Fun Facts about Paris
What is unique about Paris city?
I listed few of the many surprising facts about Paris, hand-picked from its local daily life, from Art shows, from Paris long history.
The Bakery Challenge
Every year, a bakery in Paris gets an award for making the best baguette in Paris of the year. The winners will deliver fresh baguettes to the French President at the Elysee Palace for a year.
The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building
Until 1931, the Eiffel Tower, 324 meters, was the tallest building in the world.
Before the Eiffel Tower existed, we didn't build higher buildings than the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt = 139 meters until 1889.
Today, the Eiffel Tower is not even in the top 10 of the highest buildings in the world - Burj Khalifa is 828 meter high.
The Eiffel Tower was meant to be temporary, built for the 1889 World Fair in Paris, the iron lady was not dismantled in 1909, as it was originally planned.
It stayed up thanks to its useful antenna.
Today she is the symbol of Paris!
The Small Rats of the Opera
Did you know that the young pupils of the prestigious National Ballet school are called “small rats“?
That is because when the school first started, the ballet classes were in an attic. And in that time people used to keep their groceries in attics so the rats lived there as well.
When standing in a room under the attic the sound of the children's feet dancing has the same impression as the rats running around the groceries. Hence the name.
Paris has a twin sister
Paris city is twinned with Rome, and only with Rome.
While other major world capitals are twinned with several cities (New York for example, which has 13 twin cities, including Madrid, London or Cairo), Paris and Rome are the only ones to have an exclusive love.
A pact signed in 1956 in the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall of Paris). The mayors still visit each other until today.
“Only Paris is worthy of Rome; and only Rome is worthy of Paris”
For a few years there have been several bee hives installed in Paris. One of them is on the roof of the Opera house, another on top of the Meurice hotel and a third in the Luxembourg gardens. You can purchase the honey only if you are fast and lucky, the jars are sold out very quickly.
Until a few years ago, the job of giving parking tickets was held by women dressed in dark purple uniforms. They were the most unpopular women of Paris.
The city and the Parisians called them eggplants because of the color of their uniform.
Streets made of Wood
The streets of Paris are covered with asphalt or stone boulders like all European cities.
Until the 1960-s, the large boulevards were actually covered with wooden tree trunks.
Parisians over 65 can still remember the particular, loud noise it made when buses and cars drove over them, which is the reason why they disappeared.
Paris was protected by 7 different city walls
Did you know that in the 2400 years of the existence of Paris, the city had built 7 different concentric city fortification walls?
During its evolution, Paris was a commerce port on the Seine river and she was repeatedly attacked.
When walking through the city you can still see remains of two walls from the middle ages and two toll houses that were part of the last city wall, built in the 1700-s.
History facts and events
In a nutshell, what made Paris, Paris !
52 BC - From a prosperous tribe to a Roman City
Paris, the capital city of France traces its history as far back as 3rd century BC when Parisii (a Celtic Gauls’ tribe) built a fortified settlement on the banks of the River, La Seine.
52 BC was a culmination of centuries of conflict, when Romans conquered the Parisii occupied fishermen village. The Romans consequently established Lutetia.
Lutetia grew up to be a successful city with theatres and religious establishments such as temples and amphitheaters.
Saint Denis, the pioneer Bishop of Paris introduced Christianity in the 2nd century AD.
In the 4th century AD, Frankish King Clovis (Clovis will become Louis) renamed Lutetia to Paris after the native tribe of Parisii.
We believe the Parisii were a thriving tribe on the banks of the River Seine.
The arrival of Franks in the 5th century AD heralded the end of the Roman rule. Paris flourished in prosperity under the Franks’ domination.
508 AD - Paris is a Capital for the First Time
The Merovingian dynasty first ruler, Clovis the Frank made Paris his capital city in 508 AD. This led to a period of gradual migration by Franks to the capital city of Paris. Consequently, the massive settlement of the Franks in Paris marked the birth of the Parisian Francien dialects.
