrer, the city’s first boulangerie, circa 1730. On Rue Lepic, visitors can explore the Moulin Rouge and Café des Deux Moulins, which was made famous in the film, Améie. And on Rue Francois Miron, visitors can see the city’s few remaining houses that were built during the 15th century.

Featured Tours