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Paris - Europe
Me2Desi Travel Information
Paris is the capital of France and the country's largest city. It is situated on the River Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region (also known as the "Paris Region"; French: Région parisienne). The city of Paris within its administrative limits (largely unchanged since 1860) has an estimated population of 2,167,994 (January 2006). The Paris unité urbaine (or urban area) extends well beyond the administrative city limits and has an estimated population of 9.93 million (in 2005). The Paris aire urbaine (or metropolitan area) has a population of nearly 12 million, and is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe. An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. According to 2005 estimates by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm, the Paris urban area is Europe's biggest city economy, and is fifth in the world's list of cities by GDP. The Paris Region, with €500.8 billion (US$628.9 billion), produced more than a quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP) of France in 2006. The Paris Region hosts 37 of the Fortune Global 500 companies in several business districts, notably La Défense, the largest purpose-built business district in Europe. Paris also hosts many international organizations such as UNESCO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the informal Paris Club. Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with over 30 million foreign visitors per year. There are numerous iconic landmarks among its many attractions, along with world-famous institutions and popular parks. "Modern" Paris is the result of a vast mid-19th century urban remodelling. For centuries the city had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, but beginning in 1852, the Baron Haussmann's vast urbanisation levelled entire quarters to make way for wide avenues lined with neo-classical stone buildings of bourgeoise standing; most of this 'new' Paris is the Paris we see today. These Second Empire plans are in many cases still applied today, as the city of Paris is still imposing the then-defined "alignement" law (building facades placed according to a pre-defined street width) on many new constructions. A building's height was also defined according to the width of the street it lines, and Paris' building code has seen few changes since the mid-19th century to allow for higher constructions. It is for this reason that Paris is mainly a "flat" city.

Three of the most famous Parisian landmarks are the twelfth century cathedral Notre Dame de Paris on the Île de la Cité, the nineteenth century Eiffel Tower, and the Napoleonic Arc de Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower was a "temporary" construction by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Universal Exposition but the tower was never dismantled and is now an enduring symbol of Paris. The 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 further west to the La Défense business district dominated by 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 des 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. Paris has always been a destination for traders, students and those on religious pilgrimages, but its 'tourist industry' began on a large scale only with the appearance of rail travel, namely from state organisation of France's rail network from 1848. Among Paris' first mass attractions drawing international interest were, from 1855, the above-mentioned Expositions Universelles that would bring Paris many new monuments, namely the Eiffel Tower from 1889. These, in addition to the capital's Second Empire embellishments, did much to make the city itself the attraction it is today. Paris' museums and monuments are among its highest-esteemed attractions; tourism has motivated both the city and national governments to create new ones. The city's most prized museum, the Louvre, welcomes over 8 million visitors a year, being by far the world's most visited art museum. The city's cathedrals are another main attraction: its Notre Dame de Paris and the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur receive 12 million and eight million visitors respectively. The Eiffel Tower, by far Paris' most famous monument, averages over six million visitors per year and more than 200 millions since its construction. Disneyland Resort Paris is a major tourist attraction not only for visitors to Paris, but to Europe as well, with 14.5 million visitors in 2007.

The role of Paris as an international trade centre has caused its transportation system to develop considerably throughout history, and it continues its growth at a fast pace today. The public transit networks of the Paris region are coordinated by the Syndicat des transports d'Île-de-France (STIF), formerly Syndicat des transports parisiens (STP). The members of this syndicate are the Ile-de-France region and the eight departments of this region. The syndicate coordinates public transport and contracts it out to the RATP (operating 654 bus lines, the Métro, three tramway lines, and sections of the RER), the SNCF (operating suburban rails, a tramway line and the other sections of the RER) and the Optile consortium of private operators managing 1,070 minor bus lines. The Métro is Paris' most important transportation system. The system, with 300 stations (384 stops) connected by 214 km (133.0 mi) of rails, comprises 16 lines, identified by numbers from 1 to 14, with two minor lines, 3bis and 7bis, so numbered because they used to be branches of their respective original lines, and only later became independent. In October 1998, the new line 14 was inaugurated after a 70-year hiatus in inaugurating fully new métro lines. Because of the short distance between stations on the Métro network, lines were too slow to be extended further into the suburbs as is the case in most other cities. As such, an additional express network, the RER, has been created since the 1960s to connect more distant parts of the urban area. The RER consists in the integration of modern city-centre subway and pre-existing suburban rail. Nowadays, the RER network comprises 5 lines, 257 stops and 587 km (365 mi) of rails.
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