Paris is a city deeply entrenched in our collective world culture. Some feel it’s a city of romance. Others look at its incredible impact on western history, citing The French Revolution as a major shift in political history.
Barely an hour’s flight from London, and with a population of over two million, Paris holds a remarkable amount of amazing and awe-inspiring facts for those looking to start a conversation, impress a paramour (from the French par amour), or just expand their knowledge.
Facts About Paris – The City of Light
Table of Contents
- 1 Facts About Paris – The City of Light
- 2 37 Facts about Paris Monuments
- 3 The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and More.
- 3.1 1. The Eiffel Tower isn’t supposed to be there
- 3.2 2. The Louvre is the Largest Art Gallery in the World
- 3.3 3. The Catacombs are Creepy
- 3.4 4. The Moulin Rouge was the First Electrified Building in Paris
- 3.5 5. The Pont Neuf is the Oldest Bridge in Paris – Which is Funny
- 3.6 6. There are Several Statues of Liberty
- 4 It Started in Paris – Things That Originated Here
- 5 Parisian Oddities – Wacky Weirdness and Fun Facts
- 5.1 10. It is technically illegal to take and publish photos of the Eiffel Tower at Night
- 5.2 11. The Paris Underground is the second busiest train system in Europe
- 5.3 12. Paris has Beaches
- 5.4 13. There are about 470,000 trees in Paris
- 5.5 14. Paris has nearly 500kms of bike lanes
- 5.6 15. Paris can be crossed on foot east to west in about two and a half hours.
- 5.7 16. There are no stop signs for drivers in Paris.
- 5.8 17. The oldest house in Paris was built in 1407.
- 5.9 18. Paris has 450 parks and gardens.
- 5.10 19. Paris has more dogs than children.
- 5.11 20. The main bell of Notre Dame Cathedral is named Emmanuel and weighs over 13 tonnes.
- 5.12 21. There are over 6000 streets in Paris.
- 5.13 22. Paris still has an Army of Carrier Pigeons.
- 5.14 23. Paris has its own islands.
- 5.15 24. The Mona Lisa has been stolen
- 5.16 25. Paris is often empty in August.
- 5.17 26. There are more than 170 miles of underground tunnels under Paris.
- 5.18 27. Paris has its own syndrome
- 5.19 28. Definitely drink the water in Paris
- 5.20 29. There is a lake under the Paris Opera House
- 5.21 30. Paris has the most Libraries in the World.
- 5.22 31. On average, 10 films or tv commercials are filmed each day in Paris.
- 5.23 32. Paris became the French capital in 508.
- 5.24 33. Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were both guillotined on the Place de La Concorde.
- 5.25 34. You need money to drive a taxi in Paris.
- 5.26 35. Paris has the largest number of Michelin star restaurants in the world.
- 5.27 36. The Tour de France finishes on the Champs-Elysee.
- 5.28 37. Paris has a Baguette Law
- 6 Final Thoughts on Facts About Paris
The Capital of France is also lovingly known as the City of Light. There are two theories for why this is the case.
One argues that Paris came by the name because it was possibly the first major city to use street lighting. Another argument insists that the “light” refers to the culture of philosophy, art and educational enquiry that influences Parisian culture.
It doesn’t really matter, though. This is a beautiful city, whether in the day, in the night, or best of all, for the wonderful Parisian sunrise. This city’s history provides volumes of interesting anecdotes and factoids. Here is just a sampling of the fun and interesting ones.
37 Facts about Paris Monuments
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and More.
Brace yourself. If you’re visiting Paris with an eye to seeing all the monuments, prepare for a long stay. There are more than 1800 recognised monuments in Paris, and 173 museums. For obvious reasons, we’ll talk about some of the most well-known only.
1. The Eiffel Tower isn’t supposed to be there
Monetarily, the Eiffel Tower is considered the most valuable monument in all of Europe, estimated to be worth around 440 Billion Euros. It rises over 300 metres (1000 feet) above the Champs de Mars, and, shockingly, isn’t even supposed to be there! At least, not any more.
The tower was only intended to stand for 20 years. Serving as the entrance to the Paris World’s Fair, which also marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1889.
The tower holds the distinction of being the tallest structure in the world at one point until the Chrysler building was erected in 1930. Today, tourists can visit the Eiffel Tower, choosing between three platforms.
Another story goes that the only reason it survived World War II is that a general ignored an order to destroy it. Fate favours the tower, it seems.
