The European continent was named after beautiful Phoenician woman called Europa.


When Zeus have seen Agenor's daughter Europa gathering flowers he immediately fell in love with her.

Welcome in Paris

Paris is the capital and largest city of France. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region or the Paris Region. The city of Paris, within its administrative limits comprises the 20 arrondissements, largely unchanged since 1860 and has an estimated population of 2,211,297 as of January 2008. In addition, the Paris metropolitan area has a population of 12,089,098 and is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe. Paris was the largest city in the Western world for about 1,000 years, prior to the 19th century, and the largest in the entire world between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centers, and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. It hosts the headquarters of many international organizations such as UNESCO, OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce or the informal Paris Club. Paris is considered one of the greenest and most livable cities in Europe. It is also one of the most expensive.

History of Paris

The earliest archaeological signs of permanent settlements in the Paris date from around 4200 BC. From around 250 BC the Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the area near the river Seine. The Romans conquered the Paris basin in 52 and called this settlement Lutetia Parisorum, later Gallicised to the name Lutèce.

The collapse of the Roman Empire and the 5th-century Germanic invasions sent the city into a period of decline. By AD 400, Lutèce was largely abandoned by its inhabitants and served as a garrison town entrenched into a hastily fortified central island. By the late 5th century the Paris region was under full control of the Germanic Franks. The Frankish king Clovis the Frank, the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, made the city his capital from 508.

Paris around the time of Clovis I Paris circa 1180

Left; Paris from Clovis I time (VI century), right; Paris from around 1180 AD.

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. Repeated invasions forced Parisians to build a fortress on the Île de la Cité. One of the most remarkable Viking raids was on 28 March 845, when Paris was sacked and held ransom, probably by Ragnar Lodbrok, who left only after receiving a large bounty paid by the crown of Western Francia.

The weakness of the late Carolingian kings of Western Francia in IX and X century led to the gradual rise in power of the Counts of Paris. First Odo, Count of Paris, was elected king of France by feudal lords in 888, and at the end of the Carolingian Empire Hugh Capet, count of Paris, was elected king of Western Francia in 987. Although Hugh was great-great-great-great-great grandson of Charlemagne he made in fact the beginning of the new king house called Capetians. Paris, under the Capetian kings, became a capital once more.

Sins Hugh Capet Paris's population has grown steadily and in XIV century was around 200,000, the most populated city in Europe. Under the rule of Philip II Augustus, who took the throne in 1180, a number of major building works were carried out in Paris. He built the wall of Philippe Auguste and began the construction of the Palais du Louvre, as well as paving streets and establishing a covered market at Les Halles where it remained until 1969. His grandson Louis IX, renowned for his extreme piety and later canonised as St Louis established the city as a major centre of pilgrimage in the 13th century with the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité, and the completion of the cathedral of Notre Dame and the Basilica of St Denis.

Black Death spreading in Europe Skeletons after Black Death found in south of France

Left, march of Black Death through Europe, rigth, victims of Black Death from XIV century in south of France

The Direct Capetian line died out in 1328, leaving no male heir. Edward III of England claimed the French throne by virtue of his mother from Philip VI of France. This was rejected by the French barons, and the Hundred Years' War thus began, followed swiftly by the arrival of the Black Death. Finally, Philip VI stayed the King of France from 1328 to his death in 1350. He was the son of Charles of Valois and the first King of France from the House of Valois. Paris's history in the 14th century was thus punctuated by outbreaks of plague, political violence and popular uprisings. The Black Death that arrived in 1348, killing as many as 800 people a day, made 40,000 dead.

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 regained its title when Charles VII of France reclaimed the city from English rule in 1436. Paris from then on became France's capital once again in title, but France's real centre of power would remain in the Loire Valley until King Francis I returned France's crown residences to Paris in 1528.

