Paris is the capital and largest city of France. Located on the Seine in the country's north, it is a major cultural and political centre of Europe.
Its eponym, "the City of Lights" (la Ville Lumière), dates from 1828 when it became the first city in Europe to light its main boulevards with gas street lamps, specifically the Champs-Élysées. The city of Paris is also widely referred to as the "most romantic city in the world."
As a cultural and political centre for Europe since the early Middle Ages, Paris preserves many vestiges of its past. While hosting numerous art galleries, museums and theatres, it has grown into a significant centre of international trade with ever-growing modern business districts, including La Défense, the de facto city centre built for the purpose. In addition to the head offices of nearly half of all France's companies and the offices of many major international firms, Paris hosts the headquarters of many international trade and social organisations, including the OECD and UNESCO.
The city of Paris, within its administrative limits, has an estimated 2004 population of 2,144,700, but, over the last century, the city has grown well beyond its administrative boundaries. Consequently, the population of Paris urban area (the contiguous built-up area) was estimated at 9.9 million in 2005, and the population of Paris metropolitan area (also including satellite cities) was estimated at 11.6 million people in 2006.
The Île-de-France région, of which Paris is the capital, produces over a quarter of France's wealth, with a GDP of nearly €450 billion.
Because of its cultural, financial, business, political, and touristic activities, Paris today is one of the world's major destinations. Along with New York, London and Tokyo, it is often listed as one of the four major global cities.
The Place de la Concorde was designed by Jacques Ange Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Gardens to the east. Filled with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the then king. The Place was showcasing an equestrian statue of the king, which had been commissioned in 1748 by the city of Paris, sculpted mostly by Edmé Bouchardon, and completed by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after the death of the former.
At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Divided by the rue Royale, these structures are among the best examples of that period's architecture and remain there to this day. (more...)
View from the stairs above the second level of the Eiffel Tower
Did you know that it isn't the wind that is the greatest and most constant mover of the Eiffel Tower, but the sun?
Metal expands when heated, and on clear days the sun makes the iron girders exposed directly to its glare grow enough to make the tower lean 6-18 cm away from it. The tower of course returns to its neutral vertical state after sunset.
The wind has never made the tower oscillate more than 18 cm, and that was during a 169.2 km/h gale measured during the storm which swept across Central Europe on 26 December 1999.
A closeup of Eiffel Tower, Paris, taken from underneath the tower.