Paris is the capital and most populous city of France. It is situated on the River Seine, in the north of the country, at the heart of the Île-de-France region. Within its administrative limits (the 20 arrondissements), the city had 2,234,105 inhabitants in 2009 while its metropolitan area is one of the largest population centres in Europe with more than 12 million inhabitants.
An important settlement for more than two millennia, by the late 12th century Paris had become a walled cathedral city that was one of Europe's foremost centres of learning and the arts and the largest city in the Western world until the turn of the 18th century. Paris was the focal point for many important political events throughout its history, including the French Revolution. Today it is one of the world's leading business and cultural centres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, science, fashion and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major cities. The city has one of the largest GDPs in the world, €607 billion (US$845 billion) as of 2011, and as a result of its high concentration of national and international political, cultural and scientific institutions is one of the world's leading tourist destinations. The Paris Region hosts the world headquarters of 30 of the Fortune Global 500 companies in several business districts, notably La Défense, the largest dedicated business district in Europe.
Centuries of cultural and political development have brought Paris a variety of museums, theatres, monuments and architectural styles. Many of its masterpieces such as the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe are iconic buildings, especially its internationally recognized symbol, the Eiffel Tower. Long regarded as an international centre for the arts, works by history's most famous painters can be found in the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay and its many other museums and galleries. Paris is a global hub of fashion and has been referred to as the "international capital of style", noted for its haute couture tailoring, its high-end boutiques, and the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week. It is world renowned for its haute cuisine, attracting many of the world's leading chefs. Many of France's most prestigious universities and Grandes Écoles are in Paris or its suburbs, and France's major newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération are based in the city, and Le Parisien in Saint-Ouen near Paris.
Paris is home to the association football club Paris Saint-Germain FC and the rugby union club Stade Français. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located in Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. Paris played host to the 1900 and 1924 Summer Olympics, the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cup, and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The city is a major rail, highway, and air-transport hub, served by the two international airports Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 9 million passengers daily. Paris is the hub of the national road network, and is surrounded by three orbital roads: the Périphérique, the A86 motorway, and the Francilienne motorway in the outer suburbs.
The earliest archaeological signs of permanent settlements in the Paris area date from around 4500–4200 BC, with some of the oldest evidence of canoe-use by hunter-gatherer peoples being uncovered in Bercy in 1991 (The remains of three canoes can be seen at the Carnavalet Museum). The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the area near the river Seine from around 250 BC, building a trading settlement on the island, later the Île de la Cité, the easiest place to cross. The Romans conquered the Paris basin around 52 BC, with a permanent settlement by the end of the same century on the left bank Sainte Geneviève Hill and the Île de la Cité. The Gallo-Roman town was originally called Lutetia, or Lutetia Parisorum but later Gallicised to Lutèce. It expanded greatly over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre.
The collapse of the Roman empire, along with the Germanic invasions of the 5th-century, sent the city into a period of decline. By 400 AD, Lutèce was largely abandoned by its inhabitants, little more than a garrison town entrenched into a hastily fortified central island. The city reclaimed its original appellation of "Paris" towards the end of the Roman occupation, around 360 AD, when Julian the Apostate, Prefect of the Gauls, was proclaimed emperor. The proclamation was made on the Île de la Cité. Julian remained based there for three years, making Paris the de facto capital of the Western Empire.
Merovingian and Feudal eras
The Paris region was under full control of the Salian Franks by the late 5th century. The Frankish king Clovis the Frank, the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, made the city his capital from 508 and was responsible for converting the city back to Christianity. The late 8th century Carolingian dynasty displaced the Frankish capital to Aachen; this period coincided with the beginning of Viking invasions that had spread as far as Paris by the early 9th century.
One of the most remarkable Viking raids was on 28 March 845, when Paris was invaded by some 200 Norse ships along the Seine and sacked and held ransom, probably by Ragnar Lodbrok, who reputedly left only after receiving a large bounty paid by the crown. Repeated invasions forced Eudes, Count of Paris, to build a fortress on the Île de la Cité in 885 AD. However, the city soon suffered a siege lasting almost a year, eventually relieved by the Carolingian king, Charles "The Fat", who instead of attacking allowed the besiegers to sail up the Seine and lay waste to Burgundy. Eudes then took the crown for himself, plunging the French crown into dynastic turmoil lasting over a century until 987 AD when Hugh Capet, count of Paris, was elected king of France. Paris, under the Capetian kings, became a capital once more, and his coronation was seen by many historians as the moment marking the birth of modern France.
Middle Ages to 18th century
Paris became prosperous and by the end of the 11th century, scholars, teachers and monks flocked to the city to engage in intellectual exchanges, to teach and be taught; Philippe-Auguste founded the University of Paris in 1200. The guilds gradually became more powerful and were instrumental in inciting the first revolt after the king was captured by the English in 1356. Paris' population was around 200,000 when the Black Death arrived in 1348, killing as many as 800 people a day; 40,000 died from the plague in 1466. During the 16th and 17th centuries, plague visited the city for almost one year out of three. Paris lost its position as seat of the French realm during the occupation by the English-allied Burgundians during the Hundred Years' War, but when Charles VII of France reclaimed the city from English rule in 1436, Paris became France's capital once again in title, although the real centre of power remained in the Loire Valley until King Francis I returned France's crown residences to Paris in 1528.
During the French Wars of Religion, Paris was a stronghold of the Catholic party. In August 1572, under the reign of Charles IX, while many noble Protestants were in Paris on the occasion of the marriage of Henri of Navarre—the future Henri IV—to Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre occurred; beginning on 24 August, it lasted several days and spread throughout the country.
