Last updated on September 7th, 2017
The Banks of the Seine in Paris, a riverside walk (10 km)
You’re going for an evening walk or jog along the banks of the Seine, early morning is a good alternative. The rest of the time, it’s probably too busy. I’ve run this course since I was a teenager, and I never get tired of it. You’ll have to cross a few bridges to enjoy some the most beautiful landmarks of our great city. This running circuit should take you about an hour, a slow pace 10 kilometre full of sights to behold. There are enough straight lines for some speed work and stairs for hill training. Your feet are going to hit asphalt, a few cobblestones (but not too many if you stop at the Pont des Arts). There are enough detours and gardens along the way to stretch the distance to at least 20 kilometres, which should be enough for a weekend long run.
Cross the Seine and keep a good pace on the left bank until the first bridge after the Tour Eiffel. Cross over again and keep jogging to the Concorde, then the Louvre. Stretch out and relax. Get some drinks from the museum’s food court. Cross to the other bank. Jog all the way back, past the Musée d’Orsay and the Assemblée Nationale.
1. Pont de Bir Hakeim
The Bridge of Bir Hakeim was completed in 1905. Notice the upper level metro viaduct supported by steel colonnades, and the four monumental stone statues. Bir Hakeim was an oasis crossroads in the Libyan desert held by the French Foreign Legion against overwhelming Axis forces in June 1942. The defenders were eventually overrun. The victors who chose to disobey orders to execute them to the last gave them instead equal water rations. There will be plenty of opportunities to buy drinks, ice cream and chien chaud (hot dog) on the way so there is no need to carry your weight in water.
2. Allée des Cygnes
Warm up on the Alley of Swans but watch out for dog pooh. It’s a nice tree shaded artificial island all the way to the Statue de la Liberté. This faithful 22 metre high one fifth replica was given by the United States to France to commemorate the centennial of the French revolution in 1889. Start at a leisurely pace on the left bank until you reach the Tour Eiffel. You can jog back along the left bank or trace back your footsteps.
3. Jardins du Trocadéro
Keep a leisurely pace on the left bank as you pass the Port de Suffren (Suffren Harbour), lined with Paris cruise ships and floating restaurants. As you reach the Eiffel Tower, cross the Pont d’Iéna over to the Jardins du Trocadéro (Trocadéro Gardens). The bridge, completed in 1814, was built by Napoléon to commemorate his defeat of the Prussians. Notice the four warriors and the Imperial Eagle. The new Palais de Chaillot, built for the 1937 Universal Exhibition sits on top the hill of Chaillot, one of the more exclusive, but rather quiet, residential areas of Paris.
4. Palais de Tokyo
Climb up the stairs and frolic around the fountains and columns of the the Palais de Tokyo, which houses the impressive 20th century art collections of the City of Paris. This Art Deco building was completed for the 1937 Universal Exhibition. Get a drink and a snack from the museum’s café to keep you going.
5. Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées
Commonly known as the Grand Palais, the Great Palace was built in neoclassical Beaux-Arts architecture for the 1900 Universal Exposition. Massive art exhibitions gathering works from the world’s greatest museums are held here, and have included Monet paintings (a million visitors).
6. Place de la Concorde
Originally named after King Louis XV in 1755, the square became Place de la Révolution to oversee the beheading of the royals at its centre where a guillotine was erected. Famous revolutionaries soon followed after the purges. Under le Règne de la Terreur, more than a thousand people were executed in a single month. This has not dissuaded present day jet setters from swarming the Hotel de Crillon overlooking the square. The obelisk standing at the centre was made in Egypt some 3,300 years ago and stood guard with its twin at Luxor Temple. Egypt offered the obelisks to France in 1829. Without doubt, the Obelisk de la Concorde has brought some pharaonic serenity to an otherwise tumultuous historic square. In the 1990s, as a symbolic gesture, France officially renounced the other obelisk.
7. Jardin des Tuileries
A World Heritage Site, le Jardin des Tuileries is the oldest French style garden in Paris. Originally an Italian garden, les Tuileries were entirely redrawn by André Le Nôtre in 1664 upon the order of Louis XIV. Le Nôtre had already distinguished himself with countless creations, including the gardens of Versailles. Grab a drink here as there are several conveniently located kiosks around the garden.
8. Musée du Louvre
Slow your pace as you circle the pyramid of the Grand Louvre and admire the perspective through the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, all the way to the Grande Arche de la Défense. Built on the foundations of a 12th century fortress, this former Palace eventually became a museum after the French Revolution. Enjoy the tranquility of the evening lights in the Cour Carrée. I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid was completed in 1989. Initially much decried by conservatives for its modernity, the pyramid has become a classic landmark of Paris. The idea of building a pyramid here dates back to the early 19th century as a tribute to the French Revolution and Napoléon.. Can you spot all five pyramids of the Louvre?
9. Pont des Arts
As dusk sets in, the vista from the Pont des Arts (Bridge of Arts) on the Ile de la Cité is postcard perfect. These are moments when Paris shows more of herself, and when even jaded Parisians may slow down a little. The Pont des Arts, built by Napoléon, was the city’s first metallic bridge. The original pedestrian bridge collapsed in 1979 after a string of collisions with boats and barges. The reconstructed bridge was inaugurated in 1994. You’re halfway through the run, and some may rightly be tempted to wander off into the Quartier Latin for evening drinks and a good meal…
10. Musée d’Orsay
The Orsay rail station was completed for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. The challenge was to build modern infrastructures in an area dominated by classic architectures and the Louvre. From outside, the metallic structures remain hidden under a hotel façade. With the advent of electrification, the platforms became too short for modern trains. The station would only serve short distances to the suburbs. The museum, inaugurated in 1986, retains the beaux-art lines of the station, and is one of the city’s iconic historic building.
11. Assemblée Nationale
The Palais Bourbon houses the French National Assembly. The Palace, built for one of the daughters of Louis XIV in the Versailles style, was Nationalised after the French Revolution. The added classical Greek facade was commissioned by Napoléon.
12. Esplanade des Invalides
The Hôtel National des Invalides was built under Louis XIV to house the veterans of the King’s armies in 1670. Later, in these very buildings, the wounded would speak of the rise of an audacious young general in the 1796 Campaign of Italy. Napoléon Bonaparte would never forget his men and neither would they he. France’s military heroes, including the Emperor himself, are buried here. If you’ve got a bit of hero stamina left, run the length of the park to the great man’s tomb before heading further along the banks of the Seine.
13. Musée du Quai Branly
Inaugurated in 2006, the Musée du Quai Branly, which displays arts panning human cultures is the latest Addition to the list of major museums in Paris. Enjoy the breathing living green walls and the gardens. Check out our travel blog for more pictures and tips for visiting Quai Branly.
14. Tour Eiffel
For the final sprint, run the length of the Champs de Mars (Field of Mars, the Roman God of War). Originally planned as grounds for the military drills of the Ecole Militaire, the military school from which Napoléon graduated, le Champs de Mars is presently more suited for concerts and picnics. The Champs de Mars hosted no fewer than four Universal Exhibitions, including the year 1889 when la Dame de Fer (the Iron Lady) was born.