Masacre on Sint Bartolomeo day Day of the baricades in Paris

On the left Le Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy, on the right the Duke of Guise during the Day of the Barricades

Paris was not spared from the religious violence affecting the rest of the country as Protestantism gained ground in defiance of an increasingly harsh Catholic backlash. Paris was a predominantly Catholic city that Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus there in 1534, but it also had a growing Protestant population. The rival religious factions pursued an increasingly bloodthirsty dispute, with religiously inspired assassinations and burnings at stake. Matters came to a head on 23 August 1572 with the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, when Catholic mobs killed an estimated 3,000 Protestants.

King Henry III, attempted to find a peaceful solution but the city's population turned against him and forced him to flee on 12 May 1588. This was the Day of the Barricades, the first time in Paris's history that a revolt had utilized barricades. Paris was from this point ruled by a group known as the Seize, called so because each member represented one of the sixteen quartiers of the city. This group had formed in secret several years earlier, and was motivated to revolt by frustration with the existing system of civic government which prevented the advancement of their careers, and by the desire to defend the traditional privileges of the city, which the Valois kings, and Henry III in particular had eroded. Nevertheless, the nobility, and particularly the duke of Guise, played a crucial role in this revolt which drove out the king, as did the Parisian crowd manning the barricades.

Henry IV is coming to Paris Pont Neuf

Left, Henry IV entering Paris, on the right, Pont Neuf built by Henry IV

Gradually, the power of the Seize was diminished as the nobility of the Holy Union, principally the duke of Mayenne and the duke of Nemours, governor of Paris, took power in the city. They called the Estates General in 1593 to attempt to find an alternative solution to the succession and prevent Henry IV from becoming king. However, the attempt stumbled over the lack of a viable heir, despite the attempts by Spanish ambassadors to have the Infanta crowned. On 14 March 1594 Henry IV entered Paris with the complicity of the civic government, and he was soon crowned the King of France.

Unlike the later Valois kings, Henry IV made Paris his primary residence and he undertook a number of major public works in the city, including extensions to the Louvre whose expansion under Henry II into a "cour carrée", was far from completed and construction of the Pont Neuf, Place des Vosges, Place Dauphine, and Saint-Louis Hospital. Henry IV faced constant danger from religious fanatics on both sides, particularly after granting religious tolerance to Protestants under the Edict of Nantes. After surviving at least 18 assassination attempts, he fall victim to a Catholic fanatic on 14 May 1610.

Louis XIII de France Palais de Luxembourg
Palais Royal Cardinaal Richelieu

From left to right and from top to bottom; Louis XIII, Palais du Luxembourg, Palais Royal, Cardinal Richelieu

King Henry IV was the sun of Antoine de Bourbon king of the Kingdom of Navarre known also as Kingdom of Pamplona. Today it is the Basque country inside the Kingdom of Spain during the Carolingian dynasty Kingdom of Navarra was part of Western Francia. Since 1594 all French kings have been descendants of this line called Bourbons till the French Revolution. During the Bourbons, Louis XIII to Louis XVI, Paris has grown to cultural capitol of Europe, leading to the Enlightenment.

During Louis XIII the real power was exercised by the brilliant Cardinal Richelieu, who greatly expanded royal power. Louis's reign saw major changes to the face of Paris; his mother commissioned the Palais du Luxembourg, while Cardinal Richelieu built the Palais Royal and rebuilt the Sorbonne. He also commissioned a number of major Baroque churches as a statement of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Palais of Versailles

Versailles, France

Louis XIV, however, detested Paris, preferring instead to rule France from his vast château at Versailles. The city had by this time grown far beyond its medieval boundaries, with some 500,000 inhabitants and 25,000 houses by the mid of XVII century. From the great influx of rural migrants, however, grew poor areas known by the term Cour des miracles.

Louis XV of France Rotonde de la Villette at Place de Stalingrad Louis XVI de France

From left to right; Louis XV, Rotonde de la Villette at Place de Stalingrad, Louis XVI

His great-grandson Louis XV became king at the age of only five, with Philip d'Orléans serving as regent. The Court returned to Paris, with the new king installed in the Palais-Royal. Philip quickly gained a reputation for corruption and debauchery. His involvement in the financial scandal of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 greatly discredited him, freeing Louis XV to move the court back to Versailles.

