Ah, Paris. The City of Lights, or Romance, or overpriced souvenirs and famously foul-smelling streets (we’ll get to that, as it’s one of the fun Paris facts).
There are few places on Earth that embody the highs and lows of the human experience quite like Paris. It’s been home to some of the greatest artists, authors, royals, revolutionaries, singers, and celebrities of all-time. It’s also the third-most visited city in the world behind just Bangkok and London.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting Paris facts.
Paris Is One Of The World’s Oldest Continuously Inhabited Cities
London was founded in part by the Romans, and the same is true of Paris, with the earliest settlements there being erected around 300 CE. It makes the capital of France one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
While London is recognizable by its London name “Londinium,” you probably wouldn’t recognize Paris’ Roman name, “Lutetia.” It was located in what is now Nanterre, which is located in the western suburbs of modern-day Paris. Citizens referred to themselves as “Parisii,” giving the city its eventual name.
There Are 6,100 Streets In Paris
With works like Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris to his credit, Victor Hugo is a titan of French Literature, which is reflected by the fact that every French city has a street named for him, Paris included.
Paris’ nickname, “The City of Lights,” has its roots in the city’s beauty and contributions to the Enlightenment, but it’s also due to the fact it was one of the first cities to install electric street lights.
The city is home to roughly 6,100 streets, the longest being Rue Vaugirard, located in the 15th arrondissement and measuring 4,360 meters long, while the shortest is located in the Rue des Degrés in the 2nd arrondissement, and measures 5.75 meters.
There Is No Stop Sign In Paris
One thing you won’t find along the streets of Paris? A stop sign.
Parisian traffic works by giving way to those coming from the right. As of 2012, there was only one stop sign in the entire city – near a building company in the 16th Arrondissement, which has since been removed. Isn’t it one of the most interesting Paris facts?
The Famous Landmark Of Paris Has Been Destroyed Recently
Chances are you heard about the tragic fire that ravaged Notre Dame de Paris in 2019, destroying the centuries-old cathedral’s famed rose-windows, elegant wooden roof, spire, and much more. Notre Dame did not host Christmas services for the first time since the French Revolution.
Thankfully, the efforts of the extraordinarily brave firefighters throughout the day and into the evening saved Notre Dame from collapsing, and a years-long restoration program is underway.
The thought of losing Notre Dame was and is unthinkable. It is the heart and soul of Paris, taking two centuries to build before opening in 1365, outlasting monarchs and tyrants ranging from Robespierre to Hitler, was the site of Napoleon’s coronation, and has been immortalized by everything from Victor Hugo’s legendary novel to Edith Piaf’s stirring chanson.
Notre Dame – not the Eiffel Tower – is the single-most visited attraction in Paris, with 14 million people visiting every year.
Many come for Notre Dame’s legendary architecture, arguably the most famous example of Gothic architecture with its brilliant rose windows, innovative flying buttresses, and of course, its legendary bell tower, which is home to its 13-ton bell Emmanuel and Hugo’s fictional bell ringer Quasimodo.
Hugo’s work should give us hope for Notre Dame’s regeneration. Centuries of age and the ravages of the French Revolution – which saw statues of the Kings of Israel decapitated in the anti-monarchy fervor – had left the cathedral in poor shape by the time Hugo wrote his novel in 1831. His novel sparked a new appreciation for Notre Dame, which led to much-needed restoration efforts.
Paris Is The Most Romantic City In The World
It’s one of the Paris facts that is not surprising at all. You are probably aware that Paris is one of the most romantic getaways in the world.
In recent years, couples have taken to leaving something of their amour behind by attaching a love lock with their initials to some of the city’s famed bridges, especially the Pont des Arts, which links the Institut de France with the Louvre.
Great place to forever fasten a small symbol of your enduring love, no?
Well, maybe not. In 2014, the bridge partially collapsed under the weight of the attached locks, which numbered over a million and weighed 45 tons. In 2015 the city began cutting the locks off.
The Largest Art Museum In The World Is Located In Paris
One of the interesting facts about Paris is that the city is home to the biggest and most famous art museum in the world, the Louvre, which contains more than 38,000 pieces of art and artifacts. It began as the part of the Louvre Palace in the 13th century, and for centuries, the collection was part of the French Royal Family’s personal collection before only becoming open to the public after the Revolution in 1793.
