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37 Fascinating Facts About Paris you Probably Don’t Know

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

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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.

sunrise in paris from the trocadero fountains
Sunrise in Paris from the Trocadero Fountains

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.

Louvre at night facts about paris
The Louvre Paris

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).

pont des arts
pont des arts

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. 

pont neuf
pont neuf

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. 

  1. Musée d’Orsay – cast in 1889.
  2. Île aux Cygnes – given to the city in 1889 by US citizens living in Paris.
  3. Musée des Arts et Métiers – a smaller statue finished in 1878.
  4. 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.
pont des arts
pont des arts

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.

Eiffel Tower at Dawn
Eiffel Tower at Dawn

⇒ If you like beautiful European towns check out my posts on Saint Antonin Noble Val and Tarn et Garonne in France, 30 Famous Landmarks in France, 37 Fascinating Facts About Paris, 32 Most Beautiful Cities in France, 10 Beautiful Bridges in France, 10 Beautiful Lakes in France and the 6 Best Places to Watch the Sunrise in Paris

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.

Sacre Coeur at sunrise in paris
Sacre Coeur at sunrise

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.

notre dame paris at sunrise 2
Notre Dame

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.

⇒ If you enjoy looking at beautiful cities don’t miss my posts on the 28 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe, 20 Most Beautiful Cities in the US, Most Beautiful Cities Spain, 32 Most Beautiful Cities in France, 16 Most Beautiful Cities in Canada, 13 Most Beautiful Islands in Greece, 9 Most Beautiful Cities in Germany, and the 20 Most Beautiful Cities in the World.

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.

Sunrise in Paris over the Seine River
The Seine River

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.

pont alexandre 3rd bridge paris at sunrise
Pont Alexandre III Bridge

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.

place de la concorde paris france landmark
place de la concorde

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.

Arc de Triomphe Paris at Sunrise
Arc de Triomphe

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.

notre dame paris at sunrise
Notre Dame

I covered all of the costs associated with writing this post. However, this Facts about Paris post does includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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