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Paris : the capital

Paris Tour Eiffel - Illustration : B. TolluParis is the biggest city in France. It is the French capital. Here the great economic and political decisions are taken. France is still a very centralised country, even though some responsibilities are given to the French regions. 

Palais de l'Elysée - Photo : Présidence de la RépubliqueThe President of the Republic lives in the Elysée Palace.

Government ministries, parliament (Assemblée nationale and Sénat), and foreign embassies are all in Paris.

Like all busy towns and cities, Paris likes to attract businesses, which provide employment and bring in taxes to pay for social and cultural projects. Some companies choose a prestigious address for their head office but build their factories in the provinces, where land is cheaper.

A dense network of roads, railways and airline routes stretches out from Paris like a spider’s web, connecting it to every corner of France and to neighbouring countries.

The three biggest cities in France are divided into «arrondissements» : Paris has 20, Marseille 16 and Lyon 9.

 Paris has grown up like a spiral around the Ile de la Cité.

map of Paris with arrondissements

La Seine et le Pont Neuf - Photo M. DecheletteThe Seine winds gently through Paris, dividing it into two halves joined together by 36 bridges.

The oldest and most famous is 4 centuries old, and yes, it really is called the Pont Neuf – the new bridge! In 1985 the American artist Christo, and his French wife, Jeanne-Claude, wrapped it up like a parcel in a kind of brownish-yellow material. And in 1995 the Japanese fashion designer Kenzo covered it in orange coloured flowers.

The 35th bridge is the Pont Charles de Gaulle, built in 1996. The Simone de Beauvoir foot-bridge (“passerelle”) is the 36th and the only one named after a woman.

map of Paris with monuments

Tour Eiffel - Photo : G. BrameStanding proudly on the left bank of the Seine, the old lady is the star.

The Eiffel Tower with her iron lacework is the best loved monument in the world. This is how France attracts 76 million foreign tourists a year, many of whom come to see the Eiffel Tower.


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