Paris History and Facts
the capital of France, is located in northern France on both
banks of the Seine River, 145 km (90 mi) from the river's mouth
on the English Channel. A total of 2,135,300 (2002) inhabitants
live in Paris proper, and almost 11 million persons (1999) live
in greater Paris (the Ile-de-France region), which is one of
Europe's largest metropolitan areas. A city of world importance
and the business, historic, intellectual, diplomatic, religious,
educational, artistic, and tourist center of France, Paris owes
its prosperity in large part to its favorable position on the
Seine, which has been a major commercial artery since the Roman
climate is characterized by a lack of extremes, with an average
temperature of 19 degrees C (66 degrees F) in July and 3 degrees
C (37 degrees F) in January. The 585 mm (23 in) of precipitation
is well distributed throughout the year, often in the form of a
has been one of the major cities of Europe since the Middle
Ages, but the development of the city as it exists today
occurred in the second half of the 19th century. Its greatest
growth came during a 40-year period after 1850, when the
population doubled in size to more than 2 million; it reached a
peak in 1921 (2,906,500), after which people began migrating
away from the city. Since then, as homes have been replaced by
offices in Paris proper, most of the growth has occurred in the
suburbs, where a large portion of the blue-collar work force
lives. Of a total of 2 million commuters, about half travel
daily from the outlying areas to the city center, and half
travel from central Paris to the suburbs.
economic activities of Paris overshadow those of any other part
of France in importance and complexity. About 65 percent of the
nation's bank and corporate headquarters are in the city. Much
of the industry in central Paris is of the small-scale craft
type, based on skill and most often family owned. Many of these
industries make luxury items such as perfumes, furs, gloves,
jewelry, toys, clothing, wooden articles, and other high-value
printing and publishing are major activities in central Paris.
Heavier industries are situated in the suburbs. These include
the manufacture of automobiles, machine tools, railroad rolling
stock, electric and electronic products, chemicals, and
processed foods. Construction and the production of building
materials are also important. Tourism, however, is by far the
city's largest source of income; it is one of Europe's leading
is divided into 20 unequally sized arrondissements, or
districts, each with its own mayor. Each of these is again
divided into four sections. Two prefects and a mayor administer
the city as a whole with the assistance of a general council.
"Paris is the
greatest temple ever built to
material joys and the lust of the eyes."
�X Henry James
(1843-1916), U.S. novelist.
is the head of barge and ship navigation on the Seine and is the
fourth most important port in France (after Marseille, Le Havre,
and Dunkerque). The Loire, Rhine, Rhône, Meuse, and Scheldt
rivers can be reached by canals connecting with the Seine, and a
large amount of the imports and exports of the city are
transported via water. Total freight carried to and from the
port annually amounts to 43 million U.S. tons. Paris is also a
major rail, highway, and air transportation hub. Two
Orly and Charles de Gaulle, as well as Le Bourget (for
domestic flights), serve the city. De Gaulle ranks as the fifth
busiest international airport in the world and Orly as the
city's subway system, the Métro, was opened on July 19, 1900,
its first line being from Porte de Vincennes to Porte Maillot.
Engineer Fulgence Bienvenüe oversaw the construction phase,
while architect Hector Guimard designed the decorative Art
Nouveau entrances. The system boasts 199 km (124 miles) of track
and 15 lines. There are 368 stations (not including RER
stations), 87 of these being interchanges between lines. A total
of 3500 cars transport roughly 6 million people per day, while
the system itself employs 15,000 employees (1989 statistics).
Every building in Paris is within 500 meters (3/10 mile) of a
métro station. The Réseau Express Régional (RER),
inaugurated in the 1960s, connects the city with its outlying
time I see Paris will be on the day I die.
The city was inexhaustible, and so is its memory."
�X Elliot Harold
Paul (1891-1958), U.S. author.