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Encyclopedia > Paris, France
For other uses, see Paris (disambiguation).
The has become the symbol of Paris throughout the world.
The Eiffel Tower has become the symbol of Paris throughout the world.

Paris is the capital city of France, as well as the capital of the Île-de-France région, whose territory encompasses Paris and its suburbs. The city of Paris proper is also a département, called Paris département (French: département de Paris).


General description

The city of Paris proper, with 2,147,857 inhabitants at the 1999 census, is the largest city in France. Together with its suburbs and satellite cities it forms the Greater Paris metropolitan area (French: aire urbaine de Paris) covering 14,518 km² (5,606 sq. miles), and with a population of 11,174,743 inhabitants at the 1999 census (11.5 million as of January 2004 estimates). The Greater Paris metropolitan area is the second largest in Europe (after Moscow), and approximately the 20th largest in the world. It is also the world's largest city where people speak French.

Greater Paris metropolitan area, with a total GDP higher than Australia, is one of the largest financial and business locations in Europe, on par with London, providing more than 30% of France's white-collar population, as well as more than 40% of the headquarters of French companies, with the largest business district of Europe (La Défense), and the 2nd largest stock exchange in Europe (Euronext).

Known worldwide as the City of Light (la Ville Lumière), Paris has been a major tourist destination for centuries. The city is renowned for the beauty of its architecture, its urban perspectives and avenues, as well as the wealth of its museums. Built on an arc of the River Seine, it is divided into two parts: the Right Bank to the north and the smaller Left Bank to the south.

Formerly the capital of a colonial empire stretching over five continents, Paris is still regarded as the heart of the French-speaking world and has retained a strong international position, hosting the headquarters of the OECD and the UNESCO among others. This, combined with its financial, business, political, and tourism activities, have turned Paris into one of the major transportation hubs on Earth, and Paris is seen as one of a handful of "world cities".

The location of Paris, shown within (see larger map for increased clarity)
The location of Paris, shown within Europe (see larger map for increased clarity)


Flag of Paris
Flag of Paris
Coat of Arms of Paris
Coat of Arms of Paris

Main article: History of Paris

Brief history

The name of the city comes from the name of a Gallic tribe (parisis) inhabiting the region at the time of the Roman conquest. The historical heart of Paris is the Île de la Cité, a small island largely occupied by the huge Palais de Justice and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. It is connected with the smaller Ile Saint-Louis (another island) occupied by elegant houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Paris was occupied by a Gallic tribe until the Romans arrived in 52 BC. The invaders referred to the previous occupants as the Parisii, but called their new city Lutetia, meaning "marshy place". About fifty years later the city had spread to the left bank of the Seine, now known as the Latin Quarter, and had been renamed "Paris".

Roman rule had ceased by 508, when Clovis the Frank made the city the capital of the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks. Viking invasions during the 800s forced the Parisians to build a fortress on the Ile de la Cité. On March 28, 845 Paris was sacked by Viking raiders, probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collected a huge ransom in exchange for leaving. The weakness of the late Carolingian kings of France led to the gradual rise in power of the Counts of Paris; Odo, Count of Paris was elected king of France by feudal lords while Charles III was also claiming the throne. Finally, in 987 Hugh Capet, count of Paris, was elected king of France by the great feudal lords after the last Carolingian died.

During the 11th century the city spread to the Right Bank. In the 12th and 13th centuries, which included the reign of Philip II Augustus (1180-1223), the city grew strongly. Main thoroughfares were paved, the first Louvre was built as a fortress, and several churches, including the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, were constructed or begun. Several schools on the Left Bank were grouped together into the Sorbonne, which counts Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas among its early scholars. In the Middle Ages Paris prospered as a trading and intellectual nucleus, interrupted temporarily when the Black Death struck in the 14th century. Under the reign of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, from 1643 to 1715, the royal residence was moved from Paris to nearby Versailles.

The French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Many of the conflicts in the next few years were between Paris and the outlying rural areas.

The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées

In 1870 the Franco-Prussian War ended in a siege of Paris and the Paris Commune, which surrendered in 1871 after a winter of famine and bloodshed. The Eiffel Tower, the best-known landmark in Paris, was built in 1889 in a period of prosperity known as La Belle Époque (The Beautiful period).

In 1900 Paris hosted the 1900 Summer Olympics. In late August 1944 after the battle of Normandy, Paris was liberated when the German general Dietrich von Choltitz surrendered after skirmishes to the French 2nd Armoured Division commanded by Philippe de Hauteclocque backed by the Allies.


