Paris is the largest and most important French city. It is the capital of the country, and the center of industry, business, fashion, and entertainment.
Over 10 million people live in Paris and its suburbs.
The original city was built on an island in the middle of the River Seine. The island became known as the Ile de la Cité (City Island). Paris gets its name from a Celtic tribe, the Parisii. They settled here on the island. Later, the Romans built a city and called it Lutecia, which means “City of Lights” in Latin.
During the twelfth century, the beautiful Notre-Dame cathedral was built on the island. Distances from Paris to all towns in France are measured from Notre-Dame cathedral.
The Arc de Triomphe was built to celebrate Napoleon’s victories. Twelve avenues lead from it in a star shape.
The Champs-Elysées is the most famous street in Paris. There are movie theaters, restaurants, and shops at one end. Further down, there are parks on each side leading to the Place de la Concorde, where many people were guillotined during the Revolution, including Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. In the center of the place stands a stone pillar called an obelisk. Napoleon brought it from Egypt.
Le Louvre was once a royal palace. Since the Revolution, it has been a museum. A large glass pyramid stands in the courtyard in front of the museum. The Mona Lisa is a famous painting that is in the Louvre.
Montmartre is an area of narrow, cobbled streets. Famous artists such as Picasso and Renoir used to paint there. Artists still crowd the area. In the Place du Tertre, you can have your portrait drawn in a few minutes. The Sacré-Coeur is located at the top of the Montmartre hill and offers a splendid view of Paris.
The Pompidou Center is a museum and art gallery. Over the outside of the building run pipes for water, air and electricity, and escalators.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower turns 125 years old on March 31st, 2014. It was inaugurated for the 1889 World Fair in Paris. It is now the most visited paid monument in the world and around seven million people climb its stairs or take the elevators to one of its three levels each year. It is opened 365 days a year including Christmas.
14 Fun Facts:
1. Two years, two months and five days – that’s how long it took to build the Eiffel Tower, starting in 1887.
2. 7,799,401.31 – the cost in French Gold Francs to build the monument (currency in the 1880’s)
3. 324 meters (1,063 feet) – the height of the Eiffel Tower, including the antenna at the top. 300 meters without the antenna.
4. Six inches (15 cm) – That’s how much the tower grows or shrink with temperature fluctuations. It grows with heat and shrinks with cold.
5. 10,000 tons – the weight of the Iron Lady (La Dame de Fer)
6. 20 years – That is how long it was designed to last by Gustave Eiffel. It was built to commemorate the French Revolution and show off France’s industrial might.
7. 103,000 kilometers – The distance that one lift travels each year, which corresponds to two and a half the circumference of the earth.
8. 18 – the number of times, the Eiffel Tower has been repainted over the years. It takes 60 tons of paint to paint it. The tower undergoes a paint job every seven years.
9. 41 years – the amount of years the Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world, before the Chrysler Building was built in New York.
10. 250 million – The number of people who have visited the Eiffel Tower.
11. 1944 – The year Hitler ordered the German military governor of France to tear it down. Luckily he refused.
12. Six to seven meters – The distance the tower sways in the wind.
13. 72 – Eiffel paid homage to the great French men of science by engraving the names of 72 scientists, engineers and mathematicians on the four sides of the tower.
14. 20,000 – the nightly 5-minute light show, which begins on the hour every hour from nightfall until 1am requires 20,000 light bulbs.