The Vikings invaded Paris in 845. The French King offered to pay the Vikings a sum of 7000 pounds of silver in consideration for them to leave Paris.
1200 AD - Paris starts attracting tourists
With its commerce on the banks of the river, and its administrative power, Paris grew at a rapid rate in the middle ages : The population rose to 200,000, a remarkable number at the time and therefore, King Philippe built a wall surrounding Paris between 1180 and 1223.
To guard the city, he built the Louvre as military fortress.
Medieval Paris became a busy inland port with a beehive of goods coming in and going out from its wharves.
1238 Louis IX built the Sainte Chapelle, the most beautiful Church of Paris, a Gothic masterpiece that we can still visit today!
Towards the end of the 12th century, many people flocked to the city to admire the Chapelle, its relics, its icons, its stained glass and miraculous architecture.
Paris had transformed into a hub for Gothic Art and writing manuscripts. It slowly grew to a political, educational, religious and cultural hub of Europe.
For instance, in 1150, the King founded the University of Paris that brought a growing number of scholars, which exemplified the educational tag of the city to the outside world scientists. Now we know this University as the Sorbonne where I did my studies.
Paris opened the Cathedral de Notre Dame in 1345, although the construction began in 1163. The Louvre transformed into a fairy tale caste.
By this and many other achievements in Art and Architecture, Paris solidified its position as the most beautiful city in Europe and started to attract tourists in the 15th century.
1500 AD - Paris is the largest of Europe
Paris recovered from a War at the beginning of the renaissance period but she catches up with Italy and its Cultural, artistic, economic and political rebirth, shedding some light into the darkness of the middle Ages.
King Francois move his court to Paris, the Louvre in 1528 and once again, Paris is a capital, that is going to flourish.
Paris passed its keys to many kings and queens such as the Medici's, a Queen who came from Florence, a Patron of Arts, who developed Paris and built the Palais de Luxembourg and the Palais des Tuilleries. She made Paris more feminine and more beautiful.
The construction of great buildings continued in Paris in the 17th century under the kings.
Paris went through many political turmoils that lead the king Louis XIV to relocate his court to Versailles palace in 1682.
In the late eighteenth century, Parisian locals staged the French Revolution in the summer of 1789... In 1799, Napoleon became France Ruler. He built the bridges and imposing monuments. He gave the Louvre its fame as an Art Museum.
After the French Revolution, many Parisian chefs (cookers) had no employers. So they, used the ground floor to host dinners and sell their services as cookers for the night, and this created a new business model : The Restaurant.
Eventhough the café culture started with the importation of Coffee to Paris, many Cafés started their business because people became more free to go out and gather. They enjoyed hanging out in Salons to discuss big ideas for the future of their country.
This era brought forward the Enlightenment Ideas : Human rights, Freedom of Speech, use of Reason, Scientific knowledge... and Star philosophers : Voltaire, Rousseau, Chatelet, Diderot.
They were no longer secret discussions but overt debates.
This era also brought us the Industrial Revolution.
1889 - World fair in Paris attracted millions
The Industrial Revolution, which took shape in the mid-nineteenth century in France started to transform Paris into an industrial hub. Paris experienced rapid growth.
Paris went through a period of happiness and parties called la Belle Epoque before WWI.
In the aftermath of the war, Paris rose to prosperity again. However, during the Second World War, Paris fell to the Nazi Germany on the 14th of June 1940. Then, the defeat of the Germans by the Allied led to the reclamation of Paris in August 1944.
Paris experienced another wave of prosperity in the late 20th century marked by the erection of buildings such as Tour Montparnasse in 1973 and Pompidou Center in 1977 and Les Quatre Temps Shopping Mall in 1981. In the 21st century, Paris has enjoyed massive growth and infrastructural development with the establishment of stores Beaugrenelle Shopping Mall in 2013.
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