Many visitors to Paris see familiar sights such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Paris boutiques and perhaps one of the many Paris gardens, such as the Jardin des Tuileries; to reach many of these attractions in Paris, it is more or less impossible to avoid crossing the river Seine, as it flows directly through the center of Paris, splitting it in two. Consequently, many bridges have been built to make crossing the city easier and each bridge of Paris marks a point in history.
The Number of Bridges in Paris
Reports vary as to the number of Paris bridges; in general, it is believed there are over 30 bridges of Paris. Some Paris bridges are more well known than others and some bridges may be of little significance when compared to the greater, historic Paris bridges, possibly leading to the conflicting number of actual bridges; in addition, some bridges may actually fall just outside of the ‘city of Paris’.
The Oldest Bridge in Paris: Pont Neuf
The first bridge to be built over the river Seine was officially opened in 1607 and was named Pont Neuf, the ‘new bridge’; today, Pont Neuf is, in fact, the oldest bridge in Paris. Pont Neuf was commissioned by King Henry III and a statue was erected in the center of the bridge to honor the King; the statue standing there today is a replica of the original which was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Pont Neuf was built in stone, was paved and the first Paris bridge to be built without houses; consequently, it became a favorite place for Parisians to meet and socialize. The bridgespans the river Seine and links the western end of the Ile de la Cite; it is actually split into two parts with two spans.
The first bridge span, connecting the Ile de la Cite with the right bank, has seven arches; the second bridge span has five arches and links the Ile de la Cite with the left bank. The Vert-Galant square connects the two bridge spans in the center. The arches of the Pont Neuf bridge are decorated with carved figures of pickpockets, dentists and loiterers, in tribute to the past history of Paris.
The Elegant Bridge of Paris: Pont Alexandre III
Pont Alexandre III symbolizes the Russian-French friendship and was named after the Russian Tsar Alexander III; Pont Alexandre III was actually commissioned as one of a number of projects for the Universal Exposition in 1900. The bridge took three years to build and was opened in time to enable Exposition visitors to access the various parts of the Exposition on each side of the river Seine.
Pont Alexandre III is said to be the most elegant bridge of Paris; it has lamp posts decorated with ornate nymphs and cherubs, designed by various artists, and two large statues (over 50 feet high) stand at each end of the bridge. Pont Alexandre III spans the river Seine and links the Grand Palais andthe Petit Palais with the Hotel des Invalides.
Other Significant Bridges of Paris
Other Paris bridges worth a mention include:
- Petit Pont – the ‘little bridge’ was built in 1853 and connects the Ile de la Cite with the left bank
- Pont d’Iena – was built between 1808 and 1814; named for the German City of Jena, where Napoleon defeated the Prussian army in 1806, the bridge today is often crossed to reach the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero.
- Pont Marie – the second oldest bridge in Paris built between 1614 and 1635 connects the Ile St Louis with the right bank.
The Story of the Bridges of Paris
A trip to Paris will undoubtedly involve a meeting with one of the bridges over the river Seine; knowing the name of the bridge and knowing the story of a Paris bridge may just make a long walk or a short stroll between familiar Paris sights a little more interesting!