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About Paris, France

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Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. It is also the number one travel destinations on everybody’s list, a city all should see once in a lifetime.

Paris, also known as The City of Lights, has everything a traveller could possibly wish for. Three of the most famous landmarks in the world are here: the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. There are hundreds of museums in the city, including of course the Louvre, one of the most impressive and well known museums in the world. Every district has it own charm, particularities and lovely parks. Day trips outside the city are numerous, such as Fontainebleau, Versailles, or Chartres.

And then there is the culture. You could experience the best meals of your life, taste some of the best wines, find exquisite shopping opportunities, attend top operas, or party all night in great clubs.

Beaches

For the past few summers, part of the banks of the Seine near the Hôtel-de-Ville have been transformed into a beach called Paris Plage. For several weeks in July and August, the roads along the Seine are closed where sand is brought in, potted palm trees are placed, beach chairs and umbrellas are arranged.

Climate

Paris is rather temperate due to its oceanic climate and influence from the North Atlantic current. The city rarely sees extremely high or low temperatures. The average yearly high temperature is about 15° C and yearly low tend to remain around an average of 7° C. The 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. Snowfall is a rare occurrence, usually appearing in the coldest months of January or February, and almost never accumulates for long.

Temperature in CelsiusJFMAMJJASOND
Maximum791316202324252216108
Minimum44691215161612844
Rainfall (mm)544654476358545254565656

Geography

Paris, the capital of France, is one of the largest cities in Europe. About 2.2 million people live in zone 1 (Central Paris) and another 9.9 million people in the suburbs (la banlieue). It is situated on the River Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region.

Central Paris is officially divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of town. Each arrondissement has its own unique character and selection of attractions for the traveller.

Beyond central Paris, the outlying suburbs are called les banlieues. Those on the west side of Paris are considered wealthy residential communities. Those to the northeast are poor immigrant communities.

1er - the Louvre
2e - Bourse
3e - Temple
4e - Hôtel-de-Ville
5e - Panthéon
6e - Luxembourg
7e - Palais-Bourbon
8e - Élysée
9e - Opéra
10e - Enclos-St-Laurent
11e - Popincourt
12e - Reuilly
13e - Gobelins
14e - Observatoire
15e - Vaugirard
16e - Passy
17e - Batignolles-Monceau
18e - Butte-Montmartre
19e - Buttes-Chaumont
20e - Ménilmontant

History

Paris started off as a Celto-Roman settlement on the Île de la Cité. The Romans invaded in 52 BC and established their city Lutetia on the left bank of the Seine, in what is now called the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement. The Romans kept hold of this area until 508 when they were replaced by Clovis of the Franks, who is considered by the French to be their first king. Clovis' descendants held on for nearly 500 years. The Capetian duke of Paris was voted to succeed the last of that blood line as king of France. Over the next several centuries, during the Middle Ages, Paris expanded onto the right bank into what was called le Marais. The medieval period also witnessed the founding of the Sorbonne University, still open today.

The Capetian and later the Bourbon kings of France built such buildings as the Louvre and the Palais Royal. But today’s Paris was built in the 19th century when Baron von Hausmann reconstructed adding the long straight avenues, and demolishing many of the medieval houses which had been left until that time. This period is referred to as la Belle Époque, or golden age. Gustave Eiffel's famous tower, the first metro lines, most of the parks, and the streetlights all come from this period.

During WWII, Hitler's order to burn the city was thankfully ignored by the German General von Choltitz. Following the war the city recovered slowly at first, and then more quickly in the 1970s and 1980s. During this time Paris enjoyed considerable growth as a multi-cultural city, with new immigrants from all corners of the world, mostly from northern and western Africa as well as Vietnam and Laos. The 21st century has seen vast improvements with the Mayor's office concentrating on reducing pollution and improving facilities for cycle paths, larger pedestrian districts and newer faster metro lines.

Nature

Originally adjoining the long gone Royal Palace of the Tuileries, the Jardin des Tuileries lies west of the Louvre, offering a central open space for Parisians and visitors, various cafés, food stalls, the Musée de la Orangerie and the Jeu de Paume.

The Jardin des Plantes is Paris’ Botanical Garden, founded as the royal medicinal garden in 1626 by King Louis XIII. The grounds also include a small zoo known as La Ménagerie and the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle.

The Jardin du Luxembourg the largest public park in the city and is located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. Luxembourg is the garden of the French Senate, which is itself housed in the Luxembourg Palace. The gardens include a large fenced-in playground that is very popular with local young children and their parents. Adjacent to it is an excellent puppet theatre and a merry-go-round.

The Bois de Vincennes is a park in the English landscape manner to the east of Paris. The park is named after the nearby town of Vincennes.