During the latter half of the 18th century, Paris became the intellectual and cultural capital of the Western world. It became a centre of the Enlightenment with its salons becoming the center of the new thinking of the "Age of Reason." This was positively encouraged by the state, with Louis XV mistress Madame de Pompadour supporting the city's intellectuals and prompting the king to construct striking new monuments.

Under Louis XVI, Paris reached new heights of prestige as a center of the arts, sciences and philosophy. It was in Paris that the Montgolfier brothers made their historic balloon ascents in 1783. However, the French state was by now virtually bankrupt, its finances drained by the Seven Years' War and the French intervention in the American War of Independence. A new wall was built around Paris between 1784 and 1791, this time to create a customs barrier for taxation purposes. Not surprisingly, this was a very unpopular innovation. The disastrous harvest of 1788 brought matters to a head, with widespread famine and hunger across France and food riots in Paris.

Storming of the Bastille Église de la Madeleine

Left, Storming of the Bastille, right, Église de la Madeleine

On 14 July, the mob seized the arsenal at the Invalides, acquiring thousands of guns, and stormed the Bastille. A brief battle ensued in which 87 revolutionaries were killed before the fortress surrendered. This event marked the first real manifestation of the Revolution, and is still marked in France as Bastille Day. The furious crowd attacked the palace in Versailles and was only stopped when Louis VI himself appeared and agreed to return to Paris with his family. The royal family was taken as virtual prisoners in the Tuileries. They tried to escape on 20 June 1791 but were caught and returned to Paris as captives.

Louis and those who supported an agreement with the monarchy were accused by radical Jacobins of being the stooges of foreign powers, and on 10 August 1792 a mob demanded that the National Assembly dethrones the king. When the demand was refused, the mob attacked the Tuileries and the royal family took refuge within the Assembly. Power now passed to the radical Commune de Paris, led by Georges Danton, Marat and Robespierre.

Under Napoleon's rule, Paris became the capital of an empire and a great military power. He crowned himself Emperor in a ceremony held in Notre-Dame on 18 May 1804. Like his royal predecessors, he saw Paris as a "new Rome" and set about building public monuments befitting the capital of an empire. Some of these were conscious copies of great Roman buildings, such as the Église de la Madeleine. Napoleon's military campaigns against the British, Austrians and Russians initially met with great success but overconfidence and poor planning caused the annihilation of his army in 1813 in depths of the Russian winter. Russian and Austrian armies invaded France in 1814 and on 31 March 1814, Paris fell to their Coalition.

Arc de Triomphe Eglise du Dome

Left Arc de Triomphe, right, Eglise du Dome

Napoleon's brief return from exile in 1815 saw him passing through Paris, en route to destiny at Waterloo on 18 June. His replacements, the restored Bourbon monarchs Louis XVIII (1814, 1815–1824) and Charles X (1824–1830), managed only to provoke yet another revolution in Paris, confirming the saying that the Bourbons could "learn nothing and forget everything." The powers of the monarchy were in theory confined by a Charter of Liberties but in practice both Louis and Charles ran an authoritarian regime reliant on Church support. On 25 July 1830 Charles issued the repressive Ordinances of St-Cloud, abolishing the freedom of the press, dissolving the Chamber of Deputies and restricting voting rights to the landed gentry only. A general uprising in Paris with three days of fighting forced king Charles X to abdicate and being replaced by the more acceptable Louis-Philippe.

The arrival in Paris of the Industrial Revolution prompted the city's breakneck growth, with migrant workers arriving from the countryside on newly-constructed railway lines. By then, its population was over 900,000 people, making it the second largest city in Europe after London, the third largest city in the world and far surpassing any other city in France. At that time Lyon and Marseille had only about 115,000 each. The city's status was reflected in the construction of grand monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Eglise du Dome where the Napoleon's body was buried. Much of the population, however, lived in bad conditions in diseased slums. The cholera outbreak in 1831 killed over 19,000 people.

