Essential Architecture-  Paris

Paris History

View from the Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse) towards the Eiffel Tower. On the right Napoleon's tomb lies under the golden dome at Les Invalides. The towers of the office and entertainment centre La Défense are on the horizon.


Ville de Paris 
Coat of arms of Paris
City flag City coat of arms 

Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur
"Tossed by the waves, she does not sink" 

Coordinates : 48°52′0″N, 2°19′59″E
Time Zone : CET (GMT +1) 
Subdivisions 20 arrondissements 
Département Paris (75) 
Région Île-de-France 
Mayor Bertrand Delanoë (PS) 
City (commune) Characteristics 
Land Area 86.928 km² [1] 
Population 2,144,700 (2004 estimate) 
(1st in France) 
Density 24,672/km² [1] (2004) 
Urban Spread 
Urban Area
Population 2 723 km² (1999)
9 644 507 (1999) 
Metro Area
Population 14,518.3 km² (1999)
11,174,743 (1999) 
For other uses see Paris (disambiguation)
Paris is the capital and largest city of France. It is also the capital of the Île-de-France région (also known as Paris Region) that, encompassing Paris and its suburbs, represents France's most dynamic centre of economic activity. Paris is a leading global cultural, business and political centre and is renowned for its defining neo-classical architecture as well as its role as a major international influence in fashion, gastronomy and the arts.[2] It is widely regarded as one of the world's major global cities.[3] Dubbed "the City of Lights" (la Ville Lumière) since the 19th century, Paris has a reputation as a "romantic" city.[4]

Paris is situated on the banks of the river Seine in north-central France. The city hosts many museums and galleries, has an active nightlife, and is the most visited city in the world,[5] with more than 30 million visitors per year. The most recognisable symbol of Paris is the 324 metre (1,063 ft) Eiffel Tower on the banks of the Seine.

The City of Paris had an estimated mid-2004 population of 2,144,700 [6]. The Paris urban area, extending well beyond the city boundaries, has today an estimated population of 9.9 million [7]. The Paris metropolitan area (including satellite towns) stood at 11.5 million in 1999[8]. Paris and the Île-de-France région produce more than a quarter of France's wealth, with a GDP of nearly €450 billion (US$506.7 billion) in 2003.[9] With La Défense, one of the largest business districts in Europe, Paris also hosts the head offices of almost half of all French companies, as well as the offices of major international firms and the headquarters of many international organisations such as UNESCO, the OECD, the ICC, or the informal Paris Club.
The Eiffel Tower, the international symbol of the city, as viewed from the Trocadéro
The Eiffel Tower, the international symbol of the city, as viewed from the Trocadéro


The name of the city derives from the Gallic Parisii tribe. After its origins as a Roman settlement known as Lutetia (/lutetja/), the city began to adopt its present-day name towards the end of the Roman Empire. Since the early 20th century, Paris has been known in French slang as Paname ([panam]; Moi j'suis d'Paname, i.e. "I'm from Paname"), a slang name that has been regaining favor with young people in recent years.

The inhabitants of Paris are known as Parisians in English and as Parisiens in French. Parisians are sometimes called Parigots in French slang, a term often used pejoratively by people outside the Paris Region, but sometimes considered endearing by Parisians themselves.



Paris is located on a north-bending arc of the river Seine and includes two inhabited islands, the Île Saint-Louis and the larger Île de la Cité which is the heart and origin of the city. Paris has several prominent hills, of which the highest is Montmartre at 130 metres (426½ ft) above sea level.

Political geography
The city of Paris covers 105.397 square kilometres (40.69 mi²), 86.928 square kilometres (33.56 mi²) of land, excluding the outlying parks of Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes.

Paris' administrative borders have remained largely unchanged since 1860: this last annexation, in addition to incorporating outlying suburbs between the city and its then ring of fortifications, was also the creation of Paris ' present 20 arrondissements; arrondissements 12 to 20 together represent the land incoporated into the city then. From its 1860 78 km² (30.1 mi²), these limits changed marginally to 86.9 km² in the 1920's, and 1929 was the year the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes forest parks were officially added to the City of Paris.

Paris has an Oceanic climate and is affected by the North Atlantic Drift, so the city enjoys a temperate climate that rarely sees extremely high or low temperatures. The average yearly high temperature is about 24 °C (75 °F), and yearly lows tend to remain around an average of 1 °C (34 °F). The highest temperature ever, recorded on the 28th of July 1948, was 40.4 °C (104.7 °F), and the lowest was a −23.9 °C (−11.0 °F) temperature reached on the 10th of December, 1879.[10] The Paris region has recently seen temperatures reaching both extremes, with the heat wave of 2003 and the cold wave of 2006.

Rainfall can occur at any time of the year, and Paris is known for its sudden showers. The city sees an average yearly precipitation of around 641.6 mm (25.2 inches).[10] Snowfall is a rare occurrence, usually appearing in the coldest months of January or February (but has been recorded as late as April), and almost never accumulates enough to make a covering that will last more than a day.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year 
Avg high °C (°F) 6 (43) 7 (45) 10 (51) 14 (57) 18 (64) 21 (70) 24 (75) 24 (75) 20 (69) 15 (59) 9 (49) 7 (45) 15 (59) 
Avg low temperature °C (°F) 1 (34) 1 (34) 3 (38) 5 (42) 9 (49) 12 (54) 14 (58) 14 (57) 11 (52) 8 (46) 4 (39) 2 (36) 7 (45) 
Source: Weatherbase 

Districts and historical centres

These are a few of Paris' major districts.

