We ended our first day in Paris with the biggest splurge of our entire trip – a luxury dinner cruise on the Seine River. Our friends had rather brilliantly proposed the idea before our trip, offering to scout around online and book something for all four of us. Their selection was an evening on board Le Calife, which turned out to be an excellent choice! This Seine River cruise ended up being one of the absolute highlights of our 5 days in Paris.
Originally built in 1939 to transport cargo, Le Calife barge has long since been converted into a luxurious floating restaurant, refurbished in shining mahogany, teak, and stained glass. Conveniently moored near Pont des Artes and Pont Neuf, two bridges famous for their “locks of love,” the cruise offers an outstanding 3-course meal with complementary champagne, French specialties like foie gras, and a 2-hour cruise past Notre Dame and the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. For anyone visiting Paris, we highly recommend treating yourself to a cruise on board Le Calife.
TRAVEL TIP: Dinner cruises are available nightly with total sailing time of about 2 hours – from 9 pm to 11 pm. Boarding starts at 7:45, however, so don’t be late!
Location & Access
When not sailing, Le Calife barge is docked on the Seine River just west of the historic Pont des Arts bridge on the southern bank of the river. The street address of the boat is 3 Quai Malaquais. It’s so close to the bridge, you can’t miss it!
Public transportation is available via bus, underground metro, or RER lines.
Bus – Left/south bank – (24) Pont des Arts stop, (27) Quai de Conti, (39) Quai Voltaire, (95) Pont du Carrousel
Bus – Right/north bank – (21, 24, 27, 69, 72) Pont des Arts stop
Metro – Left/south bank – Lines 4 and 10, Odéon Station
Metro – Right/north bank – Line 1, Louvre-Rivoli Station and Line 7, Pont-Neuf Station
RER – Left/south bank – Lines B and C, Saint Michel Station
RER – Right/north bank – Line A, Châtelet Station
We’d recommend walking or using public transport to Le Calife. However, if you’re driving, parking is available on the left/south bank of the river (same side as the barge) at 29 Rue Mazarin. On the right/north bank, it’s available at Saint Germain l’Auxerrois beneath the church.
Staff members offer two main menu options for dinner. Both include at least an aperitif (champagne and appetizer), a starter, the main course, and dessert. Guests will be happy to note they can choose from three or four different options from each category.
Vegetarian options are available as well.
Our group of four thoroughly enjoyed one savory course after another: salad with foie gras and duck, rump steak in pepper sauce and roast marjoram potatoes, and apples wrapped in phyllo with caramel ice cream.
It easily made my list of top 5 meals of all time!
Cruise Route and Sites of Interest
During your 2-hour Seine River cruise, the barge will cast off from its mooring near the Pont des Arts bridge and sail southeast for several kilometers. It’ll then turn and return along roughly the same route, this time taking the northern channel of the Seine past the Île de la Cité. It then continues all the way to the Eiffel Tower, arriving in time to see the hourly light show on the tower. You’ll be treated to the perfect view of the monument and of the Statue of Liberty on the tip of the island. Le Calife will then return to its mooring.
Along the route, you’ll see historic bridges like Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, Pont Marie, and Tournelle Bridge. Sights like the Louvre, Les Invalides, Musée d’Orsay, and the Grand Palais will silently slide past. You’ll marvel as the towers of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower – Paris’s Lady of Iron – rise dramatically overhead through the glass-roofed barge.
See the Eiffel Tower Light Show
Every hour on the hour after sunset, the Eiffel Tower is lit by 20,000 bulbs with a sparkling light show for 5 minutes.
The captain of Le Calife perfectly synchronizes the entire 2-hour cruise to round the tip of the Île aux Cygnes in time to see the light show on the Eiffel Tower. He pauses at the tip of the island so visitors can enjoy the views of the Eiffel Tower, as well as Paris’s Statue de la Liberté. At 22 meters tall, the statue faces west toward her much larger sister statue in New York.
Dessert on board is so good, you very well might still be savoring the last morsel as Le Calife approaches her mooring, bringing your romantic Seine River cruise to an end. As soon as the captain expertly snugs the barge up against her berth, staff will secure the gangway and welcome guests back on shore.
An evening on board Le Calife promises to leave you with unforgettable memories of delicious food, warm locals, and the beauty of a million lights sparkling on the river beneath the Eiffel Tower. For those in search of a unique, romantic experience in Paris, this is it.
Looking for more great things to do in Paris? Activities that are always popular include soaking up world-class art at the Louvre Museum and ringing the bells of Notre Dame. Those looking for less touristy, offbeat attractions can pay tribute to the likes of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde at Père-Lachaise Cemetery. And of course literature fans are sure to enjoy exploring Maison de Victor Hugo, the house of the author of Les Misérables and one of France's most beloved authors.
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Know Before You Go
Dinner cruises are available every night. The barge sets sail just before 2100 (9 pm), but make sure you arrive between 1945 and 2015 (7:45 and 8:15 pm) for boarding. If you’re late, you risk losing your reservation and/or being left behind. Lunch cruises are also available but only on weekends.
Menus & Pricing: Two dinner options are available – one for €67 and one for €108. Cruise prices include the entire meal and the 2-hour cruise.