Paradoxically, the Pont Neuf (French for ‘New Bridge’) is the oldest bridge in Paris. The Pont Neuf is also Paris’s best known bridge and, together with the Pont Alexandre III, one of its most beautiful.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, only two bridges crossed the Seine river. Since they were in a bad state and constantly overcrowded, King Henry III decided in 1578 to construct a new bridge.
It wasn’t until 1607 before the bridge was officially opened by his successor, King Henry IV, who named the bridge “Pont Neuf” (New Bridge). After his death, an equestrian statue of the King was erected at the center of the bridge, on the Place du Pont Neuf. The bronze statue was knocked over and melted down during the French Revolution, but it was replaced by an exact replica in 1818.
For its time, the 232-meter-long (761 ft.) and 22-meter-wide (72 ft.) Pont Neuf was a modern bridge with several innovations. The Pont Neuf was the first bridge in Paris without houses built on it. It was also the first bridge with pavements, which made it an immediate hit with the Parisians, who used the bridge as a meeting place. Especially the semicircular areas over the bridge piers near the pavement were ideal for socializing.
The Pont Neuf actually consists of two different bridge spans that are at a slight angle. There is one on each side of the Île de la Cité, where the Place du Pont Neuf connects the two spans. The bridge has a total of twelve arches, with one span of seven arches joining the right bank and another span of five arches connecting Île de la Cité with the left bank.