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Referred to as the City of Light (La Ville Luminère), Paris was initially built on an arc of the River Seine and it is divided into two parts; the right bank to the North and the smaller left bank to the South.
Paris is located in the Île-de-France region and its complex set up covers a total of 8 departments. The city of Paris itself is department number 75 and has a population of 2,167,994 (approximate in 2006). There are 20 arrondissements (subdivisions) within the city.
Why you should visit Paris for your next holiday in France
Some describe the capital of France as the most romantic city in the world, stylish and culturally inspiring and bursting with innovative architecture and world famous sites.
The highly efficient and modern public transport system allows you to explore the city effortlessly and take in some of the amazing sites whilst on route.
A wealth of cultural activity awaits you with around 80 museums and 200 art galleries in total. The hugely popular Parisian flea markets can be found dotted around the city. Major labels can be discovered at half price and numerous second hand articles that are still very fashionable are on sale.
Think of Paris and you think of relaxing in one of the street cafés that give the city its cosmopolitan feel. Cafés, bistros, tabacs and restaurants at every turn offer a chance to sit back, relax and soak up the Parisian atmosphere.
The Ile de France region has France's lowest rainfall; however Paris is known for its unexpected rain showers which can occur at any time of year. Summer temperatures are mild to warm, with occasional heat waves, while winters are very chilly with temperatures hovering around freezing point.
What to see in Paris
As the city of Paris is a department in its own right, rather than numerous towns which make up a department, it is worth mentioning the specific places of interest that the town is famed for.
The Eiffel Tower
Probably one of the most familiar sites of Paris and recognised globally, the Eiffel tower stands at 324m tall and is situated beside the Seine River. The construction took just over 2 years and was finally completed in 1889. There are 1665 steps in total up to the top and the tower comprises of three platforms. The Jules Verne restaurant is located on the second platform and is 'très très' expensive. The top platform has a bar, souvenir shop, and the office of Gustave Eiffel. From the top platform you can fully appreciate the extent of the city in all its vastness. The views are particularly breath-taking one hour before sunset.
The Louvre is one of France's national symbols and as well as being one of the world's most visited art museums, it is also an historic monument. It is located in the 1st arrondissement and lies on the Right bank between the Seine River and the Rue de Rivoli. Originally the Louvre was built as a fortress and it has also been a place of residence and an art depository in previous years. It is now home to around 35,000 pieces of art set out across an area of 60,000 sq metres.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame translates to 'Our Lady', which refers to the Virgin Mary. It has been said that construction on the gothic style cathedral began in 1163 in the presence of Pope Alexander III. It is still used today as a Cathedral and benefits from also being a museum, which is open to the public.
Champs-Élysées is a seventeenth century garden-promenade turned avenue, which connects the Concorde and Arc de Triomphe. It can be located on the right bank in the 8th arrondissement and is a major shopping street of Paris. This avenue has been nicknamed 'a plus belle avenue du monde' ('the most beautiful avenue in the world'). Luxury brand labels such as Channel, Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Dior and Givenchy can be spotted in Avenue Montaigne. Faubourg Saint-Honoré, also in the 8th arrondissement, is one of Paris' high-fashion districts and houses labels such as Hermès and Christian Lacroix.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Luxembourg Gardens (sometimes referred to as Luco) is a 224,500 m² public park and the largest in the city, located in the 6th arrondissement. The park is the garden of the French Senate, which is housed in the Luxembourg Palace. The gardens are a popular destination with young families as they include a large fenced-in playground, a pond, a puppet theatre and a merry-go-round. There is a relaxed eatery in the grounds serving inexpensive food and drink.
Tuileries is located on the right bank of the River Seine. In 1871 the Tuileries Palace was destroyed and Tuileries Garden remains today. It covers about 63 acres (25 hectares) and is open to the public. Since 2003, a committee in France has been proposing to rebuild the Palace.
Construction on the Centre Georges Pompidou commenced in 1971 and was finally opened on 31 December 1977. The centre is located in the 4th arrondissement and is named after Georges Pompidou, who was president of France from 1969 to 1974. The building is home to the Bibliothèque publique d'information, a vast public library, the Musée National d'Art Moderne, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research.
Place de la Bastille
The Place de la Bastille covers the 4th, 11th and 12th arrondissements on the right bank. It is one of the most historic districts and the square is often used for political demonstrations, including the massive anti-CPE demonstration of March 2006.
The Luxor Obelisk is reported to be Paris' oldest monument and can be located in the Place de la Concorde.
How to get to Paris
Both of France's major airports are located in Ile de France. Paris is just 50 minutes flying time from London's airports and most of the UK's regional airports now offer a service to Paris as well. Charles de Gaulle International Airport is 17 miles north of Paris. The city's second largest airport is the Aéroport d'Orly, which is located 10 miles south of central Paris. There is also a third smaller airport called Beauvais that handles Ryanair and charter flights.
Paris is around 290km from Calais and will take 2.5 hours to drive. The roads from Calais to Paris are well-maintained and signposted.
Paris is easily accessible by TGV from London and Brussels. Eurostar will take you to Paris from London in just under 2.5 hours.