10 Fascinating Facts About Paris

Paris is the world capital of culture, art and fashion, but there are also far lesser-known, yet fascinating facts about this iconic city

Paris is among the most visited cities in the world. The French Capital is the home of numerous parks, monuments, palaces, museums and restaurants. Paris has had a long and turbulent history, steeped in violence and grandeur.

The city is crowded with tourists from all over the globe, but Paris still holds many secrets. In this article, we will present you with some of the fascinating facts about the ‘City of Light’.

jardin-du-luxembourg-view
View of the Luxembourg Park in Paris

The City Derives its Name From An Ancient Celtic Tribe

According to historical records, Paris owes its name to an ancient Celtic tribe – the Parisii – that inhabited the area around modern Paris.

After the Roman conquest in 52BC, the city was called Lutetia Parisiourm.

'La Fontain des Innocents' stands on the site of the medieval Innocents Cemetery
‘La Fontain des Innocents’ stands on the site of the medieval Innocents Cemetery

The Modern City Center Was Once a Large Cemetery

What is now the city center, was once the site of a huge medieval cemetery, called the ‘Holy Innocents Cemetery’. During medieval times, the dead were buried in the very center of the city, rather than on the periphery.

The Holy Innocents Cemetery was so overused that its mass graves had become a source of disease. Some years prior to the French Revolution, the cemetery was closed and the bones of the dead exhumed and transported to the catacombs, today known as the ‘Paris Catacombs’.

The Pantheon in Paris
The Pantheon in Paris

All The Trees In Paris Are Carefully Measured

There are around 470,000 trees in Paris. They all need to be referenced and measured.

View of the Les Invalides
View of the Les Invalides

Paris and Rome Are Exclusive Sister Cities

Although Paris is twined with other cities, there is an expression in both French and Italian:

Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.

The Louvre Was Evacuated At the Start of WWII

Under the threat of Nazi invasion of France in the autumn of 1939, many of the most famous works of art in the Louvre were evacuated to various locations in France.

At the end of the war in 1945, Hitler had ordered the German commander of the city to burn it, but he disobeyed the order and likely saved Paris from destruction and the city survived the war largely intact.

Paris Once Had A Human Zoo

Paris was just one of several large European cities that used to display humans – usually Africans and other peoples from South Asia and the Pacific – in zoos. Paris’ human zoo was named ‘Exposition Coloniale’. Most of the people in the zoo were brought from French colonies.

The Luxor Obelisk is Paris’ Oldest Monument

Paris is knows for its many architectural monuments. The famous ‘Luxor Obelisk’ standing on the Place de la Concorde was brought from Egypt to Paris in 1833. The obelisk is over 3,000 years old and once stood outside of the Luxor Temple.

The Luxor Obelisk in Paris
The Luxor Obelisk in Paris

The Paris Meridian Was Once The Prime Meridian

The Paris meridian running through Paris was once a major contender for the title of the Prime meridian until the Greenwich meridian was finally adopted as the Prime meridian in 1884.

Pont Neuf at night
Pont Neuf at night

There Are Over 450 Parks In Paris

The majestic gardens and parks of Paris are spread throughout the city. Some of the most beautiful include Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg and Parc Monceau.

The Paris Metro is Among the Largest Metro Systems in the World

The Paris Métro has 302 stations, making it the world’s 4th largest public transport system.