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), apparently named after an island called the Ile des Cygnes in the Seine that no longer exists.
The artificial island was built in 1827, is 850 metres long and only 11 metres wide, a long thing finger of land that was built to support the three bridges that cross it. It boasts a replica of the Statue of Liberty that faces west towards her sister statue in New York City (built to ¼ scale). The statue was unveiled on 4 July 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, a gift from America to Paris. Interestingly, it was always intended to face west but the French President at the time, the little known Marie Francois Sadi Carnot arranged for it to face east. He 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 launched facing east. It stayed that way for almost 40 years and was only turned west in 1937 to coincide with that year’s exposition universelle.
Today the island is a wonderful place to take a 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.
I’d recommend starting from the Pont Bir Hakeim where you’ll find the Viaduc de Passy, the over ground 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.
This is definitely a place that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the area to visit the Eiffel Tower anyway.
Andrew James is a blogger who writes about things to do in Paris away from the main tourist destinations and the history of the city. He has a fascination for the stories behind French streets named after non-French people. www.andrewjameswriter.com
Top photo CC Paris photographer Wazim
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