There is no better way to take in the City of Lights then on a wonderful boat ride along the Seine. A must for all visitors to Paris. The ride lasts about an hour, and don't forget your camera!
The waters of the River Seine have always been the heart and soul of Paris, dating back to the days when the Parisii tribe first established a fishing village on the island now known as Ile de la Cite - between 250 and 200 B.C. Prized for its position as a major inland port, Paris has been invaded, occupied, and conquered by its share of foreigners over the course of two millennia, many of whom arrived by this waterway. The last major invasion by water occurred between 885 and 886 A.D., when 30,000 Norman pirates in 700 ships sailed up the Seine, only to find it valiantly defended by Comte Eudes.
Ever since the days of the Roman Empire, when Paris prospered through extensive river trading and expanded to the Left Bank, the Seine has been a great commercial artery, linked by canals to the Loire, Rhine, and Rhone rivers. Officially established as the capital city by Clovis, king of the Franks (who defeated the Roman governor of Gaul and established the Merovingian dynasty), Paris evolved into a cultural center and a showcase of glorious architecture.
It is appropriate that the center of Paris - particularly that section gracing the Seine around Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis - features some of the city's oldest and most majestic historic monuments. For the past half-century, perhaps one of the most relaxing and expedient ways to view these sights in all their grandeur has been from the glass-covered decks of the bateaux-mouches, those unique long-boats leisurely plying the Seine, from whose vantage point millions of tourists have acquired their considerable appreciation for all that Paris has to offer. On some days, the sheer volume of this boat traffic resembles an invasion of a different kind, albeit one of camera shutters and tourists gazing in wonderment.
There appears to be some conjecture as to the origin of the term bateaux-mouches (whose literal translation is "fly-boats"). Some have asserted that the name of the oldest operating cruise line on the Seine - la Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches - originates from that of its founder, a gentleman by the name of Jean-Sebastien Mouche. However, this legend is generally conceded to be a hoax.
A more likely scenario is that the name was derived from an area of Lyon where the predecessors of these boats were first built, before they were introduced to Paris at the end of the 19th century. The various arms of the Rhone River - in a marshy area of the river valley around Lyon - were called "mouches". Apparently, the boats - whose shallow hulls were well-suited for the purpose - were commonly found navigating these "mouches". In fact, while much of the marsh land has been drained and added to Lyon's viable real estate, one of its neighborhoods (a part of the 7th arrondissement) is still called "la Mouche" today.