The canals

Ā© Paris Tourist Office
Photographe : David Lefranc


Too often, Parisians forget that the discovery of the city by boating along the Seine is not reserved for tourists, but available to them as well. All the powers through the centuries have wanted to imprint their mark upon these banks, now classified a UNESCO world heritage site.

Idling along on the water, you will contemplate the city’s most beautiful monuments and museums

Tours lasting one hour are generally offered in French and in English, headphones provide translations into various other languages so that you won’t have to miss anything from the story of the city. Barges, sightseeing boats, steamboats, mail boats or small yachts, vessels move up and down the Seine and the canals of the north east of Paris. Whether for lunch or dinner, little could be more romantic than dining on the water.

The city of Paris is unique in France in that owns and manages a navigable network of waterways stretching 130km across five departments (Paris, Seine Saint-Denis, Seine et Marne, Oise et Aisne) and two administrative regions (Ile de France and Picardie)


The network consists of the following navigable waterways:

- Canal de l'Ourcq flows 97 km from Mareuil-sur-Ourcq (Oise) to Paris (19th arrondissement),
- Canal Saint-Martin is entirely situated in Paris, and stretches 4.5km (19th, 10th, 11th, 4th et 12th arrondissements),
- Canal Saint-Denis flows 6.6km from Paris (19th arrondissement) to Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis)
- The little Canal de Clignon flows only 2km from Montigny-l'Allier (Aisne) to Neufchelles (Oise)
- The River Ourcq is channelled for 10 km and is situated in the uphill of Mareuil-sur-Ourcq (Oise),
- Secondary channelled rivers (the Collinance, the Gergogne, the Thérouanne, the Beuvronne).

Something not to be missed on a trip to Paris is a cruise along the Seine.

Let yourself be guided and transported through the waters.

Click on this link to the Paris Tourism Office, where you can find out about the various establishments that offer trips along the waterways to leave you with some beautiful memories of Paris on the water. If this has given you a desire to take a deep breath of fresh air aboard a boat, below is a short list of some addresses that you may wish to steer yourself towards.

- Paris-Canal, port de Solférino, quai Anatole-France (
(alongside the car-park of the Orsay Museum, métro Solférino, Musée d'Orsay)
Meeting place: beside la Villette, 09.30, for a cruise on the Seine and the canal Saint-Martin.

- Les Bateaux Parisiens, port de la Bourdonnais, pont d'Iéna

(metro Champ de Mars -Tour Eiffel, Pont de l'Alma) (tel. 01 44 11 33 44 or 55 to reserve a cruise with a meal).

Among the fleet of Bateaux Parisiens you can also board a tour boat, capable of receiving up to 150 passengers for well organised lunch and dining cruises. Children from 3 to 10 years are entertained by two actors and all in all, “enchanted cruise” offers a fun way to learn about the history of the city.

- The Canal de l'Ourcq was constructed in 1808 between the River Ourcq and the Seine. Its purpose was to provide Paris with drinking water and a new navigable waterway. Geometricians at heart, the engineers of the Empire dug the canal along the axis of the Rotunda. With the industrial revolution along came mechanical workshops and boiler-works, replacing the countryside. Warehouses sprang up along the banks as 10,000 barges delivered to the city each year their cargo of cereals, coal, and building materials. Factories were constructed and products as diverse as sugar and boots were produced. Since 1985, the banks have been broadened and the quays resurfaced. Equally, the dilapidated low warehouses and factories which blocked the view of the water from the street have almost all been demolished, only two remain, and these are now centres for leisure activities linked to the canal: a rowing club and a canoe-kayak club.

At the other end of the basin stretches out the old commune of La Villette, an area that developed as an industrial centre thanks to its location outside the city – which meant that goods deposited were not subject to the octroi, a tax on all merchandise coming into Paris. Looking over the hydraulic drawbridge on Rue de la Crimée (1885), two buildings that formerly housed general stores stand on the right bank of the canal. Once, these were warehouses devoted to sugar, salt and cereals; sacks used to be hauled directly from barges into the buildings using a system of pulleys. There was a failed attempt to convert the buildings into artists’ studios before one of the buildings burned down in 1990. The other stands derelict, abandoned to pigeons and graffiti.


For further information :

La Base nautique de la Villette
The basin of la Villette and its adjacent canals are now devoted to water-activities and tourist boats.

Le Club d'aviron et de canoë-kayak (Rowing & Canoe-Kayak Club), quai de la Loire
(tel. 01 42 40 29 90)

Les Navettes de la Villette (La Villette Shuttles), 5 bis quai de la Loire
Mini-cruise between the Parc de la Villette and the Ledoux Rotunda

Les Croisières Canauxrama (Canauxrama Cruises), 5 bis quai de la Loire
(metro Jaurès, tel. 01 42 39 15 00)
Cruises along the Canal Saint-Martin, along the Canal de l'Ourcq towards the Brie region

Les Croisières Paris-Canal (Paris-Canal Cruises), 19 quai de la Loire
(tel. 01 42 40 81 60 or 01 42 90 96 97)
Cruises on the Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin

Les Croisières Canal de l'Ourcq
(tel. 01 60 01 13 65)
Lunching cruise

Make the most of your stay by visiting the museums and monuments. Not to mention the unusual spots, around Paris, the bridges, the Parisian squares, the zoos and farms of Paris, the operas, or the parks and gardens where you can stroll around at your ease.

(For information : category "Getting around in Paris and the surrounding region").