Napoleon III Typical building of baron Hausman Napoleon II and baron Hausman

From left, Napoleon III, typical building of baron Hussmann, Napoleon III and baron Haussmann

Panorama of Paris from Arc de Triumphe

Panorama of Paris seen from Arc de Triumphe after Haussmann reconstrction of Paris avenues

When on 22 February 1848 the troops fired on demonstrator’s the new revolt begun. Louis Philippe has abdicated and was finally replaced by a Second Republic. Nationwide elections returned a conservative government which opposed any reforms. The Parisian workers rose again only to be massacred by General Cavaignac, with some 5,000 people being killed in the fighting and subsequent reprisals. Again fresh elections were held at the end of 1848. The victor was, to the surprise of many, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte—the nephew of the late Emperor. He won by an overwhelming majority receiving 75% of the votes cast but he was not content with being a mere president. On 2 December 1851 he seized power in a coup, declared himself the Emperor Napoleon III and settled in the Tuileries Palace.

It was under Napoleon's III rule that Paris the modern was created. In 1853 he appointed Baron Haussmann as Prefect, charged with modernization of the city. He did it to a drastic extent, demolishing much of the old city and replacing it with a network of wide, straight boulevards and radiating circuses. The Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes were both transformed into large public parks. Although Haussmann was forced to resign in 1869 after financial irregularities, his scheme is largely responsible for the present-day look and layout of Paris.

Napoleon's rule came to an abrupt end when he declared war on Prussia in 1870, only to be defeated in the Franco-Prussian War and captured at Sedan. He abdicated on 4 September, with a Third Republic proclaimed that same day in Paris. On 19 September the Prussian army arrived at Paris and besieged the city. Paris finally surrendered on 28 January 1871 with punitive terms being inflicted on the defeated French. They were, in fact, unacceptably punitive in the eyes of many Parisians, who saw the peace treaty signed by the government of Adolphe Thiers as a betrayal. A revolt broke out on 18 March when government forces were driven out of Montmartre. Fierce fighting broke out a few days later and only ended on 28 May, by which time an estimated 4,000–5,000 people on both sides had been killed. In the aftermath, another 10,000 Communards were shot, 40,000 were arrested and 5,000 were deported.

Although the Third Republic was widely disliked for its political instability and corruption, it did manage to deliver a golden age, a belle époque,for Paris. The city acquired many distinctive new monuments and public buildings, foremost among them the Eiffel Tower, constructed for the World Exhibition of 1889. It was renowned as a center for the arts, with the Impressionists taking their inspiration from its new vistas. At the same time, Paris acquired a less savory reputation as the "sin capital of Europe", with hundreds of brothels, revues and risqué cabarets such as the famous Moulin Rouge.

Eifel tower

The city also acquired its metro system, opened in 1900. In January 1910, the Seine flooded 20 feet above normal, drowning streets throughout the city of Paris and sending thousands of Parisians fleeing to emergency shelters. The 1910 Great Flood of Paris was the worst the city had seen since 1658 when the water reached only a few centimeters higher.

Les mobilisés parisiens devant la gare de l'Est le 2 août 1914 Paris taxi from WW I

Left, mobilisation in Paris in 1914, right, taxis used to moved French soldiers to the front

At the outbreak of the First World War on 2 August 1914 Paris, like other French cities, initially welcomed the war as an opportunity to gain revenge for the defeat of 1870. Within a month, however, the city was full of refugees and the Germans were just 15 miles from the city. The city was saved, however, by a desperate French effort to reinforce their lines and by a German failure to press the attack. In the most famous incident of the "miracle on the Marne", as it became known, thousands of Parisian taxis were commandeered to carry soldiers to the front lines. The Germans were pushed back to the Oise some 75 miles away from the city.