The Bois de Boulogne is a park located along the western edge of the 16ème arrondissement of Paris. At night time, the area welcomes a different scene, and becomes one of Paris' most prominent red-light districts.

Unique to Here

Versailles is a city on western edge of Paris and is best known for being the site of the vast royal palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV. The Palace of Versailles has been the scene for several historic events, not the least of which was the signing, on 28 June 1919 within the Hall of Mirrors, of the Peace Treaty between defeated Germany and the Allies that brought the First World War officially to an end. The signing of the treaty at Versailles, of course, mirrored the proclamation, in 1871 within the same long hall, of the establishment of the German Empire under the Prussian king, subsequently the Kaiser.

Chateau de Versailles is a very beautiful building with its luxurious rooms, such as the Hall of Mirrors, the Versaille Chapel, the Opéra theater, the Grand Appartement du Roi and the bedroom of Marie-Antoinette. Within the grounds in the summer there are a number of activities including a train ride, horse and carriage tours, rowing boat and cycle hire. Lines can be very long so get there early or consider purchasing the Carte Musées, giving you unlimited entrance to 70 sites, which lets you jump the lines.

  • Airport :
    Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Orly International Airport
  • Airport Tax :
    none
  • Distance from Airport :
    Charles de Gaulle is 23 km from Paris, Orly is 14km
  • Tourist Office :
    The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.parisinfo.com) has several offices: les Pyramides, Gare de Lyon, Gare du Nord, Anvers, Porte de Versailles, Carrousel du Louvre, Montmartre
  • Tourist Season :
    From April through October, but avoid August as all of France is on hoilday.
  • Festivals & Events

    January
    Maison & Objet [20] France’s furniture and interiors trade fair

    February
    Six Nations Rugby: France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.

    March
    Fashion Week, Women’s prêt-a-porter collections for the following winter

    May
    French Tennis Open

    June
    Rendez-vous au Jardin Open doors for many parisian gardens
    La Gay Pride
    Fête de la Musique

    July
    14 - Bastille Day
    Cinema en Plein Air
    Paris Plage
    Tour de France

    August
    Rock en Seine

    September
    Jazz à la Villette

    October
    Nuit Blanche
    Fashion Week, Women’s prêt-a-porter collections for the following summer

    Transportation

    Paris is served by three international airports: Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Orly International Airport, and Beauvais which is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers. Both Charles de Gaulle and Orly are serviced by the RER-B train from Paris. This is the most convenient/cost efficient way of travelling to and from the airports and city. Taxis are very expensive. Bus services are much slower.

    Paris is well connected to the rest of Europe by train. The SNCF (French national railway authority) operates practically all trains within France, the Eurostar and the Thalys. The TGV is the world-famous French high-speed train. There are several stations serving Paris: Gare du Nord, Gare d'Austerlitz, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare St Lazare, and Gare Montparnasse. Make sure you know which train station you need to be at.

    It is generally a bad idea to rent a car to visit Paris. Traffic is very dense, and parking tends to be difficult. This is especially true in areas surrounding points of tourist interest. Driving may be an option for day trips or for starting to other places in France. You may prefer to rent from a location not situated in Paris proper.

    Walking in Paris is one of the great pleasures of visiting the City of Light. A metro ride of less than 2 stops is probably best avoided since walking will take about the same amount of time. For longer city trips, Paris has an excellent underground train system, known as the Métro. There are 16 lines and times for first and last trains are posted in each station on the center sign. The RER lines, a separate network from the Métro, travels to the Parisian suburbs. Day or weekly passes can be purchased, according to travel zones. Keep your métro ticket or pass with you at all times. A bus ride is also interesting if you want to see more of the city. The Parisian bus system is quite tourist-friendly. There are several excellent boat services which makes use of the Seine, providing excellent photo opportunities as well.

    In the daytime, it is not always a good idea to take a taxi, but they are cheaper at night when there are no traffic jams. If a taxi is near a ‘taxi station’ they're not supposed to pick you up except at the station. There is a minimum charge mandated by city law, but the meter does not show this amount, so you will pay a bit more then what the meter says.

    Activities & Sports

    You can walk to your heart’s content here. And it can be the best way to see most of the city. To get a great orientation of the city on foot while seeing many of Paris' major sights, you can do a walk from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame Cathedral along the Champs-Elysées. On your way you will see the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre. Then turn right and walk towards the Seine. Cross Pont Neuf and walk through the Latin Quarter, cross the river again to reach Ile de la Cité. Context Paris is a network of scholars and specialists (architects, writers, historians, etc.) who lead small-group walking tours of Paris and excursions to other parts of France.

