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Paris, the city and capital of France, is located in the north-central part of the country. Human habitation in this area dates back to around 7600 BCE, situated along the Seine River approximately 233 miles (375 km) upstream from where the river meets the English Channel (La Manche). Over time, the city has expanded from its origins on the Île de la Cité to encompass both banks of the Seine.

Geographically, Paris occupies a strategic position within the fertile Paris Basin and serves as one of the eight départements of the Île-de-France administrative region. It stands as the foremost centre for commerce and culture in France. The city covers an area of 41 square miles (105 square km), while its metropolitan area spans 890 square miles (2,300 square km). As of the 2020 estimate, Paris had a population of approximately 2,145,906 within the city limits and 10,858,874 in its urban agglomeration.

Paris holds a distinguished status as one of the world’s premier cities, renowned for its opportunities in business, education, culture, and entertainment. Its reputation extends to various domains such as gastronomy, fashion, arts, literature, and intellectual pursuits. The epithet “the City of Light” (“la Ville Lumière”), bestowed upon Paris during the Enlightenment era, remains fitting due to its enduring significance as a centre for intellectual and educational activities.

The city’s location at a convergence of water and land routes has played a pivotal role in its historical development. Designated as the capital of the Parisii tribe and territory during Roman rule in the 1st century BCE, Paris continued to flourish under subsequent rulers. King Clovis I of the Franks captured the city from the Gauls around 494 CE, establishing it as his capital. The ascendancy of Paris as a political and cultural hub was solidified under the Capetian dynasty, particularly during the rule of Hugh Capet (987–996). Over time, Paris evolved into a symbol of France’s centralized power, attracting talent and vitality from across the country.

Le pont des Arts de Paris, avec derrière le pont Neuf et l’île de la Cité, et sur la droite l’institut de France. On aperçoit au fond le sommet des deux tours de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.
Cet édifice est classé au titre des monuments historiques de la France. Il est répertorié dans la base Mérimée, base de données sur le patrimoine architectural français du ministère de la Culture, sous la référence PA00089004 .
Louvre Museum’s Napoleon Courtyard, at dusk.


The Parisii, a Celtic sub-tribe of the Senones, settled in the Paris area around the 3rd century BC, establishing a major trading centre on the Île de la Cité along the Seine River. The Romans conquered the region in 52 BC, founding the town of Lutetia on the Left Bank. Over time, Lutetia prospered, boasting amenities like baths, temples, and an amphitheatre. Christianity arrived in the 3rd century AD, with Saint Denis becoming the city’s first bishop and a martyr. The Merovingian king Clovis made Paris his capital in 508, ushering in Frankish influence and the development of the Parisian Francien dialects.

Paris flourished during the Middle Ages, becoming the political, economic, and cultural hub of France. Land reclamation efforts and infrastructure improvements shifted the city’s centre to the Right Bank. Philip Augustus fortified Paris in the late 12th century and established the University of Paris in 1190. By the 14th century, Paris was Europe’s most populous city.

The Hundred Years’ War and religious conflicts left their mark on Paris, but it continued to grow and innovate. The Renaissance brought urban development projects, including new bridges and boulevards. The 17th century saw Paris embellished under Louis XIV’s rule, with landmarks like the Louvre extension and Place Vendôme.

The 18th and 19th centuries witnessed Paris’s population surge, becoming a global centre of arts, culture, and philosophy during the Enlightenment. The French Revolution erupted in Paris in 1789, leading to profound social and political changes. Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign transformed the city’s infrastructure and expanded its boundaries.

The 20th century brought both prosperity and turmoil to Paris. It became a cultural melting pot, attracting artists and intellectuals from around the world. World Wars I and II brought devastation and occupation to the city, but it rebounded as a beacon of resilience and creativity.

In recent years, Paris has embraced urban renewal projects and sustainability initiatives. The Grand Paris project aims to integrate the city with its surrounding regions, while efforts to combat climate change, such as the Paris Agreement, demonstrate the city’s commitment to a sustainable future. Despite challenges, Paris remains a symbol of freedom, innovation, and resilience on the global stage.


