Paris history

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Tuileries Palace in 1840

The fabulous 20 century Paris history. Roman Lutetia, Middleages Paris, Sun King, French revolution, Napoleon, Eiffel Tower and 1889 world exhibition. Many churches, monasteries and old districts have been destroyed during the French Revolution and the Haussman redesign time. But, unlike many european cities, the city of lights has been preserved from massive destructions during the 20th century World Wars. The history of Paris greatly helps understand the city today.

Paris history in roman times

Lutecia, as the city was then called, became Roman in 52 BC (before Christ). Lutecia was a prosperous town of about 8 000 inhabitants (picture) until 280 when Lutecia was first destroyed by barbarians. During the roman times, Lyon was the capital of France, then named the Gaul. The only noticeable remains of these times are the Roman Baths in Musee de Cluny, the museum of middleages (web site, Paris map) and the Lutecia Arenas (Paris map). The greatest Roman monuments in France are the Pont du Gard, the Nimes Arenas, the Orange Theater.

Paris history: Cluny roman baths
Cluny roman baths date back to around 100 A.C

Paris history in the Middle Ages

With 200 000 inhabitants in 1328, Paris, then the capital of France, was the most populous city of Europe. By comparison, London in 1300 had 80 000 inhabitants.

Until 1358, the french Kings had their Palace in La Conciergerie on Ile de la Cite. They then moved to the Louvre, a fortress at the time. Faithfull Parisians had already built Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle, Saint Germain des Pres, Saint Denis. The Sorbonne was established since 1253 as a famous european university.

The house of Nicolas Flamel, at 52, rue de Montmorency, is the oldest in the city. It was built in 1407 by Nicolas Flamel a scrivener and an alchemist who claimed that he had made the Philosopher's Stone which turns lead into gold, and that he and his wife Pernelle had achieved immortality. The ground floor now houses the Auberge Nicolas Flamel.

See the city in 1380, the city in 1500 or download the fabulous 1550 city plan with many monuments visible today.

The House of Nicolas Flamel (1407) is the oldest in Paris
The House of Nicolas Flamel (1407) is the oldest in Paris

Paris history in XVIIth century

With 400 000 inhabitants, the city was the most populous in the world. Under King Louis XIV (picture), Paris extended herself to Le Marais and Les Invalides. Louis XIV built the splendid Versailles Palace near Paris as the testimony of his glory and power. Paris became the prominent european city for luxury, fashion, fine food and wine. She still is.

Check Versailles history. Download interesting 1615 city view and recognize many monuments of today.

The Hall of Mirrors in Versailles Palace
The Hall of Mirrors in XVIIth century Versailles Palace

Paris history - 1789 and Napoleon

The city counted 650 000 inhabitants. The French revolution started on July 14th with the taking of La Bastille prison which was then demolished. It lead to the fall of the monarchy in 1792, new liberties for the French people, but also wars, mass executions and the beheading of King Louis XVI on Place de la Concorde in 1793.

In 1806, Napoleon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe at the top end of the Champs Elysees. Arc de Triomphe facts

Taking of the Bastille prison on July 14th 1789
Taking of the Bastille prison on July 14th 1789

The history of the Eiffel Tower

In 1866, the city counted 1 600 000 inhabitants. The rapid rise of population led Baron Haussman to undertake massive town planning between 1852 and 1870, cutting across old districts to create large boulevards such as Boulevard Haussman, Boulevard Saint Michel and Avenue de l'Opera. Construction of 5 storey apartment buildings was feverish until WW1. The train stations, Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Opera Garnier are legacies of that time.

The Eiffel Tower was designed for the 1889 world exhibition to celebrate the progress of technology. She was built in just two years by 132 workers and 50 engineers. The Tower was much criticized by Parisians when she was built. The Eiffel Tower was planned to be demolished in 1909. She was saved at the very last moment as she could be turned into a telecommunication tower. With 7 millon visitors yearly, this iconic monument fully pays for itself.She was the world's tallest building until 1930.Eiffel tower facts and history.

Paris history: construction of Eiffel Tower
Paris history: construction of Eiffel Tower

Paris history - 1900 to 1914

The grand Palais, Orsay Museum and Pont Alexandre III are legacies of the 1900 world exhibition. In 1900, metro line 1 was opened. Most Paris metro lines of today were completed before WW1. Their Guimard Art Nouveau entrances are famous and still visible. Paris metro facts.

The Sacre Coeur Basilica was built between 1876 and 1914 in Montmartre, then the heart of modern art in the world with Picasso, Monet, Modigliani, Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec.

A Paris metro entrance
The Art nouveau metro entrances are world famous

Paris history today

Paris has 2.275 million inhabitants (last census in 2011). She is the core of Grand Paris Metropolitan Area (7,2 million inhabitants) and Ile de France region (11.9 million people).

The Centre Pompidou, La Defense business district, Charles de Gaulle Paris Airport, the Stade de France, Quai Branly Museum and Fondation Louis Vuitton are major contemporary additions to the beauty of the city of lights.

More Paris facts.

La Defense Business District
La Defense is Europe's largest business district
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