2. The Louvre is the Largest Art Gallery in the World
The world’s most famous museum is The Louvre, in Paris, right on the river Seine. It is also, perhaps not surprisingly, the largest art gallery in the world. It houses more than 35 000 pieces of art for the public. The museum’s expanded collection is said to number over 450 000 pieces.
It has a notable role in French political history as well. It opened just after the French Revolution, becoming an iconic institution that opened its doors for all and sundry, and not just to the aristocracy. It remains a national property and indeed a treasure, and great for groups and families to tour.
The most famous artwork within the museum is the Mona Lisa. It is estimated to be valued at about 650 million Euros ($780 million USD).
3. The Catacombs are Creepy
Less spoken about, but no less fascinating are the immense catacombs that run under the city of Paris. They’re an underground network of tunnels and chambers that are cloaked in as much mystery as they are a dark past.
The general consensus is that they were part of a vast plan to bury the corpses of people dying from disease and plague in the late 1700s. So many were dying, that cemeteries were unable to contain the number. The catacombs were opened to account for the overflow, and it is said that more than 6 million bodies were buried in them.
“The Empire of Death”, as it is labelled on a sign, is rumoured to contain more than 320km of networks under the city. Scary when you think about it, because less than 2km of it is accessible to the public. Secretive organisations, however, are said to lead excursions into the depths of the unknown areas, where wild and unexpected discoveries are often made.
4. The Moulin Rouge was the First Electrified Building in Paris
The famous Moulin Rouge revue has been closed on occasion, and even burnt down once. Yet it has recovered, been rebuilt, and reopened each time, and still operates today. That’s 120 years young and going strong. The Moulin Rouge was apparently the first building in Paris to have electricity installed.
5. The Pont Neuf is the Oldest Bridge in Paris – Which is Funny
It is a running joke that the Pont Neuf (“The New Bridge”) is the oldest bridge in Paris. It’s been servicing the city an impressive 417 years, after being established in 1604. It outlives the now-absent Pont des Arts (the famous lovelock bridge).
The bridge is known for its 831 sculpted masks it boasts as decorations. As a result, it’s hands down one of the most beautiful bridges in France.
6. There are Several Statues of Liberty
New York’s Lady Liberty – the Statue of Liberty – is not an only child. The statue was gifted by the French to the US, so it seems fitting that France has its own statues of liberty. There are ten in France, with at least four visible to the public in Paris.
- Musée d’Orsay – cast in 1889.
- Île aux Cygnes – given to the city in 1889 by US citizens living in Paris.
- Musée des Arts et Métiers – a smaller statue finished in 1878.
- Flame of Liberty – a copy of the torch, doubling today as a people’s memorial to Princess Diana, who died in the tunnel below the torch.
It Started in Paris – Things That Originated Here
With such a long and storied history, it’s little wonder that many things were either invented in Paris, or at least found a home there. Here are some of the most interesting.
7. The Bloody Mary
Ernest Hemingway lived in Paris for a short while. While at the Ritz Hotel, he allegedly asked the bartender for a drink, but didn’t care much for the aroma of alcoholic drinks. The quick-thinking barman offered a glass of tomato juice with a healthy shot of vodka, and a legend was born.
8. The First Photo of a Person
Ubiquitous as selfies are today, pictures of people were at one time surrounded by superstition and were quite rare. One Louis Daguerre decided to break with the wisdom of the time, and snapped a shot of someone in a Paris street. If you’re going to blame someone for the millions of selfies that occupy modern media, perhaps start here.
9. The Fashion Capital of the World?
Many of the fashion world’s great houses claim Paris as a home. The fact that the city runs so much of the industry’s major events is good enough to claim brands Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Givenchy, Lacroix, Lancôme, and Louis Vuitton as favourite children.
Parisian Oddities – Wacky Weirdness and Fun Facts
10. It is technically illegal to take and publish photos of the Eiffel Tower at Night
We spoke about the Eiffel Tower earlier. One weird law concerning it is that it’s technically illegal to take and publish pictures of it at nighttime. Apparently, the lights that decorate the tower at night are considered an art installation and therefore are copyrighted
11. The Paris Underground is the second busiest train system in Europe
The Paris underground train system is one of the busiest in all of Europe. Nearly 5 million commuters use it every day. Only Moscow is said to be busier.