Paris sits at the heart of the Île-de-France region, intersected by the Seine, Oise, and Marne rivers. Encompassed by expansive beech and oak forests, known as the “lungs of Paris,” the city benefits from their air-purifying qualities in this heavily industrialized area. Despite its centrality, the city itself is relatively compact; no point is more than approximately 6 miles (10 km) from Notre-Dame Cathedral’s square. Positioned within a depression carved out by the Seine, Paris is encircled by elevated terrain, delineating its boundaries. Elevations range from 430 feet (130 meters) at Montmartre’s butte in the north to 85 feet (26 meters) in the Grenelle area in the southwest.

The Seine traverses Paris for about 8 miles (13 km), coursing through 10 of its 20 arrondissements. Entering from the southeast, it flows northwest before gradually veering southwest and exiting the city’s southwest corner. Consequently, the river’s east bank becomes the north bank and then transitions to the west bank, leading Parisians to refer to them simply as the Right Bank and Left Bank. Specific locations are typically denoted by arrondissement or district.

Along the riverbanks, some 30 feet (9 meters) below street level, cobbled quays adorned with trees and shrubs line the Seine, while another row of trees leans towards the water from street level. Massive stone retaining walls, often embellished with iron rings once used for mooring vessels, separate the levels, occasionally adorned with ivy. This combination of open waters and greenery contributes to Paris’s reputation as a city blessed with ample green spaces.

Paris boasts tens of thousands of trees lining its streets, along with numerous public parks, gardens, and squares. Many of these green spaces were originally reserved for royalty on the city’s outskirts but were repurposed over time. Under Napoleon III, influenced by London’s parks during his time in Britain, ancient royal military preserves were transformed into “English” parks like the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes. Mayor Jacques Chirac’s administration in the late 20th century initiated efforts to create new parks, a trend that continued into the 21st century.

One notable green space innovation is the Promenade Plantée, a partially elevated parkway built along an abandoned rail line and viaduct in the 12th arrondissement. Completed in 1994, it was the world’s first elevated park, inspiring similar projects globally. Stretching approximately 4.5 km (about 3 miles) from Opéra Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes, it features the Viaduc des Arts beneath, housing specialized commercial establishments along Avenue Daumesnil.

Geography of Paris

Paris, situated in northern central France along the winding Seine River, encompasses two historic islands, Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité. The river flows about 233 miles (375 km) downstream to its mouth at the English Channel. Spanning both riverbanks, Paris boasts a relatively flat terrain, with Montmartre being its highest point at 130 meters (427 feet) above sea level.

Covering an area of approximately 87 square kilometres (34 square miles) within the Boulevard Périphérique ring road, excluding outlying parks, Paris underwent significant expansion in 1860, shaping its modern layout with 20 arrondissements. The addition of Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes in 1929 increased its area to about 105 square kilometres (41 square miles). The metropolitan area encompasses 2,300 square kilometres (890 square miles).

From the central point in front of Notre-Dame cathedral, Paris is approximately 450 kilometres (280 miles) southeast of London, 287 kilometres (178 miles) south of Calais, 305 kilometres (190 miles) southwest of Brussels, 774 kilometres (481 miles) north of Marseille, 385 kilometres (239 miles) northeast of Nantes, and 135 kilometres (84 miles) southeast of Rouen.

Paris experiences an oceanic climate according to the Köppen classification, characterized by cool winters with frequent rain and mild to warm summers. While extreme temperatures are rare, occasional heatwaves or cold spells do occur. Summers are typically mild with average temperatures ranging from 15 to 25°C (59 to 77°F), occasionally exceeding 32°C (90°F). Spring and autumn offer mild days and cool nights but with variable and sometimes unpredictable weather. Winters are cool with rare snowfall and average temperatures around 3°C (37°F), though light frost is common. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, with occasional heavy showers. The highest recorded temperature was 42.6°C (108.7°F) in July 2019, and the lowest was -23.9°C (-11.0°F) in December 1879.


At the start of the twentieth century, Paris held the distinction of being the world’s largest Catholic city. However, French census records do not include data on religious affiliation. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Institut français d’opinion publique (IFOP), a French public opinion research organization, 61 percent of residents in the Paris Region (Île-de-France) identified as Roman Catholic. Additionally, 7 percent identified as Muslim, 4 percent as Protestant, 2 percent as Jewish, and 25 percent reported having no religious affiliation.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), between 4 and 5 million residents of France were either born in or had at least one parent born in predominantly Muslim countries, notably Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. A 2008 IFOP survey found that among immigrants from these countries, 25 percent attended mosque regularly, 41 percent practiced Islam, and 34 percent identified as believers but did not actively practice the religion. Estimates from 2012 and 2013 suggested there were nearly 500,000 Muslims in the City of Paris, 1.5 million in the Île-de-France region, and 4 to 5 million across France.

