Inspired by the Belgian and Dutch duck buses, the Les Canards de Paris amphibious bus allows you to discover Paris on an original tour by land and water. The guided tour starts at the Eiffel Tower and passes the most famous monuments of the Ville Lumière, such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Pont Neuf. The experience is great fun for everyone, but especially for families with children, who will get very excited at the moment of the ‘splash’ in the water when the minibus turns into a real boat, as you can read in this article.
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Canards de Paris: what Paris first and only amphibious bus looks like
One of the most fun options for discovering Paris on a guided tour is the Canards de Paris amphibious bus, which combines the classic bus tour with the adventure of a boat ride. With the witty name Marcel le Canard, or Marcel the Duck, this iconic amphibious bus can carry up to 35 people.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO PARIS
Save money in Paris with the Paris City Card or the Paris Museum and Experiences Pass. Get free entry to major museums, climb the Eiffel Tower, and enjoy a Seine cruise and tourist bus.
To stay connected in France, remember to buy an Airalo eSim online, with data and phone coverage for your trip to Paris.
How the amphibious bus works: mechanics and engine
My son was very interested in mechanics and engineering, so we asked several questions during our visit. The amphibious bus measures 11 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and 3.92 metres high and weighs two tonnes. Its towering height results from combining a boat’s structure, whose hull submerges in water, with the engine and wheels of a bus.
Les Canards de Paris is the only amphibious tourist vehicle approved and authorised to circulate in France. The bus runs on a standard internal combustion engine on land and water. The same engine drives both the wheels and the propeller. Still, the vehicle also has an additional electric motor for navigation. The propeller is in the back of the vehicle, hidden between the rear wheels, while the rounded bow allows an average cruising speed of 10 km/h.
When the Paris amphibious bus enters the water, no transformation takes place. All its components get wet, including the wheels, which remain outside and do not close. The vehicle operates both in water and on land without any modifications.
The challenges in building an amphibious bus
The engine and chassis of the Canards de Paris amphibious bus were manufactured in France, in the Calvados region and the province of Lyon. At the same time, a shipyard from abroad produced the hull. The difficulty in creating an amphibious vehicle is that the bus regulations are very different from those for boats. For example, seat belts are compulsory on the road but not on a ship.
Despite the technical difficulties in building such a complex vehicle, amphibious tour buses such as Les Canards de Paris run in almost 25 destinations worldwide, including Belgium, England, Spain and the USA. For travellers, they are a very entertaining way to discover cities from the dual perspective of river and land.
The Canards de Paris amphibious bus tour itinerary
The tour on board the Les Canard de Paris amphibious bus lasts one hour and 45 minutes. It takes you to discover the main monuments of Paris in the western part of the city. During the tour, the guide shares less known history and curiosities of the French capital. For example, although I had worked in Paris years before, I had never noticed that street signs always bear the district number or that the tram only circulates outside the city centre because the metro serves the central area.
Another interesting discovery made on board the amphibious bus was that the Seine is entirely navigable, from Le Havre to Dijon, and there are river companies such as Cruiseurope that offer authentic river cruises. However, the best moment of the tour on board the amphibious bus was the ‘splash’ of entering the water. It was a unique experience that marked the start of the navigation on the Seine at Boulogne-Billancourt, just outside Paris.
The tour on land
The land portion of the tour starts at the Eiffel Tower. Then, it passes by the Alexander III Bridge, the Trocadero and other symbols of the French capital. During the tour, the guide provides interesting facts about the history of the city and the monuments along the way. The itinerary includes lesser-known sights, such as the Hotel des Invalides, which houses an army museum, and the Petit and Grand Palais, built for a universal exhibition and now host events such as parades and fencing.
The bus route passes by the Obelisk de la Concorde, the oldest monument in Paris, a gift from Egypt, and the famous Champs-Elysées shopping street, accompanied by a well-known French theme song. Other tour highlights are the Arc de Triomphe, built by Napoleon, and the Paris Aquarium, the oldest in the world, which hosts shows with professional mermaids and apnea artists capable of swimming with a fish tail.