    Paris is the Mecca of city inline skating. This is due to the large, smooth surfaces offered by both the pavements and the roads. There are plenty of inline skating rental shops. Every Friday night and Sunday afternoon hordes of inline skaters take to the streets of Paris on a pre-planned route, for about 3.5 hours. You must be good at skating if you want to join.

    Another great way to explore the city is by renting a bicycle. The city has taken a number of steps in strong support of improving the safety and establishing some bike lanes, and riversides which are perfect for cycling as well. The Paris bike network now counts over 150 km of either unique or shared lanes for the cyclist. A map of the bike network called Plan des itinéraires cyclables can be found at the information center in the Hôtel de Ville.

    Archaeology

    The name Paris derives from its pre-Roman inhabitants, the Gaulish tribe known as the Parisii. The city was called Lutetia during the 1st to 6th century Roman occupation, but was renamed as Paris somewhere around the year 361.

    Very little is now left of the ancient city. In a small park in the Latin Quarter of the Left Bank one may still see some remains of the 1st century amphitheatre, the Arènes de Lutèce, where once 15,000 people could be seated to watch gladiatorial combats.

    Furthermore, there are the remains of public roman baths at the Musée de Cluny, which housed a frigidarium and a caldarium; the Early Christian archaeological crypt under the Notre Dame forecourt; and the Paris catacombs under Montparnasse.

    Attractions & Sights

    Here is a just highlight of things that one should see during your visit to Paris. Consider getting the Paris Museum Pass, a pre-paid entry card that allows entry and line jumping into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris. The Paris Pass is a variant also allowing free metro and public transport travel. Note that most museums and galleries are closed on either Monday or Tuesday.

    Attractions and Landmarks:

    - Place de la Bastille is a square in Paris, where the Bastille prison stood and later destroyed during the French Revolution.
    - Champs-Élysées is a 17th century garden-promenade turned avenue connecting the Concorde and Arc de Triomphe. It is also a major shopping street.
    - Place de la Concorde was the site of the infamous guillotine during the French Revolution. It was replaced with an Egyptian obelisk.
    - Place Vendôme is famous for its fashionable and deluxe hotels and its jewellers.
    - Les Halles was formerly Paris' central meat and produce market for over a 1000 year and was turned into a shopping centre in 1971.
    - Le Marais is a trendy district with large gay and Jewish population.
    - Avenue Montaigne is home to luxury brand labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy.
    - Montmartre is a historic area on the Butte, home to the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, and has always had a history with artists.
    - Montparnasse is a historic area famous for artist’s studios, music halls, and café life. The lone Tour Montparnasse skyscraper is located there.
    - L'Opéra is the area around the Opéra Garnier and department stores such as Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
    - Quartier Latin is a 12th century scholastic centre with the Sorbonne University.
    - Faubourg Saint-Honoré is one of Paris' high-fashion districts, home to Hermès and Christian Lacroix.
    - Eiffel Tower, built on the Champ de Mars, is probably the most famous landmarks in the world.
    - Père-Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris. See the graves of Molière, Sarah Bernhardt , Georges Bizet, Édith Piaf, Yves Montand, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, amongst many others.
    - Catacombs of Paris is a famous underground ossuary.
    - Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon I. Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War.
    - La Defense is a modern office-building variant of the Arc de Triomphe.

    Churches:

    - Notre Dame Cathedral is an impressive Gothic cathedral that was the inspiration for Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
    - Sacré Coeur is perched on top of the highest point in Paris. Behind the church is the artists' area.
    - Sainte Chapelle is stunning on a sunny day, as the highlight of this small chapel are the large stained-glass windows which soar up to near the vaulted ceiling.
    - Pantheon is the final resting place for the great heroes of the French Republic.

    Museums and galleries

    - The Louvre is one of the finest museums in the world of art, art-history, and culture, home of the Mona Lisa.
    - Musée d'Orsay displays works of the great artists of the 19th century.
    - Centre Georges Pompidou houses the museum of modern art.
    - Jacquemart-Andre Museum displays a private collection of French, Italian, Dutch masterpieces in a typical 14th century mansion.
    - Picasso Museum contains the master's own collections.
    - Rodin Museum shows his personal collection and archives, in a charming hotel and sprawling garden.
    - Invalides is the museum of arms and armour from the Middle Ages to today.
    - Carnavalet is the Museum of Paris history and is noted for its collection of French Revolution artefacts.
    - Cluny is Paris's medieval museum, in a part roman, part medieval building.

    Nightlife

    The entertainment bibles of Paris are the guides Pariscope and l'officiel du spectacle' .

    The Cinémas of Paris are constant hosts to film festivals, at which you can see the entire works of a given actor or director. Many non-French movies are subtitled but verify ahead. Big block busters play as well.