Historical population

Metropolitan area of Paris

(It should be noted that the limits of the metropolitan area vary year after year, furthermore only the last two data are official as provided by the French national statistics office INSEE, the other data are just estimates compiled from several sources.)

 59 BC: 25,000 inhabitants CE 150: 80,000 (peak of Roman era) 510: 30,000 (losses after invasions of 3rd and 4th centuries) 1000: 20,000 (lowest point after Viking invasions) 1200: 110,000 (recovery of the Middle Ages) 1328: 250,000 (blossoming of the 13th century, golden age of King Saint Louis) 1500: 200,000 (losses of the Black Plague and Hundred Years' War) 1550: 275,000 (Renaissance recovery) 1594: 210,000 (losses of religious and civil wars) 1634: 420,000 (spectacular recovery under King Henry IV and Richelieu) 1700: 515,000 1750: 565,000 1789: 630,000 (peak of prosperous 18th century) 1801: 548,000 (losses of French Revolution and wars) 1835: 1,000,000 1860: 2,000,000 (fastest historical growth under Emperor Napoleon III and Haussmann) 1885: 3,000,000 1905: 4,000,000 1911: 4,500,000 1921: 4,850,000 (stagnation due to losses of First World War) 1931: 5,600,000 1936: 6,000,000 1946: 5,850,000 (losses of Second World War) 1954: 6,550,000 1968: 8,368,500 (end of postwar baby boom, end of immigration surplus for Paris, 1982: 9,400,000 henceforth migration flows become negative, population growth is significantly slower) 1990: 10,291,851 1999: 11,174,743 

City of Paris

 1801: 547,800 inhabitants 1831: 714,000 1851: 1,053,000 1881: 2,240,000 1901: 2,661,000 1926: 2,871,000 1936: 2,829,746 1946: 2,725,374 1954: 2,850,189 1962: 2,753,014 1968: 2,590,771 1975: 2,317,227 1982: 2,188,918 1990: 2,152,423 1999: 2,125,246 


Outside of the touristic areas and expensive historical neighbourhoods, modern buildings provide housing to Parisians. Here, a neighbourhood of high rise apartment buildings with a large Eastern Asian population.

Since the Middle Ages, at which time it was the largest city of the Western World, Paris has always attracted foreigners. From the Dutch and Swedish students of the Latin Quarter in the 14th century to the English Jacobite refugees in the 17th century, from the Polish nationalist refugees in the early 19th century to the Belgian workers in the late 19th century, from the Sephardic Jews of North Africa in the middle of the 20th century to the Africans and Eastern Asians of today, Paris has received waves after waves of immigrants, which have enriched her. Today, like other world cities, Paris is largely a multicultural city.

French censuses never ask questions regarding ethnicity or religion, therefore it is not possible to know the ethnic composition of the metropolitan area of Paris. Still, some interesting data can be extracted from French censuses. At the 1999 census, there were 2,169,406 people living in the metropolitan area of Greater Paris who were born outside of Metropolitan France, which was 19.4% of the total population of the metropolitan area. As a comparison: at the 2001 UK census, 19.5% of the total population of Greater London metropolitan area was born outside of the (metropolitan) United Kingdom, while at the 2000 US census 27.8% of the total population of the metropolitan area of New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island was born outside of the United States (50 states), and 31.8% of the total population of the metropolitan area of Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County was born outside of the United States (50 states).

The most numerous groups of foreign-born residents of Paris are the following (roughly listed from most numerous to least numerous):

At the 1999 French census, there were 474,768 people living in the metropolitan area of Greater Paris who were living outside of Metropolitan France in 1990, which was 4.2% of the total population of the metropolitan area in 1999.

