What is life like in Paris, France?


The city on the Seine stands for pulsating life, attracts the artistic bohemian, is the scene of glamorous and gruesome history. Revolution, romanticism, longing and seduction are associated with Paris in equal measure.

The snail of Paris

As in hardly any other country in Western Europe, life in France is focused on the capital. Almost one in five French people lives in Paris. At the beginning of the 21st century, the city had a little over two million inhabitants. In the greater Paris area with the metropolitan areas there are a total of around 12.5 million.

Since 1790 France has been divided into small administrative units, the départements. There are 100 departments and since 1960 there are also 26 regions headed by a regional president. Paris belongs to the Île-de-France region, which has eight departments. It is therefore a city and a department at the same time - by the way, the smallest, because the suburbs belong to other departments.

Paris itself consists of 20 districts, the so-called arrondissements. The residents affectionately call her "l'escargot": the "snail of Paris". Because the numbering takes place in the form of a spiral. The middle of the snail forms the historic city center with the first arrondissement.

Most of the famous buildings, monuments and squares are located in the first arrondissement: for example the Louvre, the Palais Royal or the palace church Sainte-Chapelle. Each arrondissement, which in turn consists of four quarters, not only has its own administration, but also its very own charisma and architecture - a unique charm.

The scene of major historical events

"A city history should not be a national history," writes the author Thankmar von Münchhausen in his Paris book. However, he has to admit: "In the case of Paris, that is easier said than done." The Seine metropolis has always been the scene of the most important events in France; the fortunes of the city influenced the development of the Grande Nation.

A look back at the beginnings: The Celts occupied the Île-de-France region as early as the 3rd millennium BC. The Parisii tribe settled on the city island Île de la Cité. At that time Paris was still called Lutetia; Caesar first mentioned this name in 52 BC.

In ancient times the Romans ruled, in the Middle Ages Paris was the capital of the Frankish Empire and experienced numerous conquests, destruction, catastrophes, but also times of prosperity. In the 12th century, the Notre-Dame Cathedral was built, market halls were built, and Paris got the first city wall. In 1257, with the founding of the Sorbonne, the left bank of the Seine became an intellectual center.

But if you think of historical France and Paris, you have the image of Louis XIV and his heyday of feudal power in mind, which finally ended with the French Revolution in the fall of the Ancien Régime. In Paris, events rolled over. The people - driven by hunger and revolutionary energy - stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Three years later the monarchy was abolished.

After the reign of terror under Robespierre, great political and social upheavals took place, such as the introduction of civil rights or the restructuring of the educational system.

Shine next to Gloria: major Paris projects

Napoleon wanted to transform Paris into the most beautiful metropolis in the world. For his plans he had the Panthéon completed and the symbolic, monumental Arc de Triomphe built. Napoleon, who crowned himself Emperor of the French in Notre-Dame on December 2, 1804, loved power, splendor and grandeur.

The Prefect Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann emulated him: He radically changed the cityscape of Paris in the middle of the 19th century. 20,000 houses and entire neighborhoods had to give way to its swanky boulevards. Under Haussmann, however, new water pipes and an urgently needed sewer system were built.

A century later, the rulers of the Elysée Palace were still striving for glamor and glory. Former President François Mitterrand is said to have said: "You cannot make great politics without great architecture."

Mitterrand immortalized itself with the construction of the Bastille Opera for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989, with the construction of the huge glass pyramid in the Louvre, the gigantic Grande Arche in the modern La Défense office district and the national library, whose four glass towers are open Books should remember. His projects earned the former president the honorable and snappy nickname "Dieu" - God.

Mitterrand surpassed his predecessors by far: Charles de Gaulle had the first modern and monstrous high-rise buildings built at the time, and Georges Pompidou's name stands for the art and culture palace, the Center Pompidou, designed on his initiative. And Giscard d'Estaing had the disused train station on the banks of the Seine converted into the Musée d'Orsay.

They all set an example for posterity. The undisputed landmark of Paris, however, remains the Eiffel Tower. Once insulted as a "diabolical construction", it was completed for the 100th anniversary of the revolution and for the 1889 World's Fair.

Museums and metro, cafés and cinema: Parisian diversity

Paris is always a way of life. This includes, for example, the café culture. You can sit down for a café au lait and a croissant on almost every street corner. Some cafes have even achieved legendary reputations.

Ernest Hemingway wrote his short stories in the "Closerie des Lilas". Jean-Paul Sartre debated in the "Café de Flore". Oscar Wilde had breakfast at "Deux Magots". And the café "Deux Moulins" on Montmartre became famous through the film fairy tale "The fabulous world of Amélie".

You should definitely not move in Paris by car, the city suffocates from traffic. That's what the Métro is for. Allegedly, Paris has the densest underground network in the world. No house is further than 500 meters from a bus stop.

But the metro is more than a means of transport. It is also a kind of cultural center. In the corridors, statues invite visitors to visit museums, artists show small performances, musicians play the flute or saxophone.

Furthermore, the typical booksellers' stalls (bouquinistes) with their used and antiquarian books shape the cityscape, the painters reside on the Place du Tertre on Montmartre. Even if critics say that the Champs-Elysées is losing more and more flair, it remains an experience that belongs to every visit to Paris: strolling from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.

Paris is diversity: there are more than 100 museums, numerous cinemas, tradition alongside modernity. The writer Julien Green said: "When I was a child I often wondered how it is possible that the simple name Paris could refer to so many different things."