    Each of Paris' 20 arrondissements has its own fair share of bars, cafés, taverns, but there are a some areas where various aspects of nightlife are concentrated, like Bastille, Canal St Martin, Marais, Quartier Latin, Rue Mouffetard, Châtelet, Montmartre, Oberkampf-Ménilmontant, Rues des Dames-Batignolles, Port de Tolbiac, and Saint Germain des Prés. The latter is home to two of the most famous cafés in the world: Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots.

    Place Pigalle is famous for being a touristic red-light district. The adult cabarets Divan du Monde and Moulin Rouge, world-famous for its traditional French Can-Can, are both located in Pigalle. Toulouse-Lautrec's studio was here. Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Maurice Neumont also once lived here.

    Here is a short list of nightclubs in Paris well worth a visit: Folies Pigalle, Rex Club, Cabaret, Maison Blanche, and le Baron. Remember when going out to dress the part, the better you look the most likely you will get past the bouncers.

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

    Theatre traditionally has had a large place in Parisian culture. A few of Paris' major theatres are Bobino, Théâtre Mogador and the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse. Some Parisian theatres also doubled as concert halls. Who knows, you may see today the future Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, or Charles Aznavour.

    Side Trips

    Paris is a wonderful destination that offers an amazing variety of day trips not far outside the capital. Just hop on the train or join a tour:

    - The 12th century cathedral of Notre Dame at Chartres is one of the highlights of Gothic architecture.

    - Versailles is best known for being the site of the vast royal palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV within what was previously a royal hunting lodge.

    - Saint Denis is the site of the Stade de France and St Denis Abbey, burial place of French royalty, from Dagobert I (ruled 629-39) to Louis XVIII (ruled 1814-24).

    - Chantilly has a wonderful 17th century palace, Château de Chantilly, and has extensive gardens. The recipe Crème Chantilly, a sweet vanilla-flavoured whipped cream, was created at the Château de Chantilly.

    - Giverny is home of the inspirational retreat house and gardens of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet.

    - Fontainebleau is surrounded by the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park, and is home to the Château Royal of Fontainebleau.

    Accommodations

    Generally one should be aware that all Paris hotels observe high and low seasons, the high season roughly corresponding to late spring and summer. You will probably need to book ahead.

    You will find luxury hotels, midrange and economy hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, pensions and youth hostels. For those who are staying for a while renting a furnished apartment might be a more comfortable and money-saving option.

    Eating Out

    The concept of restaurants began here about 220 years ago. Today you can find thousands of beautiful restaurants with well-planned menus offering traditional fare or a creative mix of French and exotic foreign cuisines. Trendy restaurants often require reservations weeks, if not months in advance.

    Even the budget conscious can find hundreds of traditional bistros offering a choice of fairly simple meals for reasonable prices. But one must research well and avoid tourist traps found near main attractions. For great food you must go eat where the locals eat. Many restaurants are tiny and have tables close together. In some cases, when the restaurant is crowded, you may have to sit besides strangers at the same table.

    Breakfast is called “petit dejeuner” and consists of some croissants, coffee, and maybe a piece of fruit. Lunch is called “le déjeuner”. Food stands are great options for baguette sandwiches and coffee. A decent priced dinner should be around 20 to 40 Euros for a “prix-fixe” menu. This will get you 3 or 4 courses, possibly with wine. If you want to indulge in fine dinning, one way of cutting expenses is to frequent fine restaurants at lunch time.

    Paris is a great place to try moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries), oysters, sea snails, and other delicacies. Meat specialties include deer, boar, and other game, as well as lamb, veal, beef, and pork.

    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 Royal in 1690. Cafés are an almost obligatory stop on the way to or from work for many Parisians, and especially during lunchtime.

    Shopping

    Paris is of course one of the great fashion Mecca of the world, making it a great place to do clothes shopping. For the high end, the area around Place Vendome is known for its jewellery shops. Rue de Rivoli from Louvre to Place de la Concorde has a number of sophisticated shops. And of course you shouldn't miss Gallerie Lafayette and Le Printemps. Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne are home to posh boutiques. Le Marais is very nice and trendy too.

    Looking for culinary treats? Besides all the food and gourmet shops that you may come across all over the city, food markets are your ideal destination: Marché Buci, rue Mouffetard market, rue Montorgueil market, and the Marché Biologique.

    At the foot of Montparnasse Tower on Sundays is the Paris Art Market, an open-air gallery. Paris has 3 main flea-markets, located on the outskirts of the central city. The most famous of these is the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, in the 18th, a haven for lovers of antiques, second-hand goods and retro fashion.

    Also not to be missed are the many cheese shops, wine shops and perfume or cosmetic boutiques. The list is long of shopping destinations. The best advice is to go into the inspiring shops you come across as you walk in the city.


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