City Guides

Central Paris At a Glance

Paris has been an important economic, religious and cultural center since Roman times. In the mid-19th century its medieval slums were cleared away when Baron Haussmann designed and built the wide avenues and elegant boulevards that we see today. The city’s magnificent churches, museums, monuments and parks are perhaps the greatest draw for many visitors, while others come to enjoy the excellent food and wine, high quality shopping, or thriving entertainment scene.

The History Of Paris

The Paris conquered by the Romans in 55 BC was a small flood-prone fishing village on the Ile de la Cite, inhabited by the Parisii tribe. A Roman settlement soon flourished and spread onto the Left Bank of the Seine. The Franks succeeded the Romans, named the city Paris and made it the center of their kingdom.

During the Middle Ages the city flourished as a religious center and architectural masterpieces such as Sainte-Chapelle were erected.

It also thrived as a center of learning, enticing European scholars to its great university, the Sorbonne.

Paris emerged during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment as a great center of culture and ideas, and under the rule of Louis XIV it also became a city of immense wealth and power. But rule by the monarch gave way to rule by the people in the bloody Revolution of 1789. By the early years of the new century, revolutionary fervour had faded and the brilliant militarist Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed himself Emperor of France and pursued his ambition to make Paris the center of the world.

Soon after the Revolution of 1848 a radical transformation of the city began. Baron Haussmann’s grand urban scheme replaced Paris’s medieval slums with elegant avenues and boulevards. By the end of the century, the city was the driving force of Western culture. This continued well into the 20th century, interrupted only by the German military occupation of 1940 – 44. Since the war, the city has revived and expanded dramatically, as it strives to be at the heart of a unified Europe.

The following pages illustrate Paris’s history by providing snapshots of the significant periods in the city’s evolution.

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