Paris is the capital and largest city of France. It is situated on the riverSeine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region. The city of Paris, within its administrative limits (the 20arrondissements), has a population of about 2,230,000. Its metropolitan area is one of the largest population centres in Europe, with more than 12 million inhabitants.
An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris had become, by the 12th century, one of Europe's foremost centres of learning and the arts and the largest city in the Western world until the turn of the 18th century. Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.
Paris and the Paris region, with €572.4 billion in 2010, produce more than a quarter of the gross domestic product of France and has one of the largest city GDPs in the world. Considered as green and highly liveable, the city and its region are the world's leading tourism destination. They house four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and many international organisations.
HISTORY - ORIGINS
The earliest archaeological signs of permanent settlements in the Paris area date from around 4200 BC. The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the area near the river Seine from around 250 BC. The Romans conquered the Paris basin in 52 BC, with a permanent settlement by the end of the same century on the Left Bank Sainte Geneviève Hill and the Île de la Cité. The Gallo-Roman town was originally called Lutetia, or Lutetia Parisorum but later Gallicised toLutèce. It expanded greatly over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre.
The collapse of the Roman empire and the 5th-century Germanic invasions sent the city into a period of decline. By AD 400, Lutèce, largely abandoned by its inhabitants, was little more than a garrison town entrenched into a hastily fortified central island. The city reclaimed its original appellation of "Paris" towards the end of the Roman occupation, around 360 AD.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
A century later, Paris was the centre stage for the French Revolution. On 14 July 1789, Parisians appalled by the King’s pressure on thenew assembly formed by the Third Estate, took siege of the Bastille fortress, a symbol of absolutism. This event is considered to be the start of the revolution and the decline of the divine right of monarchs in France. Jean-Sylvain Bailly, the first Mayor, was elected on 15 July 1789, and two days later the national tricolour flag with the colors of Paris (blue and red) and of the King (white) was adopted at the Hôtel de Ville by Louis XVI. The Republic was declared for the first time in 1792. In 1793, Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinettewere executed on the Place de la Révolution, in Paris, the site of many executions. The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed. Following the Terror, the French Directoryheld control until it was overthrown in a coup d'état by Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon put an end to the Revolution and establishedFrench Consulate, and then later was elected by plebscite as emperor of the First French Empire.
Much of contemporary Paris is the result of the vast mid-19th century urban remodelling. For centuries, the city had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, but, beginning with Haussman's advent, entire quarters were leveled to make way for wide avenues lined with neo-classical stone buildings of bourgeoisie standing. Most of this 'new' Paris is the Paris we see today.
The building code has seen few changes since, and the Second Empire plans are in many cases still followed. The "alignement" law is still in place, which regulates building façades of new constructions according to a pre-defined street width. A building's height is limited according to the width of the streets it borders, and under the regulation, it is difficult to get an approval to build a taller building.
Many of Paris' important institutions are located outside the city limits. The financial (La Défense) business district; the main food wholesale market (Rungis); schools (École Polytechnique; ESSEC; INSEAD; HEC); research laboratories (in Saclay or Évry); the largest stadium (the Stade de France), and the government offices (Ministry of Transportation) are located in the city's suburbs.
MONUMENTS AND LANDMARKS
Three of the most famous Parisian landmarks are the 12th-century cathedral Notre Dame de Paris on the Île de la Cité, the NapoleonicArc de Triomphe and the 19th-century Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was a "temporary" construction by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889Universal Exposition, but the tower was never dismantled and is now an enduring symbol of Paris. The Axe historique (Historical axis) is a line of monuments, buildings, and thoroughfares that run in a roughly straight line from the city-centre westwards.
The line of monuments begins with the Louvre and continues through the Tuileries Gardens, the Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe, centred in the Place de l'Étoile circus. From the 1960s, the line was prolonged even farther west to the La Défense business district dominated by a square-shaped triumphal Grande Arche of its own; this district hosts most of the tallest skyscrapers in the Paris urban area. The Invalides museum is the burial place for many great French soldiers, including Napoleon; and the Panthéon church is where many of France's illustrious men and women are buried.
The former Conciergerie prison held some prominent Ancien Régime members before their deaths during the French Revolution. Another symbol of the Revolution are the two Statues of Liberty located on the Île aux Cygnes on the Seine and in the Luxembourg Garden. A larger version of the statues was sent as a gift from France to America in 1886 and now stands in New York City's harbour.
The Palais Garnier, built in the later Second Empire period, houses the Paris Opéra and the Paris Opera Ballet, while the former palace of the Louvre now houses one of the most renowned museums in the world. The Sorbonne is the most famous part of the University of Paris and is based in the centre of the Latin Quarter. Apart from Notre Dame de Paris, there are several other ecclesiastical masterpieces, including the Gothic 13th-century Sainte-Chapelle palace chapel and the Église de la Madeleine.
ENTERTAINMENT AND PERFORMING ARTS
The largest opera houses of Paris are the 19th century Opéra Garnier (historical Paris Opéra) and modern Opéra Bastille; the former tends towards the more classic ballets and operas, and the latter provides a mixed repertoire of classic and modern. In middle of 19th century, there were two other active and competing opera houses: Opéra-Comique (which still exists to this day) and Théâtre Lyrique(which in modern times changed its profile and name to Théâtre de la Ville).
Theatre traditionally has occupied a large place in Parisian culture. This still holds true today, and many of its most popular actors today are also stars of French television. Some of Paris' major theatres include Bobino, Théâtre Mogador, and the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse. Some Parisian theatres have also doubled as concert halls. Many of France's greatest musical legends, such as Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Georges Brassens, and Charles Aznavour, found their fame in Parisian concert halls: Legendary yet still-showing examples of these are Le Lido, Bobino, l'Olympia and le Splendid.
The Élysées-Montmartre, much reduced from its original size, is a concert hall today. The New Morning is one of few Parisian clubs still holding jazz concerts, but the same also specialises in "indie" music. In more recent times, the Le Zénith hall in the La Villette district of Paris and a "parc-omnisports" stadium inBercy serve as large-scale rock concert halls.
Several yearly festivals take place in Paris, such as Rock en Seine. Parisians tend to share the same movie-going trends as many of the world's global cities, that is to say with a dominance of Hollywood-generated film entertainment. French cinema comes a close second, with major directors (réalisateurs) such as Claude Lelouch, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Luc Besson, and the more slapstick/popular genre with director Claude Zidi as an example. European and Asian films are also widely shown and appreciated. A specialty of Paris is its very large network of small movie theaters. In a given week, the movie fan has the choice between around 300 old or new movies from all over the world.
Many of Paris' concert/dance halls were transformed into movie theatres when the media became popular beginning in the 1930s. Later, most of the largest cinemas were divided into multiple, smaller rooms: Paris' largest cinema today is by far le Grand Rex theatre with 2,800 seats, whereas other cinemas all have fewer than 1,000 seats. There is now a trend toward modern multiplexes that contain more than 10 or 20 screens.
Antoine Lumière realized, on 28 December 1895, the first projection, with the Cinematograph, in Paris. Philippe Binant realized, on 2 February 2000, the first digital cinema projection in Europe, with the DLP CINEMA technology developed by Texas Instruments, in Paris.