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Paris, Banks of the Seine

By Alison Browne

What is Paris, Banks of the Seine?

The Banks of the Seine in Paris is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Paris. That might seem surprising given that Paris is full of historic and architectural gems. 

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But this UNESCO site is 365 hectares (900 acres) in land area and comprises the physical banks of the Seine as well as some of Paris’s most iconic landmarks. 

The Banks of the Seine UNESCO site stretches from the Pont du Sully to the Pont d’Iena and includes Ile de la Cite, Ile Saint Louis, and the Eiffel Tower. The Gothic marvels of Sainte Chapelle and the Cathedral of Notre Dame along with more modern buildings such as the Palais de Chaillot are included in this site. 

The Banks of the Seine is where Paris lives and breathes. Right here in Paris at the bend in the Seine River, historic buildings are a reminder of the exceptional architectural masterpieces in Paris but it is also where people socialize and exercise. Stand on the stunning bridges of Pont Alexandre III or Pont Neuf and watch life unfold. In Paris, there are pathways along the Banks of the Seine, benches here and there, a few willows and chestnuts trees, and barges bustling by with their loads. On the Banks of the Seine you’ll find Parisians walking, visiting, and having a glass of wine with their friends while sitting on the quays. 

A view down the Seine river: calm water, a few apartment buildings visible on either side, and a boat passing under a bridge in the distance.

Why is Banks of the Seine a UNESCO World Heritage site? 

The Banks of the Seine is where many of the treasures of Paris are found. Since 1991, it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. With stunning architecture spanning centuries, the site is an incredible example of urban development of a riverside city. 

World famous buildings such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre comprise this UNESCO site along with the Palais de l’Institut, Hotel des Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Ecole Militaire, the Mint, the Grand Palais, and many more. In the UNESCO description, you’ll find a list of the most important buildings included in the site. 

A view on the Seine, with a bridge crossing it ahead, and beyond that, the Notre Dame Cathedral. Along the one visible bank, a row of typical Paris apartment buildings with mansard roofs.

What can you expect on a visit to Banks of the Seine?

Walking along the Banks of the Seine past iconic buildings, past Parisians having a picnic in style, with barges and tourist boats passing under the bridges, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a classic highlight of Paris. It covers a large area so the possibilities are endless. 

Some suggestions on what to expect include: 

  • Exploring the old village of Ile St Louis and having a picnic at Place Louis Aragon.
  • Wandering the cobbled streets of Ile de la Cite, finding one of the oldest Royal Squares in Paris, Place Dauphine, and seeing a concert at Saint Chapelle.
  • One might decide to bridge hop and see from which bridges one can spy the Eiffel Tower (hint: Pont des Arts and Pont Alexandre III give great glimpses).
  • One might visit the Louvre or merely take photographs of this ancient palace during the early morning light.

Your entire visit to Paris could take place within the Banks of the Seine UNESCO site.

A view along the Seine seen from one bank. Below, lower than street level, is a bank with 2 rows of cafe tables capped with umbrellas. Between the cafe tables and the water is a path with people walking and biking, and a railing along the water. A tourist boat passes under a bridge over the river.

Is Banks of the Seine worth visiting? 

If you only have a short time in Paris, this UNESCO site is the place to be. Every visit is a treasure.

The Seine threads the left bank and right bank of Paris together and is a vibrant centre of activity. Stroll the banks of the Seine or simply sit on the quays and observe Parisian life. This is the best way to feel Paris. Leave plenty of time to explore the ancient islands and visit iconic monuments. 

What sorts of travellers would like Banks of the Seine? 

Because this UNESCO World Heritage site is a collection of landmarks, there is something for everyone. Museum lovers, walkers, photographers, observers of life, history buffs and art enthusiasts of all ages will love the Banks of the Seine. 

Use the map below to find your accommodations in Paris:

Booking.com

Tips for visiting Paris

Given the size of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Paris, one could plan an entire itinerary uncovering its treasures. The most important tip for visiting is to definitely spend time in this remarkable part of Paris. Plan to walk by the Seine and to visit Paris’s world-renowned monuments.

Don’t try to drive in Paris; the metro system is efficient and comprehensive and much less stressful. It’s also far less expensive than parking.  

If you would like to step out of the big city I would greatly recommend spending a day at the Palace and Park of Versailles, another UNESCO world heritage site not far southwest of Paris.

Where is Banks of the Seine?

The banks of the Seine UNESCO World Heritage site stretch from the Pont du Sully to the Pont d’Iena. It is in central Paris. To be more specific, it is central Paris. Depending on where you want to begin, whether that is at the Eiffel Tower or Ile Saint-Louis, this part of Paris is highly accessible by metro, bus, bicycle and on foot.

Text and photos provided by Alison Browne of Dreamer at Heart. Alison has been exploring the world as a solo female traveller for years. Living in Paris for two years has allowed her to deeply discover Paris and France. She shares her passion for France on her blog.  

Have you been to Paris? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

Text: Paris, Banks of the Seine, France. Images: Two views of the Seine River, one from its center, the other including a part of the bank with a café along it.

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