There are many notable and surprising facts about Paris, France. Here is a list of 20 facts that maybe you didn’t know!
Why is Paris called the City of Lights?
Paris was one of the first cities to have city lighting. Lanterns were used widely on street corners in the 17th century to cut down on crime. This innovative trend continued. Gas lighting was introduced in the 1850s in some of the Galerie shopping establishments. One can say that the spirit of illumination was a strong element in the French mindset, as artistic, philosophical, and technological achievements show in history.
How did Paris get its name?
From its first residents, the Parisii tribe, a Celtic people group who lived on the larger island in the Seine in the 3rd century B. C. (yes, Paris is OLD) when that’s all there was. The first name for Paris was Lutèce or Lutetia.
What is the oldest neighborhood in Paris?
Although the Ile de la Cite was there before anything else (see above), the fifth arrondissement, or what we now call the Latin Quarter, is the next oldest. It was built by the Romans and even today you can see Paris’ oldest monument, the Arena. In the arena, which is open to the public and free to visit, you can see what remains of bleachers and doors where animals were brought out. Le Marais is also a very old neighborhood in the 4th arrondissement.
Is the crime rate lower in London or Paris? Paris has a lower crime rate than either New York or London. London is also about 20% more expensive than Paris (but the salaries are higher.)New York is also more expensive than Paris.
What was Coco Chanel’s real name? Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. (Bonheur means happiness.)
15 More surprising facts about Paris
- There are 3 statues of liberty in Paris. The American Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. (Some reports say as many as 10 statues of liberty throughout the city!)
- Speaking of gifts, Egypt gave the Obelisk of Place de la Concorde as a gift to
France. It is a functioning sundial of about 70 feet in height and you can even see Roman numerals marking the pavement.
- The first public viewing of a movie was made possible in 1885 by the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis (There’s a metro stop named after them.) The first photograph of a person was taken in Paris by Louis Daguerre (there’s a pedestrian street named after him!)
- The oldest café in Paris is the Procope and dates from 1686. It was a hangout for Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire, among other notables. It still functions today.
- France has over 1000 kinds of cheese.
- The population of Paris is 2.2 million. In its suburbs dwells another 8 or so million people.
- Paris has over 450 parks and green spaces and 470,000 trees!
- A tale of two bridges… The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris. Ironically, it means “new” bridge, but back then, it was the newest. Then there’s the Pont des Arts, where people used to put locks. Finally, they had to remove all of the locks
since they were damaging the bridge. What a shame . . . C’est dommage! (and damage!)
- The French Army was the very first to use camouflage in 1915 during World War I. It caught on and was the norm for other countries in subsequent wars.
- The Eiffel Tower was created for the 1889 World Fair and was supposed to be dismantled after 20 years. It’s been used as a radio tower, but now is one of the biggest revenue-producing monuments in France. When it was built, people didn’t like it and the media called it a “monstrosity.”
- There are several places in Paris where many lost their lives at the guillotine during the French Revolution. One of these is Place de la Concorde and another is Place de la Nation. Nearby the latter is the Cemetery of Picpus, where many of the victims are buried.
- The Notre Dame Cathedral receives more visitors than the Eiffel Tower. The bell in the cathedral weighs 13 tons. It isn’t run routinely, just on annual holidays (Easter, Christmas) and to commemorate important events, such as the death of Pope John Paul II.
- 14 of the 400 metro stations are never used. They are abandoned, closed. One of these is Porte des Lilas, where I used to live and I used it daily. Over 5 million people per day use the metro. (pre-Corona figures…)
- The oldest house in Paris dates from 1407 at 51 rue de Montmorency, 3rd
- French is the second most-studied language in the world. (Check out the second edition of Real French for Travelers!)