Paris is the capital and largest city of France. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region (or Paris Region, French: Région parisienne). As of January 2009 the city of Paris, within its administrative limits (the 20 arrondissements) largely unchanged since 1860, has an estimated population of 2,234,105 and a metropolitan population of 12,161,542, and is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe.
An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris had become, by the 12th century, one of Europe’s foremost centres of learning and the arts and the largest city in the Western world until the 18th century. Paris is today one of the world’s leading business and cultural centres, and its influences 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 hosts the headquarters of many international organizations such as UNESCO, the OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce and the European Space Agency. Paris is considered one of the greenest and most liveable cities in Europe. It is also one of the most expensive cities.
Paris and the Paris Region, with €572.4 billion (US$759.9 billion) in 2010, produce more than a quarter of the gross domestic product of France and is, along with London, Europe’s biggest city economy and one of the largest in the world. The Paris region is the first in Europe in terms of research and development capability and expenditure and through its 17 universities and 55 grandes écoles has the highest concentration of higher education students in the European Union. With about 42 million tourists annually in the city and its suburbs, Paris is the most visited city in the world. The city and its region contain 3,800 historical monuments and four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
City of Paris
- Place de la Bastille (4th, 11th and 12th arrondissements, right bank) is a district of great historical significance, for not just Paris, but also all of France. Because of its symbolic value, the square has often been a site of political demonstrations.
- Place de la Concorde (8th arrondissement, right bank) is at the foot of the Champs-Élysées, built as the “Place Louis XV”, site of the infamous guillotine. The Egyptian obelisk is Paris’ “oldest monument”. On this place, on either side of the Rue Royale, there are two identical stone buildings: The eastern one houses the French Naval Ministry, the western the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon. Nearby Place Vendôme is famous for its fashionable and deluxe hotels (Hôtel Ritz and Hôtel de Vendôme) and its jewellers. Many famous fashion designers have had their salons located here.
- Champs-Élysées (8th arrondissement, right bank) is a 17th-century garden-promenade-turned-avenue connecting Place de la Concorde and Arc de Triomphe. It is one of the many tourist attractions and a major shopping street of Paris.
- Les Halles (1st arrondissement, right bank) were formerly Paris’ central meat and produce market, and, since the late 1970s, are a major shopping centre around an important metro connection station (Châtelet – Les Halles, the biggest in the world). The old Halles were destroyed in 1971 and replaced by the Forum des Halles. The central market of Paris, the biggest wholesale food market in the world, was transferred to Rungis, in the southern suburbs.
- Le Marais (3rd and 4th arrondissements) is a trendy Right Bank district. It is architecturally very well preserved, and some of the oldest houses and buildings of Paris can be found there. It is a very culturally open place. It is also known for its Chinese, Jewish and gay communities.
- Avenue Montaigne (8th arrondissement), next to the Champs-Élysées, is home to luxury brand labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Dior and Givenchy.
- Montmartre (18th arrondissement, right bank) is a historic area on the Butte, home to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Montmartre has always had a history with artists and has many studios and cafés of many great artists in that area.
- Montparnasse (14th arrondissement) is a historic Left Bank area famous for artists’ studios, music halls, and café life. The large Montparnasse – Bienvenüe métro station and the lone Tour Montparnasse skyscraper are located there.
- Avenue de l’Opéra (9th arrondissement, right bank) is the area around the Opéra Garnier and the location of the capital’s densest concentration of both department stores and offices. A few examples are the Printemps and Galeries Lafayette grands magasins (department stores), and the Paris headquarters of financial giants such as BNP Paribas and American Express.
- Quartier Latin (5th and 6th arrondissements, left bank) is a 12th-century scholastic centre formerly stretching between the Left Bank’s Place Maubert and the Sorbonne campus. It is known for its lively atmosphere and many bistros. Various higher-education establishments, such as Sciences Po Paris, the École Normale Supérieure, Mines ParisTech, and the Jussieu university campus, make it a major educational centre in Paris.
- Faubourg Saint-Honoré (8th arrondissement, right bank) is one of Paris’ high-fashion districts, home to labels such as Hermès and Christian Lacroix.
The Eiffel Tower (French: La Tour Eiffel, nickname La dame de fer, the iron lady) is a puddled iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 7.1 million people ascended it in 2011. The third level observatory’s upper platform is at 279.11 m the highest accessible to public in the European Union and the highest in Europe as long as the platform of the Ostankino Tower, at 360 m, remains closed as a result of the fire of August 2000. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.
The tower stands 320 metres (1,050 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. However, because of the addition, in 1957, of the antenna atop the Eiffel Tower, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building. Not including broadcast antennas, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct.
The tower has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift (elevator), to the first and second levels. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. The third and highest level is accessible only by lift – stairs exist but they are not usually open for public use. Both the first and second levels feature restaurants.
The tower has become the most prominent symbol of both Paris and France, often in the establishing shot of films set in the city.