Champs-Élysées is a seventeenth century garden-promenade turned avenue connecting the Concorde and Arc de Triomphe. It is one of the many tourist attractions and a major shopping street of Paris. This avenue has been called "la plus belle avenue du monde" ("the most beautiful avenue in the world"). 
Avenue Montaigne is, like the two previous districts, home to luxury brand labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Dior and Givenchy. 
Place de la Concorde is at the foot of the Champs-Élysées, built as the "Place Louis XV", site of the infamous guillotine. The Egyptian obelisk it holds today can be considered Paris's "oldest monument". Nearby Place Vendome is famous for its fashionable and deluxe hotels, such as Hôtel de Crillon and Hotel Ritz. Many famous fashion designers have had their salons in the square. 
Faubourg Saint-Honoré is one of Paris' high-fashion districts, home to labels such as Hermès and Christian Lacroix. 
L'Opéra is the area around the Opéra Garnier is a home to the capital's densest concentration of both department stores and offices. A few examples are the Printemps and Galeries Lafayette grands magasins (department stores), and the Paris headquarters of financial giants such as Crédit Lyonnais and American Express. 
Montmartre is a historic area on the Butte, home to the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur. Montmartre has always had a history with artist and has many studios and cafés of many great artists in that area. 
Les Halles was formerly Paris' central meat and produce market, since the late 1970s a major shopping center around an important metro connection station. The past Les Halles was destroyed in 1971 and replaced by the current day Forum des Halles. 
Le Marais is trendy Right Bank district. With large gay and Jewish populations it is a very culturally open place. 
Place de la Bastille being one of the most historic districts, being a location of an essential event of not only Paris, but the whole country of France. Because of its historical value the square is often used for political demonstrations, including the massive anti-CPE demonstration of March 28, 2006. 
Quartier Latin is a twelfth century scholastic centre formerly stretching between the Left Bank's Place Maubert and the Sorbonne campus. It is known for its lively atmosphere and many bistros. With various higher education establishments, such as the École Normale Supérieure, the École des Mines and the Jussieu university campus make it a major educational center in Paris, which also contributes to its atmosphere. 
Montparnasse is a historic Left Bank area famous for artists studios, music halls, and café life. The large Montparnasse - Bienvenüe métro station and the lone Tour Montparnasse skyscraper are located there. 
Paris' suburban La Défense district is one of the largest business centres in the world, and a major destination for business tourism. Built at the western end of a westward extension of Paris' historical axis from the Champs-Élysées, La Défense consists mainly of business highrises and with 3.5 million m² of offices, it is today the largest CBD in Europe. 


The earliest signs of permanent habitation in the Paris area date from around 4200 BC[11]. Celtic migrants began to settle the area from 250 BC, and the Parisii tribe of these, known as boatmen and traders, established a settlement near the river Seine from around then.

Westward Roman conquest and the ensuing Gallic War overtook the Paris basin from 52 BC[11], and by the end of the century Paris' Île de la Cité island and Left Bank Sainte Geneviève Hill had become the Roman town of Lutetia. Gallo-Roman Lutèce would expand over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with palaces, a forum, baths, temples, theatres and an amphitheatre[12].

The collapse of the Roman empire and third-century Germanic invasions sent the city into a period of decline: by 400 AD Lutèce, largely abandoned by its inhabitants, was little more than a garrison town entrenched into its hastily fortified central island[11]. The city would reclaim its original "Paris" appellation towards the end of the Roman occupation.

Middle ages
From AD 512, Paris was the capital of the Frankish king Clovis I, who commissioned the first cathedral and abbey. On the death of Clovis, the Frankish kingdom was divided with Paris as the capital of a much smaller kingdom. By the time of the Carolingian dynasty (9th century), it was little more than a feudal county stronghold. The Counts of Paris gradually rose to prominence and eventually wielded greater power than the Kings of Francia occidentalis. Odo, Count of Paris was elected king in place of the incumbent Charles the Fat, after Odo defended Paris in the Viking siege of 885-886. The Counts of Paris continued to defend France against Viking attack in the ninth century, but the Vikings irreparably damaged the old Roman city on the Left Bank. Nearby marshlands were drained to allow Paris to grow on the Right Bank. In 987 AD, Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, was elected King of France, founding the Capetian dynasty which would raise Paris to become France's capital.

Storming of the Bastille by a Parisian mob on July 14, 1789
Storming of the Bastille by a Parisian mob on July 14, 1789
From 1190, King Philip Augustus enclosed Paris on both banks with a wall that had the Louvre as its western fortress and in 1200 chartered the University of Paris which brought visitors from across Europe. During this period the modern spatial distribution of activities began to emerge: the central island housed government and ecclesiastical institutions, the left bank became a scholastic centre with the University and colleges, while the right bank developed as the centre of commerce and trade around the central Les Halles marketplace.

Paris was occupied during the Hundred Years' War by the Burgundians, allied to the English. Although Joan of Arc failed to reconquer the city in 1429, a successful reconquest took place in 1437. However, the Kings of France abandoned Paris in favour of the Loire Valley. During the French Wars of Religion, Paris was a stronghold of the Catholic party, culminating in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (1572). King Henry IV re-established the royal court in Paris in 1594 after he captured the city from the Catholic party. During the Fronde, Parisians rose in rebellion and the royal family fled the city (1648). King Louis XIV then moved the royal court permanently to Versailles in 1682. A century later, Paris was the centre stage for the French Revolution, with the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the overthrow of the monarchy in 1792.

