Zig-zag Paris’ central bridges by foot… or virtually

Discover the central Paris bridges and the two city islands by zig-zagging over and under ten of them that connect the right and left banks. Along the way you’ll meet a bouquiniste, waft through the flower markets on the Île de la Cité, saunter along the banks of the Seine and enjoy a gelato on the Île Saint- Louis. 

Written by Ruby Boukabou

20 Sep 2021

6 min read

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1. Pont des Arts 

This romantic footbridge connecting the Louvre (Right Bank) to the grand, gilded, neo-classical Institut de France (Left Bank) was one of the main victims to the lovelock (padlock) craze, a sort of mass vandalism and pollution (with the keys thrown into the Seine and the bridge sagging dangerously under the weight of all that heavy commitment). The original 1802 bridge was the first metal bridge in Paris, but was rebuilt in 1984 after a barge crashed into it. People have been known to have picnics, film videos, paint huge landscape paintings and propose marriage on this bridge, so be prepared to be inspired! 

From the Left Bank (with your back to the Institut de France), cross to the Right Bank. At the end of the bridge turn right and head down the busy quai du Louvre until you reach … 

2. Pont Neuf 

Cross the first span of the oldest bridge in Paris built in 1604 to arrive at the statue of Henri IV on horseback, on the Île de la Cité. Walk down the stone stairs to your right to scrutinise the bridge from beneath with its grimacing carved faces, (mascarons), designed to ward off evil spirits. Then visit the picturesque Square du Vert- Galant that literally juts out over the Seine. Back on street level, cross over to enter the quaint Place Dauphine (1607). Then continue down the second span of the Pont Neuf. 

Turn left onto quai des Grands Augustins and, if you’re in luck, you’ll find my friend, the bouquiniste Cyril Graffin! He told me, ‘My passion for books and for Paris plunges me into the heart of the city, where I can contemplate life by the Seine.’’ Say bonjour to Cyril and take a moment to browse his old and second- hand books, then continue to browse the other bouquinistes along quai des Grands Augustins until you arrive at Pont Saint-Michel. 

Instead of crossing the bridge straight away, cross over to the right to Place Saint-Michel and the fountain with Saint Michael slaying the dragon, then spot Le Départ Saint- Michel bistro across the road. Stop if you need a coffee or an Orangina or simply make note that this is a 24-hour bistro – handy if you have jet lag! Then cross back to the Île de la Cité via the … 

3. Pont Saint-Michel 

Look up to, or visit the stunning Sainte-Chapelle and Palais de Justice, then turn right, down rue de Lutèce, passing the pretty street lamps and Cité Métro entrance before turning left to walk through the Marché aux Fleurs, a riot of colours, smells and shapes with plants, flowers and trinkets. Upon reaching the Seine, turn left and head down the quai de la Corse, looking up at the corner of the Boulevard du Palais at the Tour de l’Horloge, France’s oldest public clock. If keen you can visit the Conciergerie or simply admire its palatial towers, before turning right to cross the… 

4. Pont au Change 

Imagine being back in the twelfth century and changing your currency while trying to avoid the mud splashed by passing horses and carts, then stop for a fine view of the Eiffel Tower from the far left corner. Cross over to place du Châtelet to look up to its two neo- classical theatres, the Egyptian inspired fountain and the 1808 Roman-styled column. With your back to the bridge, stroll right down the quai de Gesvres past more bouquinistes and be dazzled by the magnificent Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) on your left. 

Hungry? There are three great lunch options on this next stretch: Galerie 88 for delicious and affordable Mediterranean cuisine, (88 quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004, https:// lagalerie88.fr/), Café Louis Philippe for Parisian bistro food and ambiance (66 quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004, www. facebook.com/Cafe-Louis-Philippe) and Chez Julien for a chic French dining experience taking you back to the 1900s (1 rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 75004, www.chezjulien.paris). (Or, if you’re doing the tour virtually) make yourself a croque monsieur in your kitchen!) Then head towards the next bridge… 

5. Pont Louis-Philippe 

Instead of crossing the bridge, walk down to the left onto the banks of the Seine, which have been cleaned up to allow Parisians to enjoy more open, green spaces to jog, walk and relax. Stroll along past the barges (the last one before the next bridge is Péniche Marcounet, which hosts terrific jazz concerts- I’ve tap danced here and it’s so atmospheric) and check their evening programme, before climbing back up to the street to … 

6. Pont Marie 

Cross the river to Île Saint-Louis, the second natural island of Paris, which prides itself on its village ambiance. You may like to explore the island and visit the Saint-Louis-en-l’Île church (19 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004), and enjoy a gelato at the famous Berthillon (31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île)! Then wrap around the quai d’Orléans and quai de Bourbon, looking over the people sitting by the Seine below (in summer, locals have picnics, play guitar, read and snooze here) until you reach… 

7. Pont Saint-Louis 

Cross over this short bridge back to the edge of the Île de la Cité. Chances are that there’ll be a gypsy kid busking on an accordion to ‘Sur le Ciel de Paris’, or other musicians or street performers. On the other side of the bridge you’ll find yourself behind Notre-Dame. Then cross to the … 

8. Pont de lArchevêché 

This is the smallest bridge in Paris open to motor vehicles. On the other side, turn left and stroll down along the banks of the Seine (quai de la Tournelle) and back up to cross the … 

9. Pont de la Tournelle 

Gaze up at the immense, evocative statue of Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris.  Turn right to stroll down the pretty, tree-lined quai de Béthune (back on the Île Saint-Louis) then turn right to cross back over the second span of the… 

10. Pont de Sully 

This is your last bridge. Hooray! Once over, cross the road and head up to the Arab World Institute to appreciate the panoramic view over Paris, including some of the bridges that you’ve just crossed! 


Not in Paris? I’ve also created the tour virtually via Google Earth! You’ll be able to watch clips, see photos and zoom into each 3D location to make you feel like you’re there.

Bonne balade!


Extract from The Architecture Lover’s Guide to Paris (Ruby Boukabou, White Owl Books 2021). Available from your favourite bookseller or request a signed copy www.rubytv.net/books

Ruby Boukabou

Ruby Boukabou is a travel/culture reporter and artist who spends her time between Australia, France, and North Africa, depending on the weather. She has freelanced for France Magazine, National Geographic, ABC, SBS, Qantas magazine, International traveller and many more media outlets. Books include The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris, The Architecture Lover’s Guide to Paris and Sense in the City - Paris. Ruby performs cabaret and tap dance and hosts the Sense in the City podcast.

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