Patterns of immigration to Paris have changed significantly in the 1990s. Portuguese immigration has totally stopped, while new groups of immigrants have appeared. The most important groups of immigrants since 1990 are the following:

  • Chinese people from Mainland China: coming mostly from Manchuria and the region of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. This immigration is relatively new, appearing in the mid-1990s, is mostly illegal, and has been spectacular in the recent years, with Chinese people replacing North Africans and Black Africans as the largest group of immigrants to Paris. Although the French police is fighting against this illegal immigration (and the worker slavery associated with it), and a treaty was signed between France and the People's Republic of China to hinder illegal immigration, recent reports suggest that Chinese immigration in Paris is still on the rise. Figures fluctuate widely from sources to sources, but it seems there could be as much as a quarter million Chinese people living in the metropolitan area of Paris in 2004 (including the Chinese people from Indochina arrived earlier), the largest concentration of Chinese people in Europe, larger than even in Greater London (where only about 60,000 Chinese people live, according to UK government figures).
  • Arabs from North Africa and Black Africans: the immigration of these two groups has been substantially reduced by a tightening of the borders engineered by successive French governments. In the 1990s, immigrants from North Africa and Black Africa came mostly through the scheme of family reunions (women and children coming to live with their husband or father already living in France). An unknown number of North Africans and Black Africans also came illegally outside of these family reunions schemes. Some were deported back to Africa, but most of these illegal immigrants are still in France, without papers and living with the threat of deportation should they be discovered (although thousands of illegal immigrants were given official papers under the middle-left government of Lionel Jospin in the late 1990s after pressure from French associations defending the rights of immigrants).
  • Eastern Europeans, a lot of them Romanians, a group on the rise since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Compared with the United Kingdom, South Asian immigrants are still not very numerous in Paris, although their presence has significantly increased in the 1990s. Compared with the United States, Latin American and Filipino immigrants are extremely few in Paris. Middle Eastern immigrants are also few, although there is a sizeable Lebanese community (mostly rich Christian Lebanese exiles), due to the old ties between France and Lebanon. Russians are also extremely few in Paris, despite an old tradition of Russian presence in Paris before the Communist revolution of 1917.

Finally, it should be remembered that the figures given here are for people permanently living in the metropolitan area of Paris. However, Paris is the most visited city in the world, with a massive influx of tourists at any time in the year. Most of these visitors are foreigners, so that on any day of the year the actual foreign population being present in the metropolitan area of Paris is probably higher than the 19.4% figure given above. This fact is most felt in the center of the city of Paris, where it is possible to walk in some streets where most people crossed are foreign tourists.


The city of Paris is itself a département of France (Paris, 75), part of the Ile-de-France région. Paris is divided into twenty numerically arranged districts, the arrondissements. These districts are numbered in a spiral pattern with the 1er arrondissement at the heart of the city.

The city of Paris also comprises two forests: the Bois de Boulogne on the west and the Bois de Vincennes on the east.

The Paris City hall behind the river Seine

Prior to 1968, département 75 was the Seine département, which contained the city of Paris and its immediate suburbs. The splitting up of the Seine département resulted in the creation of four new départements: Paris proper (75), and three départements (Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne) forming a ring around Paris, often called la petite couronne (i.e. the "small ring", as opposed to the "large ring" of the more distant suburbs of Paris).

As an exception to the normal rules for French cities, some powers normally vested in the mayor of the city are instead vested in a representative of the national government, the Prefecture of Police which also controls the Paris Fire Brigade. As an example, Paris has no municipal police force, though it has some traffic wardens. This is a legacy of the situation that up to 1977, Paris had no mayor and was essentially run by the prefectoral administration.

Citizens of Paris elect in each arrondissement some municipal council members. Each arrondissement has its own council, which elects the mayor of the arrondissement. Some members of the arrondissement councils form the Council of Paris, which elects the mayor of Paris, and has the double functions of a municipal council and the general council of the département.

Bertrand Delanoë has been the Mayor of Paris since March 18, 2001. Mr Delanoë is openly homosexual.

Former mayors Jacques Chirac and Jean Tiberi were cited in corruption scandals in the Paris region.


Paris from space. The River Seine winds its way through the center of the image. The gray and purple pixels are the urban areas. The patchwork of green, brown, tan and yellow surrounding the city is farmland.

The city of Paris itself is only approximately 105 km² (41 sq. miles) in size. Paris is located at 48°52′ North, 2°19′59″ East (48.866667, 2.333056).

The altitude of Paris varies, with several prominent hills :


Walkway tunnel in Parisian metro

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. A third and much smaller airport, at the town of Beauvais, 45 miles 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 densely covered by a metro system, the Métro, as well as by a large number of bus lines. This interconnects with a high-speed regional network, the RER, and also the train network: commuter lines, national train lines, and the TGV (or derivatives like Thalys or Eurostar for specific destinations). 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 orbital road is currently under construction.