As for the Jewish population, in 2014 it was estimated that the Paris Region was home to 282,000 Jews, constituting the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel and the United States.


The economy of Paris relies heavily on services and commerce, with approximately 80.6 percent of the city’s 390,480 enterprises engaged in these sectors. In contrast, only 3.8 percent are involved in industry. This trend extends to the wider Paris Region (Île-de-France), where 76.7 percent of enterprises are focused on commerce and services, and only 3.4 percent are in industry.

Market services dominate the job landscape in the Paris Region, accounting for 59.5 percent of employment according to the 2012 census. Manufacturing and utilities make up 8.2 percent of jobs, while construction accounts for 5.2 percent. The region had 5.4 million salaried employees in 2010, with major business districts like the quartier central des affaires (QCA) and La Défense employing significant numbers.

The Paris Region is a hub for top French companies, hosting the headquarters of major corporations. It boasts a GDP of €765 billion, making it the leading region for economic activity in France. The economy has shifted towards high-value-added service industries and high-tech manufacturing, with a concentration of economic activity in the western Hauts-de-Seine department and the La Défense business district.

In terms of living costs, Paris has consistently ranked among the most expensive cities globally. Despite this, it remains a thriving hub for startups, with initiatives like Station F supporting entrepreneurship.

Paris’s workforce is diverse, with employment spread across various sectors. However, income disparities exist, with higher incomes in the western part of the city and suburbs. Poverty rates vary across neighborhoods, with some areas experiencing higher levels of deprivation.

Tourism plays a significant role in Paris’s economy, with millions of visitors flocking to iconic attractions like the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower. In 2019, Greater Paris welcomed a record 38 million visitors, contributing to the tourism-related workforce comprising 12.4 percent of the total workforce.

Despite its allure, a small fraction of foreign visitors experience Paris syndrome when their expectations of the city do not align with reality.


Paris’s cultural landscape is rich and diverse, shaped by centuries of artistic influence and innovation. Here’s a more detailed overview:

Artistic Legacy: Paris’s reputation as the “City of Art” began with the influx of Italian artists in the 16th and 17th centuries, who left a profound mark on sculpture and reliefs. The French monarchy, particularly during the Baroque and Classicism era, patronized local artists like Girardon, Coysevox, and Mignard, who adorned royal palaces with their works. The establishment of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648 further solidified Paris’s status as an artistic hub.

The 19th and early 20th centuries marked a golden age for Parisian art, with luminaries such as Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh contributing to movements like Impressionism, Art Nouveau, and Cubism. Sculptors like Bartholdi and Rodin continued this legacy, crafting iconic pieces like the Statue of Liberty and The Thinker.

Cultural Institutions: Paris boasts a wealth of museums, including the Louvre, home to masterpieces like the Mona Lisa, and the Musée d’Orsay, showcasing 19th-century art and Impressionist works. The city’s theatres, like the Opéra Garnier and Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, host a variety of performances, from classic ballets to contemporary plays. Literature thrives in Paris, with famous authors like Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, and Simone de Beauvoir contributing to its literary heritage.

Music and Cinema: Paris has played a pivotal role in the development of music, from the Renaissance-era polyphony to the jazz clubs of the 20th century. Iconic venues like the Moulin Rouge and Le Lido have showcased performers like Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt. In cinema, Paris saw the birth of the movie industry in the late 19th century, with landmarks like the Grand Rex and notable filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard leaving their mark on the cinematic landscape.

Cuisine and Fashion: Paris’s culinary scene is legendary, with its restaurants and haute cuisine earning international acclaim. The city’s fashion industry, home to iconic houses like Chanel and Dior, has made Paris a global fashion capital. Paris Fashion Week, held twice a year, attracts designers, models, and fashion enthusiasts from around the world.

Sports and Festivals: Paris hosts a variety of sporting events, including the French Open tennis tournament and the Tour de France. Festivals like Bastille Day, Paris-Plages, and Nuit Blanche celebrate the city’s culture and heritage, attracting locals and tourists alike.