Every day an estimated 15,000 people visit the Louvre, with more than half of them being foreign tourists. More than 10 million people visited the Louvre in 2018, making it the most-visited museum in the world as well as the most visited attraction in France that year.
The crown jewel of its collection, the Mona Lisa, which was actually stolen in 1911 by an art thief named Vincenzo Peruggia. He simply dressed as an employee and stole it right off the wall. Peruggia was caught two years later after attempting to sell it to an Italian art dealer, and spent just a year in prison. Following this, the painting was insured in 1962 for $100 million, which would be around $650 million today adjusted for inflation.
Over 6 Million People Are Buried In The Undergrounds Of Paris
One of the largest mass graves in the world, the Catacombs of Paris are the final resting place for more than six million people.
They stretch for more than 200 miles, though only a fraction of them have been mapped, so there’s no telling what else may be down there. Paris’ previous most popular burial ground, Les Innocents, was “overpopulated” by 1780, leading to a foul stench overwhelming the area and millions of bodies being dumped down here.
If you’ve read all that and somehow think fetid underground pools of death would be the perfect place for a quick swim, you’re not alone. In recent years cataphiles have taken to going for swims in large pools of water inside.
You Can See The Statue Of Liberty In Paris
While we associate the Statue of Liberty with New York and America, it was a gift from France, and there are 10 smaller versions of the statue scattered across the country, five of which are in Paris.
Then there’s the Flame of Liberty, which is a replica of Lady Liberty’s famed torch. It overlooks the Pont de Alma, which was the site of Princess Diana’s tragic death in 1997, and memorials continue to line the area.
Public Urination Is A Major Issue In Paris
The Catacombs are hardly the only odious place in Paris. For such a beautiful city, Paris’s streets can be notoriously odiferous. While the city’s home to world-famous perfumeries, it’s eau d’urine “perfuming” many of the side streets and alleys of Paris. Public urination (primarily by men) is a major issue in Paris – and the city has taken notice.
Whether they’ve selected the right remedy is up to you.
You see, Paris has taken the unprecedented step of installing public open-air urinals called uritrottoirs. The boxes are supposed to be lined with straw and odor-free, with the filtered urine “watering” plants, but that hasn’t stopped locals and tourists alike from being disgusted and outraged.
You Will Be Surprised By These Paris Food Facts
Few cities on Earth have a richer culinary culture than Paris. It is considered one of the greatest cities for food in the world, an assertion backed up by the fact it has more Michelin restaurants (70) than any other city.
Outdoor dining is a way of life in Paris, with more than 9,000 open terraces for bars, cafés, and restaurants combined. The oldest still-active café in Paris, La Procope, was founded in 1686.
Famous cafés include the still-standing Les Deux Magots and La Closerie des Lilas and the historic Le Chat Noir, which closed in 1897.
These cafés were host to a who’s who of Belle Epoque and Modernist authors, artists, and composers, including Henri de Tolouse-Lautrec, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, and Bertolt Brecht.
There are more than 1,700 baguette-baking bakeries in the city and more than 1,100 bars. Among all those cafés and bakeries, Paris opened its first all-nude restaurant, O’Naturel, in 2018. However, it closed a year later due to a lack of customers.
The Eiffel Tower Was Once The Highest Building In The World
Let’s conclude with Paris’ most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Designed by Gustav Eiffel and constructed in 1889 for the World Fair, the Eiffel Tower initially met with a mixed reception, with some, including author Guy de Maupassant, seeing it as an eyesore. It was only supposed to last 20 years before being pulled down, but its Eiffel convinced Parisian authorities to leave it standing.
The Eiffel Tower stands more than 1,000 feet tall and weighs 10,000 tons with 1,665 steps leading up to the top. Upon construction, it was the tallest building in the world for 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York. Hitler ordered it pulled down in 1944, but the German governor overseeing the city refused.
Twenty-five thousand people make their way to the top each day. If you’re thinking of shooting off fireworks from there (because who wouldn’t have such a thought?) sorry – it’s forbidden by the French Constitution.
Take a trip today and see for yourself why Paris is one of the most beloved cities in the world.
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