As magical as Paris is at night, there is something extraordinary about rising early to catch the city as the sun comes up. You’ll share Paris with joggers, street cleaners, and the odd photographer chasing this peak period of soft sunlight.
From my apartment in the 7th arrondissement, I began by crossing the Pont Alexandre III and making my way east along the right bank of the Seine. From across the water, I snapped photos of Musée d’Orsay, with streaks of pink clouds and the slowly rising, bright sun putting the former train station into a most flattering light.
The light of the sun is echoed in the still illuminated clocks of Musée d’Orsay, the colors rippling and reflecting in the Seine below.
I backtracked a bit through the Place de la Concorde to the deserted Louvre. While at night the Louvre seemed magisterial, in the early dawn it was more reserved, before the bright lights of day and hordes of visitors turned it back into a fortress of culture. The grandeur was still present, but the light warmed the stones, making the museum seem to beckon. It certainly called to the camera lens at least!
On the other side of the Seine, softer light made for a brilliant, hazy reflection photo of the Louvre.
Continuing my little ramble along the river, I stopped on Pont des Arts, first getting shots of the love locks glinting in the rising sun, and then changing my focus to France’s oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf. Another visually striking Parisian landmark also jumped out in the shot, the Conciergerie. The two have a striking compatibility in the early light of day, as though they have always been seated here on the Seine, in the heart of Paris, though the Conciergerie was built far earlier for Merovingian kings of old, its Gothic facade emerging later in the Middle Ages.
No cars or boats in motion, all is calm and quiet overlooking the Pont Neuf and the Conciergerie just behind.
I finished my mini sunrise tour with the full dawn on Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, where shopkeepers, skateboarders, beggars, and other tourists began to emerge and interact in the great dance that is urban life. Quick shots of the western and eastern facades of Notre-Dame de Paris were a wonderful way to welcome blue skies and the start of a wonderful day.
Like any great city, Paris can be many things at the same time: elegant, fussy, cruel, brash, opulent, overwhelming, vibrant, inspiring. But it’s absolutely worth it to awaken ahead of the dawn and stroll along the Seine, and watch Paris wake up before you. You’ll round a corner and see the most sweet, soft, and tender side to the city, and fall head over heels in love with it all over again.
Full morning at the eastern facade of Notre-Dame de Paris. The trees reveal it’s October, but the vibrant flowers defy the coming of winter.