Nineteenth century

The Industrial Revolution, the French Second Empire, and the Belle Époque brought Paris the greatest development in its history. From the 1840s, rail transport allowed an unprecedented flow of migrants into Paris attracted by employment in the new industries in the suburbs. The city underwent a massive renovation under Napoleon III and his préfet Haussmann, who leveled entire districts of narrow-winding medieval streets to create the network of wide avenues and neo-classical façades of modern Paris.

Cholera epidemics in 1832 and 1849 affected the population of Paris (the 1832 epidemic alone claimed 20,000 of the then population of 650,000.[13] Paris also suffered greatly from the siege ending the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), and the ensuing civil war Commune of Paris (1871) killed thousands and sent many of Paris's administrative centres (and city archives) up in flames.

Paris recovered rapidly from these events to host the famous Universal Expositions of the late nineteenth century. The Eiffel Tower was built for the French Revolution centennial 1889 Universal Exposition, as a "temporary" display of architectural engineering prowess but remained the world's tallest building until 1930, and today is the city's best-known landmark. The first line of the Paris Métro opened for the 1900 Universal Exposition and was an attraction in itself for visitors from the world over. Paris's World's Fair years also consolidated its position in the tourist industry and as an attractive setting for international technology and trade shows.

Twentieth century
During World War I, Paris was at the forefront of the war effort, having been spared a German invasion by the French and English victory at the First Battle of the Marne in 1914. In 1918-1919, it was the scene of Allied victory parades and peace negotiations. In the inter-war period Paris was famed for its cultural and artistic communities and its nightlife. The city became a melting pot of artists from around the world, from exiled Russian composer Stravinsky and Spanish painters Picasso and Dalí to American writer Hemingway. In June 1940, five weeks after the start of the German attack on France, a partially-evacuated Paris fell to German occupation forces, who remained there until Free French troops (Second armoured division)of General Leclerc liberated the city in late August 1944. The city suffered almost no war damage partly due to the refusal of the German military commander, General von Choltitz, to carry out Hitler's direct order to destroy all monuments before evacuating the city.

In the post-war era, Paris experienced its largest development since the end of the Belle Époque in 1914. The suburbs began to expand considerably, with the construction of large social estates known as cités and the beginning of the business district La Défense. A comprehensive express subway network, the RER, was built to complement the Métro and serve the distant suburbs, while a network of freeways was developed in the suburbs, centered on the Périphérique expressway circling around the city. Many inner suburbs of Paris (especially the eastern ones) have experienced de-industrialisation since the 1970s, and the once-thriving cités have gradually become ghettos for immigrants and oases of unemployment. The widening social gap between these disadvantaged suburbs and the wealthier suburbs (especially the western ones) have led to periodic unrest since the mid-1980s, such as the 2005 riots.

Demographics within the Paris Region
(according to the official INSEE 1999 census) 
Areas Population Area
(km2) Density
(/km2) 1990-1999
City of Paris
(département 75) 2,125,246 105 20,240 -1.26% 
Suburban Départements 
Inner ring
(Petite Couronne)
(Depts. 92, 93, 94) 4,038,992 657 6,148 +1.27% 
Outer ring
(Grande Couronne)
(Depts. 77, 78, 91, 95) 4,787,773 11,249 426 +5.93% 
(entire région) 10,952,011 12,011 912 +2.73% 
Statistical Growth 
Urban area
(Paris agglomeration) 9,644,507 2,723 3,542 +1.85% 
Metro area
commuter belt) 11,174,743 14,518 770 +2.90% 

View over the center of Paris
View over the center of Paris
The population of the City of Paris was 2,125,246 at the 1999 census, lower than the historical peak of 2.9 million in 1921[citation needed]. This decline was due to the relocation of people to the suburbs caused by de-industrialisation, high rent, the gentrification of many inner quarters and the transformation of living space into offices, although not on the scale seen in some Western cities. These tendencies are generally seen as negative for the city; the current city administration is trying to reverse them with some success, as the population estimate of July 2004 shows a population increase for the first time since 1954 reaching a total of 2,144,700 inhabitants.

The City of Paris is the most densely populated area in the Western World after the island of Manhattan in New York City[citation needed]. Excluding the outlying woodland parks of Boulogne and Vincennes, its density was 24,448 inh. per km² (63,321 inh. per sq. mile) in 1999 official census[citation needed]. Paris has maintained a relatively balanced distribution of apartment residences, office spaces and commercial activities catering to both, although some districts have lost much of their apartment housing to office renovations, partly contributing to the population decline seen since the 1920's.[citation needed]

Paris' most sparsely populated quarters are its western and central office and administration-charged arrondissements[citation needed]. The city is at its densest in its north and east arrondissements; its 11th arrondissement had a density of 40,672/km² (105,339/sq. mile) in 1999[citation needed], and some of the same arrondissement's eastern quarters showed densities close to 100,000/km² (260,000/sq. mile) the same year.[citation needed]

The Paris agglomeration
The City of Paris is much smaller than its urban growth. At present, the city's urban area (agglomeration) fills a ring of Paris' three neighbouring départements - also known as petite couronne ("small ring") - and extends into an "outer ring" of four grande couronne départements beyond. These eight départements together complete the Île-de-France région[citation needed].

The Paris agglomeration or urban area (unité urbaine) covers 2,723 km² (1,051.4 mi²) [14], or about 26 times larger than the city of Paris. Beyond this, the couronne peri-urbaine commuter belt region reaches well beyond the limits of the Île-de-France région, and combined with the Paris agglomeration, completes a metropolitan area (aire urbaine) covering 14,518 km² (5,605.5 mi²) [citation needed], or an area about 138 times that of Paris itself.

