Paris city of lights
The French capital, resplendant in its prestige, architecture and cultural importance, never ceases to appeal and fascinate.
It's difficult, nigh on impossible, to describe in a few lines a city which enjoys one of the world’s most flattering reputations. Its rich past and flourishing cultural life make Paris one of the world’s most visited cities - nearly 20 million visitors a year. From a plain camp in Pre-history to a Gallic settlement of the Parisii tribe, who gave the city its name, it was invaded by the Romans in the 1st Century BC and renamed Lutèce, becoming the capital of the French kingdom in 508 under Clovis. Since then its development has followed the ups and downs of the country’s history: the French Revolution broke out there in 1789, Napoléon III and baron Haussmann carved out its present form under the Second Empire, the Commune uprising was put down in 1871, the Eiffel Tower constructed in 1889 as part of the universal exposition.
A world economic motor
The 20th Century was the period of its main economic and demographic growth. Although ranked only 20th in the world in terms of population, Paris and its surrounding Ile-de-France region constitute one of the world’s prime economic engines with a GNP of almost 430 billion euros in 2003, more than either Brazil or Russia. With 5.3 million jobs, of which almost 84% are in the services sector, Europe’s biggest business centre, La Défense and an economy measuring 29% of French GNP, Paris is very difficult to ignore.
But what sets Paris apart from other capitals is its cultural life. The monuments seem never-ending - the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe or Notre-Dame cathedral are the most prestigious. No fewer than 150 museums, the famous Louvre among them, bare witness to the cultural and artistic vitality, while the worlds of fashion, luxury goods, gastronomy and night life have all found a home there. In 2007 Paris will be crowned the capital of rugby.