The Seine River is the heart of Paris. It flows through the center of the city and is as much an iconic symbol as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
The sections of the city on the Left side of the Seine (Rive Gauche) are typically considered a bit more bohemian than those on the Right side (Rive Droite). Often directions are given in terms of which bank the address is located.
If you can escape the urban streets and get to the quai below, you will enter a peaceful oasis that blocks out the traffic, noise and crowds of the city.
The pace here is slow, measured, mindful. It is quiet enough to hear the river lap against the rock wall, and yet not isolated. The serenity found here masks the fact that the Seine is still a major commercial thoroughfare.
As an added bonus in the summer, the city transforms some of these walks into a beach getaway. Paris Plage typically occurs between mid-July through mid-August. Over 5000 tons of sand is distributed along the water's edge to create a magical vacation spot in the middle of the city.
I wrote a detailed post of this fun, whimsical event here.
But even without the sand and beach umbrellas and Palm trees swaying in the breeze, the quais provide a relaxing break from everyday life in the middle of the city.