The Paris agglomeration has shown an steady rate of growth since the end of the late 16th-century French Wars of Religion, save brief setbacks during the French Revolution and World War II[citation needed]. Suburban development has accellerated in recent years, as with an estimated total of 11.4 million inhabitants for 2005, the Île-de-France région shows a rate of growth double that of the 1990s [15][16].

French censuses, by law, ask no questions regarding ethnicity or religion, but do gather information concerning country of birth. From this it is still possible to determine that the Paris metropolitan area is one of the most multi-cultural in Europe: at the 1999 census, 19.4% of its total population was born outside of metropolitan France[17]. At the same census, 4.2% of the Paris metropolitan area's population were recent immigrants (i.e people who migrated to France between the 1990 and 1999 censuses)[18], in their majority from mainland China and Africa[19].

The first wave of international migration to Paris started as early as in 1820 with the arrivals of German peasants fleeing the agricultural crisis in Germany [20]. Several waves of immigration followed continuously until today : Italians and central European Jews during the 19th century; Russians after the revolution of 1917; colonial citizens during world war I and later; Poles between the two world wars; Spaniards, Portuguese and North Africans from the 1950's to the 1970's; North African Jews after the independence of those countries; Africans and Asians since then. The majority of these today are naturalised French without any distinction, in the name of the French Republic principle of equality among its citizens.


La Défense, the largest business district in Europe
Paris and its surrounding Île-de-France région is France's leading centre of economical activity. Its activity is extremely diverse, but is in its majority specialises in the service industries, finance, tourism and manufacturing. With a 2003 GDP of €448,933 billion[21] (US$506.7 billion)[22], the Paris region is an engine of the global economy: if it were a country, it would rank as the fifteenth largest economy in the world [citation needed]. While the Paris region's 2003 GDP was about 29% that of metropolitan France[21], its population was 18.7% of the same[23].

La Défense, the largest business district in Europe
View over la defense- the paris financial district
The Paris region's most intense economical activity through the central Hauts-de-Seine département and suburban La Défense business district places Paris' economical centre to the west of the city, in a triangle between the Opéra Garnier, La Défense and the Val de Seine. Paris' administrative borders have little consequences on the limits of its economical activity: although most workers commute from the suburbs to work in the city, many commute from the city to work in the suburbs. At the 1999 census, 47.5% of the 5,089,170 people in employment in the Paris metropolitan area (including commuter belt) worked in the city of Paris and the Hauts-de-Seine département, while only 31.5% worked exclusively in Paris[citation needed].

Although the Paris economy is largely dominated by services, it remains an important manufacturing powerhouse of Europe, especially in industrial sectors such as automobiles, aeronautics and high-technologies. Over recent decades, the local economy has moved towards high value-added activities, in particular business services.

The 1999 census indicated that of the 5,089,170 persons employed in the Paris metropolitan area, 16.5% worked in business services, 13.0% in commerce (retail and wholesale trade), 12.3% in manufacturing, 10.0% in public administrations and defense, 8.7% in health services, 8.2% in transportation and communications, 6.6% in education, and the remaining 24.7% in many other economic sectors. Among the manufacturing sector, the largest employers were the electronic and electrical industry (17.9% of the total manufacturing workforce in 1999) and the publishing and printing industry (14.0% of the total manufacturing workforce), with the remaining 68.1% of the manufacturing workforce distributed among many other industries. The tourism industry and tourist related services, employ 4.7% of the total workforce of Île-de-France (in 1999), and 7% of the total workforce of the city of Paris.[24]


Paris, Capital of France
Paris is the capital of France, and as such is the seat of France's national government.

For the executive, the two chief officers each have their own official residences, which also serve as their offices. President of the Republic resides at the Elysée Palace in the Ier arrondissement, while the Prime Minister's seat is at the Hôtel Matignon in the VIIe arrondissement. Government ministries are located in various parts of the city - many are located in the VIIe, near the Matignon.

The two houses of the French Parliament are also located on the Left Bank. The upper house, the Senate, meets in the Palais du Luxembourg in the VIe arrondissement, while the more important lower house, the Assemblée Nationale, meets in the Palais Bourbon in the VIIe. The President of the Senate, the second highest public official in France after the President of the Republic, resides in the "Petit Luxembourg", a smaller palace annex to the Palais du Luxembourg.

France's highest courts are located in Paris. The Court of Cassation, the highest court in the judicial order, which tries most criminal and civil cases, is located in the Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité, while the Conseil d'État, which provides legal advice to the executive and acts as the highest court in the administrative order, judging litigation against public bodies, is located in the Palais Royal in the Ier.

The Constitutional Council, which is an advisory body which is the ultimate authority on the constitutionality of laws and government decrees, also meets in the Palais Royal.

City government

The arrondissements of Paris

Paris has been a commune (municipality) since the French Revolution. At the 1790 division of France into communes, Paris was a city only half its modern size, but from 1860 it annexed bordering communes, some entirely, to create the new administrative map of twenty municipal arrondissements the city still has today. These municipal subdivisions describe a clockwise spiral outward from its most central Ier arrondissement.

Paris as a commune from 1790 became the chef-lieu (capital) of a vast Seine "département" encompassing Paris and a great number of neighbouring communes, but this unique département from 1968 was split into four: Paris retained the Seine département's "75" (number originating from "Seine's" position in France's alphabetical list of départements), while the three "new" Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne départements were attributed the numbers 92, 93 and 94 respectively. The result of this division is that today Paris' limits as a département are exactly those of its limits as a commune, a situation unique in France.

Municipal offices
Each of Paris' arrondissements has a directly-elected council (conseil d'arrondissement), which in turn elects an arrondissement mayor. A selection of members from each arrondissement council form the Council of Paris (conseil de Paris), which in turn electes the mayor of Paris.