Paris serves as a major transportation hub, boasting an extensive network of rail, highway, and air connections. Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM) oversees the region’s transit network, coordinating with various operators like RATP, SNCF, and Optile to provide comprehensive public transport services, including buses, metro, tramways, and suburban rails.

The city’s transportation system is renowned for its sustainability, earning Paris the distinction of being one of only two cities to receive the Sustainable Transport Award twice. A majority of Parisians rely on public transport for their daily commute, with a significant percentage opting for walking, cycling, or other eco-friendly modes of transportation. Efforts to enhance sustainability include expanding bike lanes and incentivizing electric car usage, along with implementing bans on highly polluting vehicles in key areas.

Paris’s rail infrastructure includes six major railway stations and a minor one, connecting the city to high-speed rail lines, normal speed trains, and suburban rails. The Métro network, inaugurated in 1900, is the most widely used local transport system, while the RER provides connections to distant parts of the urban area. The city also boasts a light rail network, the tramway, with multiple operational lines.

In terms of air travel, Paris is a major international air transport hub, served by three commercial international airports and one general aviation airport. Charles de Gaulle Airport, the busiest in Paris, serves as a hub for Air France and handles a significant portion of international air traffic.

Paris is also well-connected by motorways, with three orbital freeways surrounding the city. The extensive road network facilitates efficient travel within and around Paris.

Water transport is another significant aspect, with the Paris region being the most active water transport area in France. The Seine River and its connecting canals facilitate cargo handling and contribute to the city’s transportation network.

Cycling infrastructure in Paris includes designated bike lanes and a bike-sharing system called Vélib’. The city continues to expand its cycling network to promote eco-friendly transportation options.

Additionally, Paris’s electricity grid relies on a mix of energy sources, while its water supply network includes aqueducts and reservoirs. The city’s extensive park system, with over 400 municipal parks and gardens, provides green spaces for residents and visitors alike.

Finally, Paris’s cemeteries, including famous ones like Père Lachaise and Montparnasse, serve as final resting places for notable figures throughout history, contributing to the city’s cultural heritage.

Education and Healthcare


Paris has the highest proportion of highly educated individuals among all départements. In 2009, approximately 40 percent of Parisians held a diploma at the level of a license or higher, the highest percentage in France, while only 13 percent lacked any diploma, ranking as the third-lowest percentage in the country. Education in Paris and the Île-de-France region employs about 330,000 individuals, including 170,000 teachers and professors who educate around 2.9 million students across approximately 9,000 primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions.

The University of Paris, established in the 12th century, is commonly referred to as the Sorbonne, named after one of its original medieval colleges. In 1970, it was divided into thirteen independent universities following the student protests of 1968. Most of these university campuses are located in the Latin Quarter, where the original university was situated, while others are spread throughout Paris and its suburbs.

The Paris region is home to France’s highest concentration of grandes écoles, comprising 55 specialized higher education institutions either independent or integrated within the public university system. These prestigious public universities are typically recognized as grands établissements. Many of these grandes écoles were relocated to the suburbs of Paris during the 1960s and 1970s, establishing larger campuses compared to their previous locations within the densely populated City of Paris. However, the École Normale Supérieure, PSL University, remains situated on rue d’Ulm in the 5th arrondissement.


Healthcare and emergency medical services in the City of Paris and its suburbs are administered by the Assistance publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), a public hospital system. With a workforce exceeding 90,000 individuals, including practitioners, support staff, and administrators, AP-HP operates 44 hospitals, making it the largest hospital system in Europe. Offering a wide range of services including healthcare, education, research, prevention, and emergency medical care across 52 medical specialities, these hospitals collectively accommodate over 5.8 million patient visits annually.

Among its notable institutions is the Hôtel-Dieu, established in 651, making it not only the oldest hospital in Paris but also the oldest continuously operating hospital globally. While the current structure dates back to its reconstruction in 1877, Hôtel-Dieu remains an iconic medical establishment. Other prominent hospitals within the AP-HP network include the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, one of Europe’s largest; Hôpital Cochin; Bichat–Claude Bernard Hospital; Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou; Bicêtre Hospital; Beaujon Hospital; the Curie Institute; Lariboisière Hospital; Necker–Enfants Malades Hospital; Hôpital Saint-Louis; Hôpital de la Charité; and the American Hospital of Paris.


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