The number of historical facts about Paris is endless. The city is absolutely overflowing with history. From the grand landmarks, like the Louvre and Notre Dame, to the tiniest details, like a door handle or wall carving, everything has a backstory. First established as a fishing village by the name of Lutetia, this 2,000-year-old city has blossomed into one of the most beautiful cities in the world, while still retaining strong links to its own history and traditions.
Here are some fun historical facts about Paris that will truly enhance your experience:
Historical Facts about Paris' Neighborhoods
1. The 20 arrondissements in Paris start at the heart of the city and continue in numerical order in a spiral fashion, just like a snail or escargot!
2. Only a few timber houses, built in the 14th century, still exist in the Marais on Rue Francois Miron.
3. The two river islands Île-Saint-Louis and Île-de-la-Cité, as well as the rest of the 4th arrondissement, are the oldest areas of Paris.
4. The Marais was once was a swamp. It was drained and developed in the Middle Ages.
5. The Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement is known as a Bohemian neighborhood with the hilltop church of Sacré-Coeur as its main attraction.
6. The Montparnasse district in the 14th arrondissement was home to writers (like Hemingway) and artists in the 1920s and 30s. Enjoying a meal at the Art Deco-style Brasserie La Coupole is a great place to get a feel for the era.
Historical Facts about Paris' Metro
7. The Metro opened in Paris in 1900.
8. Each Metro stop in Paris has a historical theme. The names used and the style of the metro stop itself will sometimes clue you into the area's past. The Arts and Métiers station is one of the most remarkable in the city!
9. Louise Michel, a Parisian anarchist of the late 1800s, is the only stop that’s named after a female.
Historical Facts about Notre Dame Cathedral
10. Construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral started in 1163 and took almost two centuries to build. It was consecrated as complete in 1345.
11. The bell in the Notre Dame Cathedral weighs 13 tons and is called Emmanuel.
12. Everyone from royalty to residents helped construct the cathedral. Some donated money, others donated their time and labor and it was considered a communal effort. This is why there is no single architect named, but rather many, some known and some anonymous.
13. The cathedral has one of the oldest organs, dating back to 1330, which complements its massive church bells.
Historical Facts about the Eiffel Tower
14. More than 100 artists submitted plans for a monument that would mark the entrance to the 1889 Worlds’ Fair. That’s how the Eiffel Tower came to be.
15. While Gustave Eiffel’s construction company was selected to build the monument, it was a structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin, who came up with the concept.
16. Construction on the Eiffel Tower started in 1887 and took two years to complete.
17. When the Eiffel Tower was complete it was the tallest structure in the world. It held that title until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was built in New York City.
18. The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be temporary. City officials planned to tear it down in 1909 but decided against it. Hitler ordered the monument’s destruction too, but the order was never carried out.
Historical Facts about the Arc De Triomphe
19. Napoleon wanted a grand triumphal arch to celebrate his troops, the Grand Armée, but construction was held up several times and the monument wasn’t finished until 1836. Napoleon died in 1821.
20. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I rests beneath the arc.
21. The walls of the Arc list the names of 558 French generals and the major battles of the Napoleonic Wars.
Knowing some historical facts about Paris will only enhance your trip. You'll wander the streets and explore the sights with a picture of the past in your mind. For instance, when you see Notre Dame cathedral rising above you, it'll be all the more impressive knowing that it was constructed hundreds of years ago without the use of modern construction technology! Everywhere you look, there's something old and interesting to discover. That's just one reason why we love Paris.