What is Paris?
Paris, mon amour! The capital of France, the capital of fashion, the city of Lights, the city of Love! All these nicknames and many more cannot describe Paris. You’ll have to be there, to smell it, touch it, listen to it.
Since you’re here, you decided on, or you’re considering Paris for a holiday. Even if you plan a city break or a longer vacation, you’re in the right spot. Framey app will ease you in discovering the city and help you decide whether or not it’s the perfect destination for your trip. If you’re already settled, Framey allows you to search for attractions, research them, and save them into collections of your own to make sure you won’t miss a spot. If this is too much hassle for you, do not worry. You can scroll through other travelers’ itineraries and collections, get inspired by their trip, or even copy it.
You will find multiple collections to suit your flavors. If you’re new to visiting the city, you can start with: Everything you must see in Paris – the City of Lights, the best places to visit.
So, what is Paris famous for?
Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Honoré de Balzac, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Eugené Ionesco, Simone de Beauvoir, Charles Baudelaire, Jean-Luc Godard, Frédéric Chopin, Claude Debussy, Jacques Cousteau, Gustave Eiffel. Doesn’t ring a bell?
If not into the arts, maybe you’re a fan of history or historic events: Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, Commune of Paris, French Revolution, Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Bastille, Place de la Concorde, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame de Paris, Grand Palais, Bibliothèque Nationale de France so and so on.
The world used to gravitate around France and Paris was in the center of it all. To our luck, it’s all documented. It’s documented on every street, on every corner. Sometimes it was written with blood, other times with love; sometimes with artistic precision, other times with creative liberty, but all the times with genius. Most important ideas throughout history came from France. There is at least one “thing” in the present society you love, and cannot live without, that France fought for to exist.
Now, it’s everything at your feet. You have the world to visit, all the Jardins and Quais de Seine to relax, the museums to understand the culture, the beautiful cafes and jazz bars to get entertained and the opera, concerts, and theatres to get the full experience.
What you need to know about Paris
To state what is there to know about Paris will take several books. What we can do, is cover a little from many subjects. From the romantic and stylish destination to the history lesson, here’s what you need to know about Paris.
The name of the city dates back to the Celtic tribe, Parisii, which inhabited the region from the middle of the 3rd century BC. In 52 BC, the village and the surrounding Paris basin were conquered by the Romans. The new Gallo-Roman settlement came to be known as Lutetia or Lutetia Parisiorum and kept its name for c. 350 years. After the Germanic tribes’ invasion, the name was changed to Civitas Parisiorum or “City of the Parisii”.
By the end of the Western Roman Empire, the town was known as Parisius, in Latin, or simply “Paris” in French. The name became official and remained unchanged since 508, when Clovis I, the first king of the Franks made Paris the capital of the empire.
Everything you need to know about Paris’ history
When I think of France or Paris, I always remember the French Revolution and the famous saying “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” – “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!”
Then I remember my favorite Three Musketeers stories and another legend that is related to Montmartre and the first Bishop of Paris, Saint Denis. When he refused to renounce his Christian faith before the Romans he was beheaded on the hill which became known as Mons Martyrum, later named Montmartre. He was buried at the Basilica of Saint-Denis, as well as many other French kings were, as well.
And, let’s not forget Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, the king of France that made France the powerhouse of Europe, or Napoleon and his Napoleonic Code, which to this day remains the basis of civil law in France. There is so much to say so we’ll resume to only some of the highlights.
You will find in the Île de la Cité, the historic Palais de la Cité, the royal residence turned into Parlement, then to courthouse and prison to later become the national Law Court. Many Kings of France resided here, of which Louis VII, among others, is known for the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister of Louis XIII, wanted to make Paris the most beautiful city in Europe. During his reign, he built five new bridges, a new chapel for the College of Sorbonne, and a palace for himself, the Palais-Cardinal, which after his death was renamed the Palais-Royal.
The 17th century brought down the city walls. The king believed there was no threat of attack and replaced the walls with tree-lined boulevards that would become the Grands Boulevards of today. Other marks of the era are the Collège des Quatre-Nations, the Place Vendôme, the Place des Victoires, and Les Invalides.