After the aquatic part with navigation along the Seine, the amphibious bus tour ends with a view of the Statue of Liberty in Paris, a gift from the United States to France. The faces of the two statues are turned towards each other.
The bridges of Paris
The bridges of Paris are essential references in the city’s toponymy because the Seine entirely crosses the French capital. There are 37 bridges in Paris over 12 kilometres of river.
The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris but the first rebuilt in stone, hence the name ‘new bridge’. Besides Pont Neuf, another historical bridge visible during the tour is the Mirabeau Bridge, mentioned in a poem by Apollinaire and characterised by its unique iron structure.
The tour on the water
One of the most exciting parts of the Les Canards de Paris tour is when the amphibious bus enters the water and begins its navigation on the Seine. This experience occurs from Boulogne-Billancourt, just outside Paris, as it is the only point wide enough for the bus to enter the water.
The section of the tour by boat takes about 20 minutes. It offers a unique view of the city, whose prominent landmarks are the Seine Musicale theatre, the Saint-Cloud gardens and the skyline of the La Defense district.
The Seine, however, is an extension of the city, with boats that are both restaurants and homes, as you can discover on the amphibious bus tour. A few examples among those mentioned in our guide, in Paris, there are a floating Hotel, OFF Paris Seine, and a floating museum, the Fluctuart Museum, free of charge and dedicated to street art and moored near Les Invalides.
Practical information about the amphibious bus tour in Paris
Before boarding Les Canards de Paris, you must remember some practical information for taking part in the amphibious bus tour. You can only buy your tickets online, with a fixed departure time (there are several tours per day). After booking, print or save the ticket on your smartphone to show when you board.
The meeting point is generally on the Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower, but may vary. Always check the departure point the day before and on the day itself in the link you will receive by e-mail with your booking confirmation.
The Canards de Paris amphibious bus has no real windows but a transparent plastic sheet that can open on hot days. In addition, the route includes navigation on the Seine, so I recommend that you wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions of the day. I highly recommend a cotton hat, sunglasses, sunscreen in summer, and a windbreaker jacket, scarf, and wool hat on colder days.
How much Paris amphibious bus tickets cost
Tickets for the Les Canards de Paris amphibious bus tour cost €39 per adult and €23 for children. Despite the not-so-cheap price, tickets sell out fast, especially on school terms, bank holidays and weekends. For this reason, I recommend buying tickets at least a few weeks in advance of your trip.
In the photos in this article, you can see the empty amphibious bus only because the large group that booked on the same day didn’t show up, so we had an exclusive tour just for us. However, this is not the norm, and we were very lucky to get VIP treatment.
It is usually challenging to get a seat on the tour if you don’t book in advance, especially at weekends. Initially, we wanted to do the tour on Sunday, but there were no more tickets for any departure. So we chose the first tour on Monday morning. To ensure you get a seat, check the dates on the calendar below and book as soon as possible.
Where to stay in Paris
Sleeping in Paris can be expensive, prompting you to consider staying outside the city centre. In such a case, before selecting a hotel, I suggest you read my article on the best and worst neighbourhoods to stay in Paris.
I’ve visited Paris on several occasions for leisure and work, and I recommend a few places I’m familiar with. If you’re looking for a unique stay, Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte, built inside a 17th-century convent and located in the Marais district, is an excellent choice.
To save money, opt for the more affordable Hotel Bloum, situated close to the Opera and decorated with customised furnishings. Alternatively, the Aparthotel Adagio Paris Montmartre offers contemporary, self-catering apartments, perfect for families looking for more space in their rooms.
Amphibious Bus Tour: A Must-See Experience in Paris
The Les Canards de Paris amphibious bus tour offers a unique experience to discover the city from a different perspective. Navigating the Seine on board a vehicle that can easily switch from road to water is an exciting and fun experience for adults and children alike. My son and I enjoyed seeing some of the main sights of Paris on board this unusual vehicle.
Taking a guided tour of Paris on an amphibious bus is a unique and unforgettable experience combining sightseeing on land and water. Let me know in the comments if you have ever considered this exciting adventure.