The city is the hub of France's motorway network, and is surrounded by an orbital road, the Peripherique. On/off ramps of the Peripherique are called 'Portes', as they correspond to the city gates. Most of these 'Portes' have parking areas and a metro station, where non-residents are advised to leave cars. Traffic in Paris is notoriously heavy, slow and tiresome.

Paris tourist attractions

The river Seine is well known for its tree-lined quais (walks along the river banks), open-air bookstalls and historic bridges that connect the Right and Left banks. Paris is also famous for its tree-lined boulevards such as the Champs-Élysées, and for its many architectural gems.

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 line the horizon.

Places in Paris one may like to visit:

Monuments and buildings


A Parisian view from the second level of the Eiffel Tower, with Le Dome des Invalides creeping at the horizon, barely past the towering shadow.
  • Louvre - a huge museum housing many works of art, including the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) and the Venus de Milo statue.
  • Musée d'Orsay - an art museum housed in a converted 19th century railway station, containly mainly Impressionist works.
  • Centre Georges Pompidou, also known as Beaubourg - houses the Musée National d'Art Moderne and a cultural center with a large public library. Famous for its external skeleton of service pipes.
  • Musée Rodin - a large collection of works by France's most famous sculptor
  • Musée du Montparnasse in the former residence of artist Marie Vassilieff at 21 Avenue du Maine, details the history of the great artistic community of Montparnasse.
  • Musée Cluny, also known as the Musée National du Moyen-Age, houses a large collection of art and artifacts from the Middle Ages, including the tapestry cycle The Lady and the Unicorn.
  • Musée Picasso, exhibits nearly 3000 pieces of art by Pablo Picasso as well as art from his own personal collection including works by Cézanne and Matisse.

Streets and other areas within Paris

  • Montmartre - historic area on the Butte, home to the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur and also famous for the studios and cafés of many great artists.
  • Champs-Élysées - a famous street, a broad boulevard often clogged with tourists.
  • Rue de Rivoli - boutiques for tourists
  • Place de la Concorde - at the foot of the Champs-Élysées, formerly Place de la Revolution, site of the infamous guillotine and the obelisk.
  • Place de la Bastille - where the Bastille prison stood until the Revolution.
  • Montparnasse - historic area on the Left Bank, famous for the studios, music-halls, and cafés of artists.
The Statue of Liberty copy on the river Seine in Paris, France. Given to the city in 1885, it faces west, towards the original Liberty in New York City.

Boutiques, department stores and hotels

Night life

Sports clubs

Paris's main sports clubs are Paris Saint-Germain, football club and Stade Français, rugby club

In the suburbs and the greater Paris region (Île-de-France)

The new Parisian skyline of skyscrapers, La Défense in the background. Le Trocadéro is partially seen in the foreground (image apparently taken from the Eiffel Tower)
  • business districts
    • La Défense - major office, cinema and shopping complex, west of Paris

Name of Paris and its inhabitants

Paris is pronounced /'pæɹɪs/ in English, and /paʀi/ in French.

The original Latin name of Paris was Lutetia ( /lutetja/), known in French as Lutèce ( /lytɛs/). The name was later changed into Paris, based on the name of the Gallic parisi tribe.

Traditionally Paris is known as Paname ( /panam/) in French slang , but this name is gradually losing currency.

The inhabitants of Paris are known as Parisians in English, as Parisiens ( /paʀizjɛ̃/) in French, and as Parigots ( /paʀigo/) in French slang.


View over Paris from the Grand Gallery of Notre Dame
View over Paris from the Grand Gallery of Notre Dame
Another simulated-colour satellite image of Paris taken on the Landsat 7. This image zooms closer into the heart of the city.

  Results from FactBites:
Paris - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (5423 words)
Paris is the capital city of France, as well as the capital of the Île-de-France région, whose territory encompasses Paris and its suburbs.
Paris, together with its suburbs and satellite cities, forms the Greater Paris metropolitan area, with a population estimated at 10.5 million as of January 2004.
At the 1999 census, the population of the city of Paris (excluding suburbs) was 2,125,246.
Paris Travel Information | Lonely Planet Destination Guide (321 words)
Paris stimulates the senses, demanding to be seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelt.
From romance along the Seine to landscapes on bus-sized canvases to the pick-an-ism types in cafes monologuing on the use of garlic or the finer points of Jerry Lewis, Paris is the essence of all things French.
In winter Paris has all sorts of cultural events going on, while in summer the weather is warm and lazy - sometimes sizzling.
  More results at FactBites »



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