Although Paris' history is long, that of its municipal government has less than half a century: Paris and its surrounding territories were always governed directly by the highest power of the time: this was the Crown before the French Revolution, and a state-appointed préfet (governing the Seine département) afterwards. The office of mayor of Paris, save for a few brief occasions, did not exist before 1977.

Although Paris has a double role as commune and département, it has a unique council to governing both; the Council of Paris, presided by the Mayor of Paris, meets either as a municipal council (conseil municipal) or as a departmental council (conseil général) depending on the issue to be debated.

Paris' modern administrative organisation still retains some traces of its Seine département jurisdiction. The Préfécture de Police (also directing Paris' fire brigades), for example, has still a jurisdiction extending to Paris' petite couronne of bordering three départements for some operations such as fire protection or rescue operations, and is still directed by France's national government. Paris has no municipal police force, although it does have its own brigade of traffic wardens.

Paris, Capital of the Île-de-France région
From 1961, as part of a nation-wide administrative effort to consolidate regional economies, Paris as a département became the capital of the new District of the Paris Region, transformed into the Île-de-France région in 1976, encompassing the Paris département and its seven closest départements. The regional council members are chosen by direct elections (since 1986). The prefect of the Paris département (known as the prefect of the Seine département before 1968) is also prefect of the Île-de-France région, although the office lost a lot of its powers with the creation of the office of mayor of Paris in 1977.

Few of the above changes have taken into account Paris' existence as an agglomeration. Unlike many of France's major cities such as Marseille and Lyon, Paris has no inter-commune council or association treating the problems of the region's densest urban growth as a whole; Paris' alienation of its suburbs is indeed a problem today, and considered by many to be the main causes of civil unrest such as suburban riots in 2005. A direct result of these unfortunate events were propositions for a more efficient metropolitan structure to cover the city of Paris and some of the suburbs, ranging from a socialist idea of a loose "metropolitan conference" (conférence métropolitaine) to the right-wing idea of a more integrated Grand Paris ("Greater Paris").

In the early 9th century, the Emperor Charlemagne mandated all churches to give lessons in reading, writing and basic arithmetic to their parishes, and cathedrals to give a higher education in the finer arts of language, physics, music and theology. Paris, with its many churches and cathedral, began its rise as a scholastic centre around then.

Twelve centuries later, education in Paris and the Paris region (Île-de-France région) employs approximately 330,000 persons, 170,000 of whom are teachers and professors teaching approximately 2.9 million children and students in around 9,000 primary, secondary, and higher education schools and institutions[25].

Primary and secondary education
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Higher education
In the academic year 2004-2005, there were 359,749 students registered in the 17 public universities located throughout the Paris region.[26] This is the largest concentration of university students in Europe, ahead of the agglomerations of London (300,000 university students), Milan (280,000 university students), Madrid (250,000 university students), and Rome (230,000 university students).[27] Beside these 17 public universities, 240,778 more students are registered in the prestigious grandes écoles, as well as in the preparatory classes to the grandes écoles, and in scores of private and public schools independent from universities, thus giving a grand total of 600,527 students in higher education in the academic year 2004-2005.[26]

Historical article: University of Paris

Paris Notre-Dame Cathedral was the first center of higher education before the creation of the University of Paris. The universitas, a corporation status granting teachers (and their students) the right to rule themselves independently from crown law and taxes, was chartered by King Philip Augustus in 1200. Many classes then were held in open air. Non-Parisian students and teachers would stay in hostels, or "colleges", created for the boursiers coming from afar. Already famous by the 13th century, the Universty of Partis had students from all of Europe. Paris's Rive Gauche scholastic centre, or "Latin Quarter" as classes were taught in Latin then, would eventually regroup around the college created by Robert de Sorbon from 1257. The University of Paris in the 19th century had six faculties: law, science, medicine, pharmaceutical studies, literature and theology.

The 1968 student riots in Paris, in an effort to disperse the centralised student body, resulted in a near total reform of the University of Paris. The following year, the formerly unique University of Paris was split between thirteen autonomous universities ("Paris I" to "Paris XIII") located throughout the City of Paris and its suburbs. Each of these universities inherited only some of the departments of the old University of Paris, and are not generalist universities. Paris II, for example, inherited the Law School; Paris V inherited the School of Medicine; Paris VI and VII inherited the scientific departments; etc.

In 1991, four more universities were created in the suburbs of Paris, reaching a total of seventeen public universities for the Paris (Île-de-France) région. These new universities were given names (based on the name of the suburb in which they are located) and not numbers like the previous thirteen: University of Cergy-Pontoise, University of Évry-Val d'Essonne, University of Marne-la-Vallée and University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

Grandes écoles
The Paris region hosts France's highest concentration of grandes écoles, or prestigious centres of higher specialised education outside the public university structure. Most of the grandes écoles were relocated to the suburbs of Paris in the 1960s and 1970s, in new campuses much larger than the old campuses within the crowded City of Paris. The Paris area has a high number of engineering schools, led by the prestigious École Polytechnique, École des Mines, École des Ponts et Chaussées, and École Centrale, forming future actors of France's engineering and industry. Business schools are also many, including world-famous HEC, INSEAD, and ESCP-EAP European School of Management. Although Paris' former elite administrative school ENA was relocated to Strasbourg, the famous political science school Sciences-Po is still located in Paris' Left bank VIIe arrondissement.


