There comes a point in everyone’s life when someone well-meaning or otherwise looks at you and says, “Build a bridge and get over it”. This is a saying that the French must have taken to heart, for spanning up and down the river Seine within the heart of Paris are over three dozen different bridges. Not to mention the many more that can be found outside the boundaries of the city.
Each has its own style and unique characteristics that can be appreciated from the functional and modern to the gaudy and decorative. And the spectacular views seen from their spans are as different as the bridges themselves. Here are five favorites one can find in the city center.
Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris. This bridge serves as the connection between Rive Gauche, which is the left bank of the Seine, and the Rive Droite, the rivers right bank. Its construction dates all the way back to 1578, the time of King Henry III. This bridge also holds the distinction of being the site for a Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibit. From 1975 to 1985 the bridge was beautifully wrapped in fabric. While the exhibit is no longer going on this fact just further serves to distinguish the Pont Neuf as a notable Parisian bridge.
The Pont Royal, which gets its name from its royal benefactor King Louis XIV, definitely has a distinct look. This bridge , which is estimated to be built around 1869, has a distinctly curved shape because the centers of its five arches are much higher than the outer two. This bridge is arguably one of the most used in Paris. This is not simply because of its beauty, but for its ideal location. It is located near both the Louvre Palace and the Tuileries garden.
Pont Alexandre III
Continuing the royal theme is the Pont Alexandre III. This ornate bridge can immediately be recognized for its beautiful decorations of lampposts, cherubs and nymphs and gilt gold. But it has an interesting history as well. One that is rooted in friendship. Built as a symbol of the relationship between the Russians and French, it was named after Tsar Alexander the III.
The nymphs that decorate the bridge carry the weapons of both the French and the Russians to symbolize the fact that they are united. This is not a particularly tall bridge and was constructed in order to not block the views of the people. It is just a short walk from both the Eiffel Towel and Les Invalides and is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris.
Pont des Arts
This unique design for a bridge came about due to the innovative ideas of Napoleon I. The Pont des Arts was the first metal bridge built in Paris. Arts seems to be a perfect name since the bridge has been the source of inspiration for numerous painters and artists. It is also frequently used as a popular picnic spot during the summer months. Fans of Sex in the City may recall the Pont des Arts from the series finale. Those who openly or secretly love Carrie Bradshaw should don their Jimmy Choos and stroll this across on your next visit to Paris.
Pont au Double
Finally, my personal favorite, the Pont au Double. This bridge is much smaller and far less elaborate compared to the grandeur of the Pont Alexandre III. It is a single arch bridge made out of cast-iron. Initially built as a bridge to carry patients to the hospital, it collapsed in 1709, and was replaced with the bridge that we recognize today. Connecting the left bank and Ile de la Cite, the bridge gets its name for the toll collected to pay for its construction – a ‘double’ denier. It is in my opinion a small treasure, a bridge with the subtle beauty that Paris is known for.
Each new visit to Paris can uncover new gems and those discoveries might keep calling you back, perhaps to walk across one of these bridges. So the next time someone tells you to build a bridge, simply smile and book a trip to Paris.
Which Paris bridge is your favorite and why?