The Seine – River of the Impressionists



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Swimming parties, regattas, guingettes… The Seine was a favorite source of inspiration for the Impressionists.


Snakelike, the Seine winds its way through the countryside…

Sequana, "serpent-like"… The Seine owes its name to a Roman goddess who was worshipped at the source of the river, on the Langres Plateau, more than 2,000 years ago. And so it is: the river, which is 776 kilometres long, presents a succession of meanders downstream of Paris, which snake through the Champagne region, the hillsides of the Ile de France and the Brie region. The scenery alternates between wooded embankments, chalky hillsides and flat banks.

Although the Seine flows gently downhill, dropping 80 feet  (26 metres)  between Paris and the sea. Its flow rate can vary from 30 m3 per second in a dry year to 2,400 m3 per second, as was the case during the historic flood tide of 1910.

During dry summers, the river may dry up as far as Châtillon-sur-Seine. The inauguration of the "Seine" dam and reservoir in 1966 made it possible to regulate the river and its tributaries upstream of Paris. It regulates the flow to a maximum rate of 35 m3 per second. This rate allows for usefulness and enjoyment, mixing hydroelectric production with water sports, fishing and tourism.

En route to art and history

The fun starts in Paris. Our unique "Paris by night cruise" is one of the highlights of our programs as we pass just inches below some of Paris most historic bridges. Next up is the fabulous Versailles, an historic monument of fabled beauty.  Later  the visit to the chateau of Auvers-sur-Oise, the mecca of French painting and the first museum in the world to offer a "show trail" through the time of picnics on the grass, retro cafés and idling away the time on the beaches of Normandy.

Left bank, right bank… each port of call adds its touch of color to the picture. Conflans-Sainte-Honorine is the boatmen's capital. Vernon invites you to dine with Claude Monet in his legendary home in Giverny, which inspired his "Water Lilies" series. Les Andelys and Chateau Gaillard awaken the memory of Richard the Lionheart, Duke of Normandy and King of England in the 12th century. Then comes Rouen, a city of art, known for the martyrdom of Joan of Arc who was burnt at the stake here. This means that the sea is not far. This is also the point where the abbey trail begins, which leads to Jumièges, a pearl of its kind, Caudebec-en-Caux, with its Seine maritime museum and its 15th century church.

Such bridges!

While the pilots undertake their dexterous maneuvers, all eyes are raised to admire three bridges, which are worthy of some discussion:

The Brotonne bridge (1977) in Caudebec-en-Caux which holds the world record for the greatest span of a concrete bridge.

The Tancarville suspension bridge (1959) which has the longest span in Europe. Constructed in 1959, it was renovated in 1996-98 as the cables were starting to break. It is the key element in the economic activity of Le Havre and its region.

The Normandie bridge (1995), nicknamed the "infancy of the computer" as it was computer technology that made it possible to calculate the data for the central span. It used to hold the world record of 856 metres, but Japan dethroned it in 1999 with an extra 34 metres.

Progress sometimes ends some great traditions.  The days of crossing of the Seine in steam-powered ferries and the "ferry cafés", which flourished on the banks for the great pleasure of passengers are unfortunately gone. But they are being replaced with the resurgence of the “guinguettes”, small waterside cafés noted for simple food and plenty to drink.

But in Honfleur, the Impressionists take the limelight. This is the site of the famous Ferme Saint Siméon that was frequented by Boudin, Monet, Bazille and Jongkind.  If nature is more your thing, then you’ll enjoy the Alabaster Coast, classed as a natural heritage site in the Pays de Caux. To the north you’ll find  the Côte Fleurie to the left,  sandy beaches and low cliffs.