Paris history covers 2000 fabulous years: Roman Lutetia, Middle Ages Paris, Sun King, French revolution, Napoléon, Eiffel Tower, 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 has been preserved from massive destructions during the 20th century World Wars. The history of Paris greatly helps understand the city today. Paris facts.
Lutetia, as the city was then called, became Roman in 52 BC (before Christ). Lutetia was a prosperous town of about 8 000 inhabitants until 280 when Lutetia 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 Middle Ages (web site, Paris map) and the Lutetia Arenas (Paris map). The greatest Roman monuments in France are the Pont du Gard, the Nimes Arenas, the Orange Theater, all of them in the Provence region.
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 what is now La Conciergerie on Ile de la Cité. They then moved to the Louvre, a defensive fortress at the time. Faithful Parisians had already built Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 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 discovered 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.
With 400 000 inhabitants, the city was the most populous in the world. Under Louis XIV, also named Sun King, Paris extended itself to Le Marais and Les Invalides. Louis XIV built the 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. It still is.
The city counted 650 000 inhabitants. The French revolution started with the July 14th 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, Napoléon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe at the top end of the Champs-Elysées. Arc de Triomphe facts
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 story apartment buildings was feverish until WW1. The train stations, Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Opéra Garnier are legacies of that time.
The Eiffel Tower was designed for the 1889 world exhibition to celebrate the progress of technology. It was built in just two years by 132 workers and 50 engineers. The Tower was much criticized by Parisians when it was built. The Eiffel Tower was planned to be demolished in 1909. It was saved at the very last moment as it could be turned into a telecommunication tower. With 7 million visitors yearly, this iconic monument fully pays for itself. It was the world's tallest building until 1930. Eiffel tower facts and history.
The Grand Palais, Musée d'Orsay 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 Sacré-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, until Montparnasse took over as the world artistic and intellectual center.
Paris has 2.275 million inhabitants (last census in 2011). It 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.