In 1590 Henri IV unsuccessfully laid siege to the city in the Siege of Paris, but, threatened with usurpation from Philip II of Spain, he converted to Catholicism in 1594, and the city welcomed him as king. The Bourbons, Henri's family, spent vast amounts of money keeping the city under control, building the Ile St-Louis as well as bridges and other infrastructure. But unhappy with their lack of political representation, in 1648 Parisians rose in a rebellion known as the Fronde and the royal family fled the city. Louis XIV later moved the royal court permanently to Versailles, a lavish estate on the outskirts of Paris, in 1682. The following century was an "Age of Enlightenment"; Paris' reputation grew on the writings of its intellectuals such as the philosopher Voltaire and Diderot, the first volume of whose Encyclopédie was published in Paris in 1751.
At the end of the century, Paris was the centre stage for the French Revolution; a bad harvest in 1788 caused food prices to rocket and by the following year the sovereign debt had reached an unprecedented level. On 14 July 1789, Parisians, appalled by the king's pressure on the new assembly formed by the Third Estate, took siege of the Bastille fortress, a symbol of absolutism, starting revolution and rejecting the divine right of monarchs in France. Jean-Sylvain Bailly, the first Mayor, was elected on 15 July 1789, and two days later the national tricolour flag with the colours of Paris (blue and red) and of the King (white) was adopted at the Hôtel de Ville by Louis XVI.
The Republic was declared for the first time in 1792. In 1793, Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed on the Place de la Révolution, in Paris, the site of many executions. The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed. Following the Terror, the French Directory held control until it was overthrown in a coup d'état by Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon put an end to the revolution and established the French Consulate, and then later was elected by plebiscite as emperor of the First French Empire.
Paris was occupied by Russian and Allied armies upon Napoleon's defeat on 31 March 1814; this was the first time in 400 years that the city had been conquered by a foreign power. The ensuing Restoration period, or the return of the monarchy under Louis XVIII (1814–24) and Charles X, ended with the July Revolution Parisian uprising of 1830. The new constitutional monarchy under Louis-Philippe ended with the 1848 "February Revolution" that led to the creation of the Second Republic. Cholera epidemics in 1832 and 1850 ravaged the population of Paris: the 1832 epidemic alone claimed 20,000 of the population of 650,000.
The greatest development in Paris' history began with the Industrial Revolution creation of a network of railways that brought an unprecedented flow of migrants to the capital from the 1840s. The city's largest transformation came with the 1852 Second Empire under Napoleon III; his préfet, Baron Haussmann, levelled entire districts of Paris' narrow, winding medieval streets to create the network of wide avenues and neo-classical façades that still make up much of modern Paris. The motivation for this transformation was twofold: to create wide boulevards that beautified and sanitised the capital and to increase the effectiveness of troops and artillery against any further uprisings and barricades, for which Paris was so famous.
The Second Empire ended in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), and a besieged Paris under heavy bombardment surrendered on 28 January 1871. The discontent of Paris' populace with the new armistice-signing government seated in Versailles resulted in the creation of the Paris Commune government. It was supported by an army created in large part of members of the city's former National Guard, which continued to resist the Prussians and opposed the army of the "Versaillais" government. The Paris Commune ended with the Semaine Sanglante ("Bloody Week"), during which roughly 20,000 "Communards" were executed before the fighting ended on 28 May 1871. The ease with which the Versaillais army gained control of Paris owed much to Baron Haussmann's renovations.
France's late 19th-century Universal Expositions made Paris an increasingly important centre of technology, trade, and tourism. The most famous were the 1889 Exposition universelle to which Paris owes its "temporary" display of architectural engineering progress, the Eiffel Tower, which remained the world's tallest structure until 1930, and the 1900 Universal Exposition, which saw the opening of the first Paris Métro line.
During the First World War Paris was at the forefront of the war effort, having been spared a German invasion by the French and British victory at the First Battle of the Marne in 1914, within earshot of the city. In 1918–19 it was the scene of Allied victory parades and peace negotiations. In the inter-war period, Paris was famed for its cultural and artistic communities and its nightlife. The city became a gathering place of artists from around the world, including the exiled Russian composer Stravinsky, Spanish painters Picasso and Dalí, and American writer Hemingway.
In the post-war era, Paris experienced its largest development since the end of the Belle Époque in 1914. The suburbs began to expand considerably, with the construction of large social estates known as cités and the beginning of La Défense, the business district. A comprehensive express subway network, the RER, was built to complement the Métro and serve the distant suburbs. A network of roads was developed in the suburbs centred on the Périphérique expressway encircling the city, which was completed in 1973.
Since the 1970s, many inner suburbs of Paris (especially those in the north and east) have experienced deindustrialisation, and the once-thriving cités have gradually become ghettos for immigrants and experienced significant unemployment. At the same time, the city of Paris (within its Périphérique expressway) and the western and southern suburbs have successfully shifted their economic base from traditional manufacturing to high-value-added services and high-tech manufacturing, generating great wealth for their residents whose per capita income is the highest in France and among the highest in Europe. The resulting widening social gap between these two areas has led to periodic unrest since the mid-1980s such as the 2005 riots, which were concentrated for the most part in the north-eastern suburbs.
A massive urban renewal project, the Grand Paris, was launched in 2007 by President Nicolas Sarkozy. It consists of various economic, cultural, housing, transport and environmental projects to reach a better integration of the territories and revitalise the metropolitan economy. The most emblematic project is the €26.5 billion construction by 2030 of a new automatic metro, which will consist of of rapid-transit lines connecting the Grand Paris regions to one another and to the centre of Paris. Nevertheless, the Paris metropolitan area is still divided into numerous territorial collectivities; an ad-hoc structure, Paris Métropole, was established in June 2009 to coordinate the action of 184 "Parisian" territorial collectivities.