Pont Alexandre III – the most spectacular bridge in Paris
One of the true joys of Paris are the bridges over the Seine. Within the city, there are 37 of them, including three pedestrian-only bridges.
Of course, some are fairly utilitarian and wouldn’t rate a second glance no matter where they were, but then there are those only Paris could offer.
By far, the most elaborate over-the-top concoction is the Pont Alexandre III which connects the Grand Palais (site of Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan show) and the Petit Palais on the right bank with the Hôtel des Invalides on the left bank.
The bridge was named after Tsar Alexandre III to commemorate the Franco-Russian Alliance signed in 1892 (both countries were feeling nervous about Germany in the middle – same as it ever was).
Why so grand? This bridge was built specifically for the Universal Exposition of 1900 (in contrast to the World’s Fair of 1889 for which the French built the “temporary” Eiffel Tower – France was on a roll during those few turn-of-the-century years building one icon after the next).
Walking across this bridge or taking a boat under it is a magical experience. You just have to give your head a shake and try to bring yourself back to those days when a bridge like this was commissioned. Imagine the meetings, the drawings, the plans and then finally the grand unveiling – it must have been over-the-top exciting.
Look at the art nouveau lampposts and the sculptures of cherubs and nymphs. The gilded statues reach for the sky on 56-foot granite pillars, which incidentally provide the counterweight for the single span of the bridge. Now that’s architecture!
What do the statues represent? I’m not sure how well this translates from the French, but they are the “Fames”, including the Fame of the Sciences, Fame of the Arts, Fame of Commerce and the Fame of Industry. What happened to the Fames of Wine and Cheese?
And the nymphs? The nymphs of the Seine with the arms of France on one side and the Nymphs of the Neva (river in Russia) with the arms of Imperial Russia on the other.
Here, courtesy of Wikipedia is some Pont Alexandre III trivia:
In the movie Anastasia (1997), the bridge is damaged by Rasputin in an attempt to kill Anastasia, who in real life was the granddaughter of Alexander III.
In the film Ronin, the spy team meets some arms dealers under the bridge on the Right Bank.
In the movie A Very Long Engagement, Marion Cotillard’s character kills François Levantal’s under the bridge.
In the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, Bond comes to a halt at the bridge in a hijacked Renault 11 taxi.
In the film Midnight in Paris, the bridge is depicted in multiple scenes, including the final one.
Adele’s music video for the song “Someone Like You” was shot on the Pont Alexandre III.
Go to Paris. Walk across the Pont Alexandre III. Make your own movies and memories.