The next centuries are marked by important historical moments: The Age of Reason – The Enlightenment, The French Revolution, Napoleon Age, L’arc de Triomphe, Haussmann’s renovation project, the Opera house, La Belle Epoque, Eiffel Tower, the first Paris Metro Line, the World Wars, De Gaulle presidency, Jacques Chirac election as mayor, and many more shaped the Paris we now know today.
Paris is located in northern central France, on the river Seine. It is stretched on both river banks. Although it is mostly flat terrain, there are some hills, the highest being Montmartre. This is one of the best places to take photos and admire the views.
It also includes two islands, Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, which form the oldest part of the city.
The climate of Paris
Do you want to know what to bring for your stylish visit to Paris? Or what is the weather like in Paris?
The official name for the climate is Western European oceanic climate. What does it mean? The overall climate is mild and moderately wet with summers warm and pleasant. Spring and autumn have mild days and chillier nights and winter is cool and usually above freezing.
Of course, that is the general rule and there are exceptions such as the 2003 heat wave. So you have all seasons and it is nice.
Administration and society
How is Paris organized? If you are curious about some administrative data here it is. The administrative map of Paris consists of 20 “municipal arrondissements”, meaning 20 subdivisions. This way has been since Paris annexed the neighboring communes in 1860. These municipal subdivisions describe a clockwise spiral outward from the 1st arrondissement located center, outwards toward the 20th arrondissement.
Each of the twenty arrondissements has its own town hall and a directly elected council. The council is in charge of electing the mayor of the arrondissement. The Council of Paris, made up of members from each arrondissement, elects the mayor of Paris.
Urbanism and Architecture
Quite unusual for the stature of one of the largest, oldest, and richest capitals in the world, Paris has rarely been subjected to destruction, catastrophes, or war. This led to centuries of history adding to the architectural legacy.
Each ruler added and continued the story of their predecessor. It’s no wonder that nowadays Paris has accumulated such history-rich monuments that coexist in a coherent manner with modern architecture. Or better yet, it’s like continual development. You can understand how palaces and mansions, in order to survive, are transformed into apartments and shops. No wonder on most streets you will see buildings from various centuries.
Paris evolved out of a walled city, however, it seems it never really lost them; nowadays the metaphoric wall has been replaced by the ring road, the Péripherique highway. This succession of walls was gradually torn down and rebuilt through history. The city developed in a spiraling way, emerging Ile de la Cité. And there is where you will find most of the landmarks, in the heart of Paris.
According to the official French statistical agency, the estimated population of the City of Paris reached 2.165.423 at the beginning of 2022.
But Paris is just the core of a built-up area that extends well beyond its limits, commonly referred to as the agglomération Parisienne. The Paris agglomeration’s population reached more than 10 million in 2017.
The Paris region is also a magnet for immigrants. In fact, it has one of the largest concentrations of immigrants in Europe. By 2015, approx. 70% of the people living in the region were either immigrants or born to at least one immigrant parent.
The economy of the City of Paris is mainly based on services and commerce (80%). The same can be stated about the Paris Region (Île-de-France): 76.7% of the enterprises are engaged in commerce and services, and just 3.4 % in industry.
Paris has the second-largest GDP in Europe and has one of the largest in the world. It ranks as the second city in Europe by the number of companies classified in Fortune’s Fortune Global 500.
It also houses Station F, the largest start-up incubator facility for business, located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
For centuries, Paris has attracted artists and intellectuals from around the world. It’s easy to become infused and seek inspiration when you are surrounded by such a rich like-minded pool of artistic resources and galleries.
The19th and 20th centuries were incredible times for Paris. Some of the most famous and finest artists were established in the city. With names like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Paul Gauguin, Renoir, and others, it’s no wonder that it was the capital of fine arts, the “City of Arts”.
All cultural movements had room to flourish in Paris: Romanticism, Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Fauvism, Cubism, and Art Deco.
Roaming the art galleries and museums you will get to see works of all masters: Picasso, Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Cézanne, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Modigliani, and many others that became associated with Paris. Montmartre and Montparnasse became centers for artistic production.