12. Paris has Beaches
There are beaches in Paris! Believe it or not, some sections of the river have been prepared as beaches, complete with sunbathers, sand and beach sports like volleyball.
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13. There are about 470,000 trees in Paris
Paris is green. And it is partly kept that way by a team whose job it is to actually count trees within the city limits. That’s how we know that there are approximately 470 000 trees in Paris.
14. Paris has nearly 500kms of bike lanes
15. Paris can be crossed on foot east to west in about two and a half hours.
16. There are no stop signs for drivers in Paris.
In 2012 there was only one stop sign in Paris. Literally. Today, there are none. And when you observe the traffic on major Paris roads, you may be forgiven for giving up your car forever.
17. The oldest house in Paris was built in 1407.
This makes it 614 years old at the time of this writing.
18. Paris has 450 parks and gardens.
19. Paris has more dogs than children.
There are more than 300,000 dogs living in Paris. And Parisians spend over half a million dollars a year on their dogs. This includes spa treatments.
20. The main bell of Notre Dame Cathedral is named Emmanuel and weighs over 13 tonnes.
21. There are over 6000 streets in Paris.
The shortest street in Paris, Rue des Degres, is just under 6 metres long and is located in the second arrondissement.
22. Paris still has an Army of Carrier Pigeons.
Paris doesn’t get stressed about what will happen if the internet goes down – they are ready to go with their carrier pigeons. A flock of carrier pigeons are kept outside the city in a 19th century fortress just in case.
23. Paris has its own islands.
Paris has two natural islands and several that are man made. Ile de la Cite was Paris’ historical centre and is home to Notre Dame. Ile Saint-Louis has only eight streets.
24. The Mona Lisa has been stolen
The most famous painting in Paris, the Mona Lisa, was stolen from the Louvre museum in 1911. It took over a day for anyone to notice that the painting was missing. It was returned two years later.
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25. Paris is often empty in August.
Throughout Europe in particular, France is known for having a generous holiday policy. Many Parisians take the entire month of August as leave – and leave the city.
26. There are more than 170 miles of underground tunnels under Paris.
Paris has a massive underground network, most of which is closed off. However, there is a small community that explores these tunnels known as the Cataphiles.
27. Paris has its own syndrome
Film, tv and culture, in general, have often glorified Paris. It is the aspiration of so many to visit this beautiful city. However, when so much attention is given to a city many develop very high expectations as to what Paris will be like – and that is sometimes not the case. The disappointment that these overly excited visitors can feel is called the Paris Syndrome.
28. Definitely drink the water in Paris
The tap water in France is known to be of top quality. And if you prefer your water with bubbles there are free sparkling water fountains throughout the city.
29. There is a lake under the Paris Opera House
This lake is really a large water tank and it was the inspiration for the home of the Phatom of the Opera. Unfortunately it isn’t open to the public.
30. Paris has the most Libraries in the World.
It was 830 at the last count.
31. On average, 10 films or tv commercials are filmed each day in Paris.
Paris is one of the most popular places in the world to shoot film and tv – have you watched Emily in Paris on Netflix? Yes, Paris is beautiful but also it is free to film in Paris so this probably helps.
32. Paris became the French capital in 508.
Paris hasn’t always been the capital of France. Prior to 508 Versailles, Tours, Troyes and Bourges had been the capitals of France. Clovis I was the King who made Paris the capital of France.
33. Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were both guillotined on the Place de La Concorde.
The guillotine was invented by the French and it was the method of execution used by the French until the death penalty was abolished in 1981. During the French Revolution a guillotine was erected on Place de La Concorde and this is where Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were publicly executed.
34. You need money to drive a taxi in Paris.
It can cost up to 200,000 euros to obtain a taxi license in Paris.
35. Paris has the largest number of Michelin star restaurants in the world.
Okay, you probably could have guessed this fact.
36. The Tour de France finishes on the Champs-Elysee.
37. Paris has a Baguette Law
Paris has a law about baguettes. A baguette can only contain four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast, it cannot be frozen or contain preservatives and it must be sold where it is made. Otherwise it’s not a Parisian baguette.
Final Thoughts on Facts About Paris
Dig deeper and you’ll doubtless find lots and lots of stories about this old city, dating back to Roman times. But even on a very casual level, this city is a traveller’s goldmine of facts, history and beauty.
It should definitely be close to the top of any European bucket list, and will no doubt be a life-changing experience for anyone lucky enough to visit.
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