Busy, romantic Paris – some amazing facts
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France. Paris was one of Europe’s major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts, and it retains that position still today. It ranks as one of the wealthiest regions in Europe.
The city is also a major rail, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle (the second busiest airport in Europe after London Heathrow Airport with 63.8 million passengers in 2014) and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city’s subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily. It is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Notably, Paris Gare du Nord is the busiest railway station in the world outside of Japan, with 262 millions passengers in 2015.
Paris has many important cultural institutions: its Louvre museum is the most visited in the world; its Musée d’Orsay is noted for its collection of French Impressionist art, and its Pompidou-center Musée National d’Art Moderne has the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe. The central area of the city along the Seine River is classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site and includes many notable monuments, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Sainte-Chapelle, the former Universal Exposition Grand Palais, Petit Palais and Eiffel Tower, and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre. In 2015, Paris received 22.2 million visitors, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
The association football club Paris Saint-Germain and the rugby union club Stade Français are based in Paris. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located just north of Paris in the neighbouring commune of Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. Paris hosted the 1900 and 1924 Summer Olympics and is bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and the 1960, 1984, and 2016 UEFA Europa Leagues were also held in the city, and every July, the Tour de France bicycle race finishes in the city.
By the end of the Western Roman Empire, the town was known as Parisius, a Latin name that would later become Paris in French. Christianity was introduced in the middle of the 3rd century AD by Saint Denis, the first Bishop of Paris: according to legend, when he refused to renounce his faith before the Roman occupiers, he was beheaded on the hill which became known as Mons Martyrum, later “Montmartre”, from where walked headless to the north of the city; the place where he fell and was buried became an important religious shrine, the Basilica of Saint-Denis, and many French Kings are buried there.
Clovis the Frank, the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, made the city his capital from 508. A gradual immigration by the Franks also occurred in Paris in the beginning of the Frankish domination of Gaul which created the Parisian Francien dialects. Fortification of the Île-de-France failed to prevent sacking by Vikings in 845 but Paris’s strategic importance, with its bridges preventing ships from passing, was established by successful defence in the Siege of Paris (885–86). In 987 Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, Duke of the Franks was elected King of the Franks. Under the rule of the Capetian kings, Paris gradually became the largest and most prosperous city in France.