Monuments and landmarks
The Arc de Triomphe by day
The Arc de Triomphe by day

Three of the most famous Parisian landmarks are the twelfth century cathedral Notre Dame de Paris on the Île de la Cité, the nineteenth century Eiffel Tower, and the Napoleonic Arc de Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower was a "temporary" construction by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Universal Exposition but the tower was never dismantled and is now an enduring symbol of Paris. It is visible from many parts of the city as are the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper and the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on the Montmartre hill.

The Historical axis is a line of monuments, buildings and thoroughfares that run in a roughly straight line from the city centre westwards: the line of monuments begins with the Louvre and continues through the Tuileries Gardens, the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe centred in the Place de l'Étoile circus. From the 1960's line was prolonged even further west to the La Défense business district dominated by square-shaped triumphal Grande Arche of its own; this area hosts most of Paris' tallest skyscrapers.

The Invalides museum is the burial place for many great French soldiers, including Napoleon, and the Panthéon church is where many of France's illustrious men and women are buried. The former Conciergerie prison held some prominent ancien régime members before their deaths during the French Revolution. Another symbol of the Revolution are the two Statues of Liberty located on the Île des Cygnes on the Seine and in the Luxembourg Garden. A larger version of the statues was sent as a gift from France to the United States in 1886 and now stands in New York City harbour.

The Palais Garnier built in the later Second Empire period, houses the Paris Opera and the Paris Opera Ballet, while the former palace of the Louvre now houses one of the most famous museums in the world. The Sorbonne is the most famous part of the University of Paris and is based in the centre of the Latin Quarter. Apart from Notre Dame de Paris, there are several other ecclesiastical masterpieces including the Gothic thirteenth century Sainte-Chapelle palace chapel and the Église de la Madeleine.

The Mona Lisa, one of the Louvre's most famous treasures.
The Mona Lisa, one of the Louvre's most famous treasures.


The Louvre is one of the largest and most famous museums, housing many works of art, including the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) and the Venus de Milo statue. Works by Pablo Picasso and Rodin are found in Musée Picasso and Musée Rodin respectively, while the artistic community of Montparnasse is chronicled at the Musée du Montparnasse. Starkly apparent with its service-pipe exterior, the Centre Georges Pompidou, also known as Beaubourg, houses the Musée National d'Art Moderne. Lastly, art and artifacts from the Middle Ages and Impressionist eras are kept in Musée Cluny and Musée d'Orsay respectively, the former with the prized tapestry cycle The Lady and the Unicorn.

Paris' largest Opera houses are the 19th-century Opéra Garnier and modern Opera Bastille; the former tends towards the more classic ballets and operas, and the latter provides a mixed repertoire of classic and modern.

Theatre/Concert halls
Theatre traditionally has had a large place in Parisian culture. This still holds true today, although, perhaps strangely, many of its most popular actors today are also stars of French television. A few of Paris' major theatres are Bobino, Mogador and the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse. Some Parisian theatres also doubled as concert halls.

Many of France's greatest musical legends such as Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Georges Brassens and Charles Aznavour found their fame in Paris concert halls: legendary yet still-showing examples of these are Bobino, l'Olympia, la Cigale and le Splendid.

The below-mentioned Élysées-Montmartre, much reduced from its original size, is a concert hall today. The New Morning is one of few Parisian clubs still holding jazz concerts, but the same also specialises in 'Indy' music. More recently, the Zenith hall in Paris' La Villette quarter and a "parc-omnisports" stadium in Bercy serve as large-scale rock concert halls.

Opéra Garnier
Opéra Garnier
Guinguettes and Bals-concerts were the backbone of Parisian entertainment before the mid-20th century. Early to mid-19th century examples were the Moulin de la Galette guinguette and the Élysées-Montmartre and Chateau-Rouge dancehalls-gardens. Popular orchestral fare gave way to the Parisian accordionists of lore whose music moved the Apollo and le Java faubourg du Temple and Belleville dance-hall crowds. Out of the clubs remaining from this era grew the modern discothèque: Le Palace, although closed today, is Paris' most legendary example. Today, much of the clubbing in Paris happens in clubs like Le Queen, L'Etoile, Le Cab which are higlhy selective. Electronic music oriented clubs such as Le Rex, the Batofar (a boat converted into a club) or The Pulp are quite popular and the world's best DJs play there.

Parisians tend to share the same movie-going trends as many of the world's global cities, that is to say with a dominance of Hollywood-generated film entertainment. French cinema comes a close second, with major directors (réalisateurs) such as Claude Lelouch, Claude Chabrol and Luc Besson, and the more slapstick/popular genre with director Claude Zidi as an example. European and Asian films are also widely shown and appreciated. A specialty of Paris is its very large network of small movie theaters: on a given week the movie fan has the choice between around 300 old or new movies from all over the world.

Many of Paris' concert/dance halls were transformed into movie theatres when the media became popular from the 1930's. Later most of the largest cinemas were divided into multiple, smaller rooms: Paris' largest cinema today is by far le Grand Rex theatre with 2800 seats, while other cinemas all have less than 1000 seats. There is now a trend toward modern complexes with more than 10 or 20 screens in the same building.

Cafés, Restaurants and Hotels

Cafés quickly became an integral part of French culture from their appearance, namely from the opening of the left bank Café Procope in 1689 and the café Régence at the Palais-Royale one year earlier. The cafés in the gardens of the latter locale became a quite popular through the 18th-century, and can be considered Paris' first "terrace cafés"; these would not become widespread until sidewalks and boulevards began to appear from the mid-19th century. Cafés are an almost obligatory stop on the way to or from work for many Parisians, and especially during lunchtime.

