First-Timer? Cruise the River

Paris on the Seine; looking toward the Pont Neuf. Photo courtesy of  Bateaux Parisiens.

Paris on the Seine; looking toward the Pont Neuf. Photo courtesy of Bateaux Parisiens.

Tips up front:

1. Visiting a city that’s located on the water? Make your first stop a river cruise.

Whenever I learn that a friend is visiting Paris for the first time, I recommend that the very first thing they do is hop on the bateaux mouches, the regular river excursion boats that sail up and down the Seine. In London, New York City, Washington, D.C. and other water-based cities, the river is hands-down the easiest way for a person of any age to orient themselves in the city while getting in a bunch of sight-seeing at the same time! I have only yet driven through Chicago but the first time I get feet on the ground, I’m heading for the river.

The idea is based on experience—it was where my hosts first pointed me on my inaugural trip to the City of Lights, it’s where I take my friends who are first-timers—but we can also source it to logic. Many of us learned in our early history or social studies lessons that civilizations grow up around rivers. As a result, this life blood of the city often provides the best, unobstructed views of some of the monuments you undoubtedly came to see; albeit from below ground level. And most cruise options offer multilingual commentary so you know what ancient edifice you are passing.

Bus and other city tours are great alternatives of course, but here’s another bonus to the river route: rarely do you run into traffic!

All of this sounds like a very unromantic justification for a river cruise, which is not my intent. I love floating along in the current, gazing up in awe at the buildings and parks and sights, imagining those who passed that way before me. A river is a sort of time-traveler; from a trickle at birth to the vast ocean at its zenith. And if your goal really is romance, take the evening option to set your sweetheart in the glow of lights on the water.

A myriad of options can be found for your journey down river. Here are some that I’ve used…

  • In Baltimore… Sure, the ‘taxi’ part of Water Taxi means you get less of a cruise and more of a ride to your exact destination, but you can get great views of the harbor this way and hit the touristy spots, too. As of this post, an adult all-day pass costs $12.
  • In London… City Cruises‘ sightseeing tours depart every half hour with stops at some of the most popular London attractions. As of this post, adult tickets start just under £9.
  • In New York City… My go-to option here is the Circle Line Downtown, Statue of Liberty Express. Not to be confused with getting off the boat on Liberty Island, this 1 hour tour costs $30 per adult, as of this post.
  • In Paris… I’ve used a couple but most recently the Bateaux Parisiens. As of this post, the basic 1 hour cruise costs about 15€ per person.
  • In Washington, D.C…. My family took the Dandy dinner cruise and found it an excellent option for a fine-dining experience. As of this post, if you also chose the dinner option (4 courses, live music, dancing, 3 hour cruise), the tickets start at $88 per person depending on the day.
  • What are your recommendations?

For a virtual river-eye-view example from London, travel via this YouTube video.

Video courtesy of On Top of the


"...he who does not ask remains a fool forever." ~Chinese proverb

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