Just think: approx. 130 museums are in Paris. Within city limits! You can find a museum for anything.
Although Paris Museums were closed for much of 2020, they gradually re-opened in 2021, and looks like 2022 is putting cultural tourism back on the map. Mona Lisa (La Joconde), the Venus de Milo statue, and Liberty Leading the People are all waiting for you to see them!
After a visit to Louvre, don’t forget to check the Centre Georges Pompidou, which houses the Musée National d’Art Moderne, or the Musée d’Orsay which displays major collections of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. And on the same subject of Impressionists and Post-Impressionist exhibits, the Musée de l’Orangerie, near both the Louvre and the Orsay, exhibits Monet’s large Water Lilies murals.
Oh, if you’re still at Centre Pompidou, you will find near the entrance, the Brâncuși Studio. The artist donated all his work to the Museum of Modern Art which tried to recreate faithfully the ever-expanding space. It is small, but worth a quick pass. Also, it’s free.
Gastronomy and French Cuisine
Why is French cooking so famous?
French cooking is considered to be amongst the most renowned cuisines in the world. What sets it apart? Fresh ingredients, simple flavors, and exquisite presentation – all make French cuisine rule the world of Gastronomy!
French regional cuisine is extremely diverse. Traditionally, each region of France has something to set it apart. But in Paris and Île-de-France you can find almost anything from the country or outside the country, for that matter.
Just imagine that there are more than 9,000 restaurants in Paris and almost any cuisine has its own place. Michelin Guide-rated restaurants are in abundance here. Moreover, we cannot say French Cuisine without mentioning wine and dessert. Gourmet, diverse and savory are the best words to describe it.
Most Parisians use public transport to get to work. What other means of transport are available? Walking or roller-skates are just as commonly used as cars to commute. The next popular or used means are bicycles and motorbikes.
It’s no wonder that bike lanes are being doubled, while electric car incentives are being emplaced.
The French capital is trying to be as green as possible thus banning the most polluting automobiles from its most central areas.
But fear not, you do have means of transport in Paris: rail, highway, and air transport are all available. In fact, the most popular way to travel through Paris is by the underground train system.
Tourism in Paris
Paris is all about tourism. Culture, fashion, cuisine you name it. You would reason that The Eiffel Tower is the most popular attraction in Paris. But in fact, it sits on 3rd, right after the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur and the Louvre Museum. Other cultural magnets are the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay.
Central Paris contains the most visited monuments in the city, including the Notre Dame Cathedral (now closed for restoration). You might remember that in April 2019, most of Notre Dame’s roof was destroyed in a huge fire and a few historic artifacts were lost. Repairs and reconstruction are ongoing.
Since 1991, the banks of the Seine from the Pont de Sully to the Pont d’Iéna are UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Panthéon and the Catacombs of Paris are on the Left Bank of the Seine as well as the Louvre, Sainte-Chapelle, Les Invalides (where the tomb of Napoleon is located), and the Eiffel Tower.
Interesting facts about Paris
Do you know why it’s called the City of Lights?
One theory states that Paris earned this name during the Enlightenment, as recognition of the surging intellectual scene. Great thinkers such as Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, and Montesquieu exchanged ideas in the infamous salons.
On the other hand, it might just be the fact that Paris was the first European city to adopt street lighting. By the end of 1857, the city was illuminated by more than 56,000 gas lamps. You get to choose what you believe. However the first one is more intriguing, choose that one 😉
Joie de Vivre!
You might also be wondering what this saying means. Joie de vivre (Joy of Life) is the specific Parisian attitude towards life and living! It’s an open-mindedness, humor, culture and simply enjoying all that life has to offer. And if you ask me, I think they got it right!
Fashion and Haute Couture in Paris
Paris is considered to be the world fashion capital. All from major brands to small fashion boutiques create that French fashion style. And Paris is the central spot for most Haute Couture Maisons and luxury brands, from Dior to Givenchy, Channel to Louis Vuitton.
And might I suggest checking the French Fashion week as well? Everybody and anybody who is something in the world of fashion will be there.
Hope you found all the reasons to visit this cultural and romantic destination! And should you need other inspiring guides, just check your Framey app and get going!