Paris' culinary reputation has its base in the many origins of its inhabitants. With the early-19th-century railways and ensuing industrial revolution came a flood of migration that brought with it all the gastronomical diversity of France's many different regions, and maintained through 'local speciality' restaurants catering to the tastes of people from all. "Chez Jenny" is a typical example of a restaurant specialising in the cuisine of the Alsace region, and "Aux Lyonnais" is another with a traditional fare originating from its city name's region. Of course migration from even more distant climes meant an even greater culinary diversity, and today, in addition to a great number of North African and Asian establishments, in Paris one can find top-quality cuisine from virtually the world over.

Hotels were another result of widespread travel and tourism, especially Paris' late-19th century Expositions Universelles (World's Fairs). Of the most luxurious of these, the Hôtel Ritz appeared in the Place Vendôme from 1898, and the Hôtel de Crillon opened its doors to the north of the place de la Concorde from 1909.


Paris had always been a destination for traders, students and those on religious pilgrimages, but its 'tourism' in the proper sense of the term began on a large scale only with the appearance of rail travel, namely from state organisation of France's rail network from 1848. One of Paris' first 'mass' attractions drawing international interest were, from 1855, the above-mentioned Expositions Universelles that would bring Paris many new monuments, namely the Eiffel tower from 1889. These, in addition to the Capital's 2nd Empire embellishments, did much to make the city itself the attraction it is today.

Paris' museums and monuments are by far its highest-esteemed attractions, and tourist interest has been nothing but a benefit to these; tourism has even motivated both city and State to create new ones. The city's most prized museum, the Louvre, sees over 6 million visitors a year. Paris' cathedrals are another main attraction: its Notre-Dame cathedral and Sacré-Coeur basilica receive 12 million and 8 million visitors respectively. The Eiffel tower, by far Paris' most famous monument, averages over 6 million visitors per year. Disneyland Resort Paris is a major tourist attraction not only for visitors to Paris, but to Europe as well, with 12.4 million visitors in 2004.

Many of Paris' once-popular local establishments have metamorphised into a parody of French culture, in a form catering to the tastes and expectations of tourist capital. The Moulin Rouge cabaret-dancehall, for example, is a staged dinner theatre spectacle, a dance display that was once but one aspect of the cabaret's former atmosphere. All of the establishment's former social or cultural elements, such as its ballrooms and gardens, are gone today. Much of Paris' hotel, restaurant and night entertainment trades have become heavily dependant on tourism, with results not always positive for Parisian culture.


Inside the Stade de France during a rugby union match.
Paris's main sports clubs are the football club Paris Saint-Germain, the basketball team Paris Basket Racing and the rugby union club Stade Français. The 80,000-seat Stade de France was built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and is used for football and rugby union, and is used annually for French rugby team's home matches of the Six Nations Championship. Paris also hosted the 1900 and 1924 Olympic Games and was venue for the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups. Although the starting point and the route of the famous Tour de France varies each year, the final stage always finishes in Paris and since 1975, the race has finished on the Champs-Elysées. Tennis is another popular sport in Paris and throughout France. The French Open, held every year on the red clay of the Roland Garros National Tennis Center near the Bois de Boulogne, is one of the four Grand Slam events of the world professional tennis tour.

The 2006 UEFA Champions League Final between Arsenal and FC Barcelona was played in the Stade de France. Paris will host the 2007 Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France on 20 October 2007.


Paris's role as a centre of international trade and tourism has brought its transportation system many embellishments over the past centuries, and its development is still progressing at a rapid pace today. Only in the past few decades Paris has become the centure of an autoroute system, high-speed train network and, through its two major airports, a hub of international air travel.

Air travel
Paris is served by two principal airports: Orly Airport, which is south of Paris, and the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in nearby Roissy-en-France, one of the busiest in Europe. A third and much smaller airport, at the town of Beauvais, 70 km (45 mi) to the north of the city, is used by charter and low-cost airlines. Le Bourget airport nowadays only hosts business jets, air trade shows and the aerospace museum.

Paris is a central hub of the national rail network of high-speed (TGV) and normal (Corail) trains. Six major railway stations, Gare du Nord, Gare Montparnasse, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz, and Gare Saint-Lazare connect this train network to the world famous and highly efficient Métro network, with 380 stations connected by 221.6km of rails. Because of the short distance between stations on the Métro network, lines were too slow to be extended further in the suburbs as is the case in most other cities. As such, an additional express network, known as the RER, has been created since the 1960s to connect more distant parts of the agglomeration.

Public transport
The public transport networks of the Paris region are coordinated by the Syndicat des transports d'Ile-de-France [28] (STIF), formerly Syndicat des transports parisiens (STP). Members of the syndicate include the RATP, which operates the Parisian and some suburban buses, the Métro, and sections of the RER; the SNCF, which operates the suburban rail lines and the other sections of the RER ; and other private operators managing some suburban bus lines.

The Métro is one of Paris' most important methods of transportation. The system comprises 16 lines, identified by numbers from 1 to 14, with two minor lines, 3bis and 7bis, numbered thus because they used to be branches of their respective original lines and only later became independent. In May 1998, the new line 14 was inaugurated after a 70-year hiatus in inagurating fully new métro lines.

There are two tangential tramway lines in the suburbs: Line T1 runs from Saint-Denis to Noisy-le-Sec, line T2 runs from La Défense to Issy. A third line along the southern inner orbital road is currently under construction.

The city is also the hub of France's motorway network, and is surrounded by three orbital freeways : the Périphérique which follows the approximate path of 19th-century fortifications around Paris, the A86 autoroute motorway in the inner suburbs, and finally the Francilienne motorway, also known as the A104 (and N184), in the outer suburbs. Paris has an extensive road network with over 2000 kilometres of major roads and highways. By road Brussels can be reached in three hours, Frankfurt in 6 hours and Barcelona in 12 hours.

