The source of the Seine River is located in the tiny village of Source-Seine, in the Côte-d’Or department. The river then runs through the region of Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Grand Est, Île-de-France, and Normandy where it eventually empties into the Channel. The source was an important part of local beliefs for a long time. The Lingones, a Gallic tribe already present in the area prior to the Roman period, had a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Sequana, who is associated with the springs near the source. The name of another tribe, the Sequani, is closely related to that of the Seine as well. The river has always been a key waterway of fluvial commerce and played a crucial role in the development of the areas it crosses. Its fertile basin was the cradle of France as a country and made the surrounding lands and cities prosperous. Paris was and still is proof of the importance of the Seine River. Not only did the river make the lands fertile, but it also allowed the supplying of an ever-growing city. Wood for heat and construction, stones, cereals, iron, wine and other luxuries, these goods were transported on the river for centuries. It was more efficient as well as cheaper and safer. The construction of the canals around Paris and the Seine basin were also decided and planned according to the needs of the Seine traffic, and to improve the river’s connection to the other regions of the country.
The first navigable section of the Seine starts at Marcilly-sur-Seine, right after the confluence with the Aube River. This section is known as the Little Seine and ends 68 kilometres later at the confluence with the Yonne at Montereau-Fault-Yonne. There are three derivation canals where the actual river is too tricky to navigate. Crossing several villages and towns, this tree-lined section of the Seine mostly passes through a pretty and rural landscape.
The section of the Upper Seine starts at Montereau-Fault-Yonne. For a hundred kilometres, the river heads toward the capital city of France. A highlight of any cruise on this section of the river is a stop at Fontainebleau to visit its beautiful chateau and forest. Many French kings and emperors lived in Fontainebleau, a place where the history of not only France but also Europe, was made. The Upper Seine ends at the beginning of the Parisian Seine at Bercy, shortly after the confluence with the river Marne.
Navigating the Seine in Paris is a unique experience. It is a popular touristic attraction, and for good reasons. Observing the islands Saint-Louis and de la Cité, or the facades of the Louvre from the river offers a different and one-of-the-kind encounter with the richness and beauty of Paris. As the modern skyscrapers and old buildings of Paris leave sight, the Seine makes its way to the Sea.
The 350 kilometres of waterway separating the capital from the sea are mostly surrounded by an urban landscape, although some sections are more rural and the tree-lined banks of the river give it a natural feel. A must-see along the course of the river is the city of Rouen, the capital of the Normandy region. Alongside its gastronomy and historical heritage, Rouen is renowned for hosting the unique Rouen Armada event. During 10 days, hundreds of tall ships and thousands of sailors gather on the Seine and parade between Rouen and Honfleur. Sailing ships and warships alike participate, sometimes accompanied by submarines. Please note that the Armada is not a yearly event.
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