Visit Pont Neuf, one of the most famous and most beautiful bridges in Paris. A symbol of the city for more than four centuries, the bridge draws a steady crowd of sightseeing tourists and strolling locals.
Pont Neuf is French for “new bridge,” but this structure is quite old. Construction began in 1578 under the order of King Henry III, but it wasn’t inaugurated until 1607 during the reign of Henry IV. Spanning 761 feet (232 meters) with a width of 72 feet (22 meters), it was the first bridge in Paris to be built with pavements.
For the best views of Pont Neuf, head to the Ponte des Arts footbridge near the Louvre, famous for the love locks shackled to its rails. From here, see the 12-arch Pont Neuf in all its glory. Notice the two separate spans: one joining the left bank to the island of Île de la Cité and the other connecting the island to the right bank of the Seine.
Note how the arches are decorated with numerous carvings of grotesque figures and gargoyles. Some say these figures represent the river gods, while others suggest they are humorous depictions of the common people who were frequently seen loitering on the bridge. The gargoyles are best seen from below while passing under the arches take a boat cruise along the Seine to view them up close.
Stroll across the bridge and enjoy sweeping views toward the Louvre and Tuileries palaces, as well as the old La Samaritaine department store. When you reach the point where the bridge meets Île de la Cité, look for an equestrian bronze statue of Henry IV. This is a replica of an earlier sculpture, which was knocked down during the French Revolution. Stop for a rest or a picnic in the small park at the center, which is known as Square du Vert-Galant.
The Pont Neuf spans the River Seine in the center of Paris, leading on to Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame Cathedral stands. The nearest metro station is Pont Neuf on the right bank.