Design and infrastructure

Urbanism and architecture

Avenue de l'Opéra and its buildings typical of Haussmann's renovation of Paris
"Modern" Paris is the result of a vast mid-19th-century urban remodelling. For centuries it had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, but beginning in 1852, the Baron Haussmann's vast urbanisation levelled entire quarters to make way for wide avenues lined with neo-classical stone buildings of bourgeoise standing; most of this 'new' Paris is the Paris we see today. This Second Empire plans are in many cases still actual, as the city of Paris imposes the then-defined "alignement" law (imposed position defining a predetermined street width) on many new constructions. A building's height was also defined according to the width of the street it lines, and Paris' building code has seen few changes since the mid-19th century to allow for higher constructions. It is for this reason, save for a few 'pointed' examples, that Paris seems an essentially flat city when compared to some of the world's other metropoles.

Paris' unchanging borders, strict building codes and lack of developable land have together contributed in creating a phenomenon called muséification (or "museumification") as, at the same time as they strive to preserve Paris' historical past, existing laws make it difficult to create within city limits the larger buildings and utilities needed for a growing population. Many of Paris' institutions and economic infrastructure are already located in, or are planning on moving to, the suburbs. The financial (La Défense) business district, the main food wholesale market (Rungis), major renowned schools (École Polytechnique, HEC, ESSEC, INSEAD, etc.), world famous research laboratories (in Saclay or Évry), the largest sport stadium (Stade de France), and some ministries (namely the Ministry of Transportation) are located outside of the city of Paris. The National Archives of France are due to relocate to the northern suburbs before 2010.

Water and sanitation

Canal Saint-Martin
Paris in its early history had only the Seine and Bièvre rivers for water. Later forms of irrigation were: a first-century Roman aqueduct from southerly Wissous (later left to ruin); sources from the Right bank hills from the late 11th century; from the 15th-century an aqueduct built roughly along the path of the first; finally, from 1809, the canal de l'Ourcq began providing Paris with water from less polluted rivers away from the Capital. Paris would only have its first constant and plentiful source of drinkable water from the late 19th-century: from 1857, under Napoleon III's Préfet Haussmann, the civil engineer Eugène Belgrand oversaw the construction of a series of new aqueducts that would bring sources from distant locations to resevoirs built in the highest points of the Capital. The new sources became Paris' principal source of drinking water, and the remains of the old system, pumped into lower levels of the same reservoirs, were from then dedicated to the cleaning of Paris' streets. This system is still a major part of Paris' modern water supply network.

Paris has over 2,400 km of underground passageways [29] dedicated to the evacuation of Paris' liquid wastes. Most of these even today date from the late 19th century, a result of the combined plans of the Préfet Haussmann and the civil engineer Eugène Belgrand to improve the then very unsanitary conditions in the Capital. Maintained by a round-the-clock service since their construction, only a small percentage of Paris' sewer réseau has needed complete renovation. The entire Paris network of sewers and collectors is been managed since the late 20th century by a computerised network system, known under the acronym "G.A.AS.PAR", that controls all of Paris' water distribution, even the flow of the river Seine through the capital.

Parks and gardens

Jardins du Palais Royal

Two of Paris's oldest and famous gardens are the Tuileries Garden, created from the 16th century for a palace on the banks of the Seine near the Louvre, and the Left bank Luxembourg Garden, another formerly private garden belonging to a château built for the Marie de' Medici in 1612. The Jardin des Plantes, created by Louis XIII's doctor Guy de La Brosse for the cultivation of medicinal plants, was Paris' first public garden.

A few of Paris' other large gardens are Second Empire creations: the formerly suburban parks of Montsouris, Buttes Chaumont and Parc Monceau (formerly known as the "folie de Chartres"), were creations of Napoleon III's engineer Jean-Charles Alphand and the landscape . Another project executed under the orders of Baron Haussmann

Parc Monceau
architect Barillet-Deschamps was the re-sculpting of Paris' western Bois de Boulogne forest-parklands; the Bois de Vincennes, to Paris' opposite eastern end, received a similar treatment in years following.

Newer additions to Paris' park landscape are the Parc de la Villette, built by the architect Bernard Tschumi on the location of Paris' former slaughterhouses, and gardens being lain to Paris' periphery along the traces of its former circular "Petite Ceinture" railway line.


Cemetery of Père Lachaise
Paris' existing inner-city cemeteries were to its outskirts upon their 1804 creation. Many of Paris' churches had their own parish cemeteries, but these by the late 18th century contributed to making living conditions quite unsanitary in an ever-growing Capital. Abolished from 1786, all parish cemeteries were excavated their contents taken to abandoned limestone mines outside the southern gates of then Paris, today the 14e arrondissement's place Denfert-Rochereau. The latter are known today as the Paris Catacombes.

Although Paris today has once again grown to surround all its former extra-muros cemeteries, these have become all-too-rare and much-appreciated oases of quiet, greenery and sculpture in a thriving city. Many of Paris's illustrious historical figures have found rest in Père Lachaise Cemetery. Other notable cemeteries include Cimetière de Montmartre, Cimetière du Montparnasse, Cimetière de Passy and the Catacombs of Paris.

Paris created new suburban cemeteries for its defunct from the early 20th century: the largest of these are the Cimitière Parisien de Saint-Ouen, the Cimitière Parisien de Bobigny-Pantin, the Cimitière Parisien d'Ivry and the Cimitière Parisien de Bagneux.