The Austerlitz Bridge is a stone bridge with five arches. It was originally built from 1801 to 1805, but it was widened and strengthened twice during the nineteenth century. The bridge was named after the Battle of Austerlitz, a French victory under the command of Emperor Napoléon I in 1805.
Until 1849, carriages, carts and pedestrians all had to pay a toll to cross the Austerlitz Bridge. In the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean was fleeing on foot (in 1824), carrying the child Cosette and trying not to be seen by Inspector Javert and his men. At the toll station on Austerlitz Bridge he paid the toll of one sou, but the old soldier on duty said he had to pay two sous because he was carrying a child who could walk. Jean Valjean paid the two sous, but was worried because his flight had attracted attention. Fortunately a heavy cart was also crossing the bridge, going towards the right bank as he was, so he could walk in the shadow of the cart and hopefully not be seen. (This short chapter of the novel is entitled: “He is happy that the Austerlitz Bridge carries vehicles.”)
In the twentieth century the Austerlitz Bridge carried more vehicles than any other bridge in Paris, so from 1993 to 1996 a parallel bridge called the Pont Charles de Gaulle was built 350 meters upstream. Now this new bridge carries the motor traffic from the left bank to the right, while the Austerlitz Bridge is a one-way bridge for motor vehicles from the right bank to the left. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross both bridges in both directions.
Between the two road bridges Austerlitz and Charles de Gaulle, there is also a metal railway bridge which carries the Métro line # 5 between Bastille and Austerlitz Station.
The view downstream from the Austerlitz Bridge (Pont d’Austerlitz) is not spectacular, but off in the distance you can see the Île Saint-Louis, which is a beautiful island when you get a bit closer.
In addition to the masses of motor vehicles, there is a steady stream of bicycles on the bike lanes of the Austerlitz Bridge. Two of the city’s numbered bicycle routes cross this bridge: route # 8 from Gare de Lyon to Invalides and route # 9 from the Parc de la Villette in the north to the Poterne des Peupliers in the south.
GPS of the Austerlitz Bridge: 48° 50′ 42″ North, 2° 21′ 58″ East
My photos in this post are from 2013 and 2018. I revised the text in 2018.
See more posts on bridges across the Seine in Paris.