One of my favourite places in all of Paris is frustratingly under-exposed through the usual guide books and tourist information sites. Right next to the Eiffel Tower, the Allée des Cygnes is a pedestrian route down a man-made island in the middle of the Seine between the 15th and 16th arrondissements. The island itself is known as Ile aux Cygnes (Isle of Swans).
I used to live right near it and walked my dog there regularly but I hadn’t been for years. This weekend I took advantage of the sunny weather and headed over for a stroll.
The island was built in 1827, is 850 metres long and boasts a replica of the Statue of Liberty that faces west towards New York City. The statue was unveiled on 4 July 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Interestingly, it was always intended to face west but the French President at the time, Marie Francois Sadi Carnot, realised that the inauguration would be a bit of a dull event if crowds were gathered facing the back of Liberty’s head during the unveiling so it was inaugurated facing east and only turned west in 1937 to coincide with that year’s exposition universelle.
Today the island is a wonderful walk and boasts incredible views of the river banks and the Eiffel Tower. It’s a popular spot for jogging and dog-walking and at the western end there is a free outdoor gym with exercise machines for anyone to use.
The path is lined with trees whose branches reach over the banks like long spidery fingers. They seem to mostly grow on the sides facing the water – perhaps any botanists among you could explain why that is…
I’d recommend starting from the Pont Bir Hakeim where you’ll find the Viaduc de Passy, the overground railway that carries metro line 6. From there you can walk along the Allée and take in views of the Radio France building, the skyscrapers of the 15th arrondissement and finish with Lady Liberty herself.
I got a bit snap-happy with my iphone so here are some more lovely photos of my walk. This is definitely a place that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the area to visit the Eiffel Tower anyway.
To visit Allée des Cygnes, take the metro line 6 to Passy or Bir Hakeim and head down onto the island from the bridge between the two stations.