After the WWI the city emerged into an energetic but restless interwar period, enlivened by the arrival of glamorous émigrés such as Joséphine Baker. It was a troubled political period, however, especially when the Great Depression hit Paris. Extreme right- and left-wing parties flourished, and on 5 February 1934 a mob of Fascist and other far-rightists attempted to storm the National Assembly in a botched coup attempt. In the ensuing violence, fifteen people were killed and another 1,500 wounded. In response, the Socialists and Communists united to form a Popular Front, which took power in 1936 but fell only a year later.

German soldiers at Moulen Rouge in 1941 Aliant forces are entering Paris in 1944

Left, German soldiers in Paris in 1941, right, Aliant forces entering Paris in 1944

France's political divisions were a major factor in its ill-preparedness for the outbreak of the Second World War on 3 September 1939. Some of the Catholic Right was openly hostile to parliamentary democracy. When Adolf Hitler invaded France on 10 May 1940 it took him only a month to reach Paris, invading through Belgium around the Maginot Line, where the French defenses were massed. Paris fell with virtually no resistance on 14 June. About 1.6 million of its 3.5 million of the city's population fled out. The next four years saw an increasingly brutal occupation regime imposed on the city. An occupation force of 30,000 administrative and security troops moved into the city and took over 500 hotels and hung swastikas on public buildings and monuments. Displaying the French tricolor and singing the French national anthem 'Marseillaise' were forbidden and a strict curfew was enforced that kept Parisians at home from midnight to 5:30 a.m.

In June 1944, Allied forces, including 140 Free French commandos, invaded Normandy. An uprising broke out in Paris on 19 August, led by the Resistance and the city's Police. When General Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division arrived on the outskirts of the city, von Choltitz ordered his forces to retreat, leaving the city open and largely intact with only stragglers from the garrison and dead-end resisters from the Vichy regime left to offer resistance. De Gaulle and Leclerc entered the city to a jubilant reception, and De Gaulle established a temporary government that lasted until 1946. After the restoration of civilian rule and the proclamation of the Fourth Republic in 1946, Paris made a rapid recovery thanks to the relatively minimal amount of physical damage it had endured during the war.

War in Indochina 1 War in Indochina 2 War in Algerie

First two from the left, war in Indochina, right, Algierian war

Clichy sous Bois Marche in Montreuil

Banlieus of Paris, left Clichy sous Bois, right, Marche in Montreuil

Like the rest of France, however, Paris was caught up in the bloody wars against nationalist guerrillas in French Indochina and Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s. Algeria was granted independence in 1962 and over 700,000 French colonists and pro-French Algerians migrated to the mother country, many to Paris. In response to the immigrant influx, the government built huge new residential suburbs, the now-notorious banlieues of Paris, which rapidly gained a reputation for soulless architecture, deprivation, racial tension and crime.

The combination of growing social unrest and de Gaulle's somewhat authoritarian style of government ultimately proved explosive. In early May 1968, an uprising broke out, led by Parisian students and factory workers. Although the events soon calmed they did contribute to the eventual retirement of de Gaulle and the implementation of socially liberal policies.

Centrum Pompidou Park de la Villete

Left, Centrum Pompidou, right, park de La Villete

Under de Gaulle's successors, Georges Pompidou and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Paris underwent major physical development. The radical Centre Pompidou was built along with the ultra-modern complex at La Villette. Less positively and very controversially, the ancient market at Les Halles was demolished and replaced with a notoriously ugly underground shopping mall, and the 209 m Tour Montparnasse skyscraper was built leading to fears that Paris would become overrun with American-style skyscrapers.

La Defence Glas piramide at Louvre

Left, La Défence, right, glas piramide at Louvre

The election of François Mitterrand in 1981 saw further major changes to the city's appearance and politics. The socialist Mitterrand frequently clashed with the powerful and abrasive Jacques Chirac, mayor of the city since 1977, and the first mayor since the Paris Commune. Mitterrand undertook a number of grandiose projects to stamp his mark on the city. The Louvre was redeveloped and acquired its spectacular glass pyramid, while a futuristic new district was constructed just outside the city limits at La Defense. The Opéra, Bastille and Bibliothèque Nationale proved less successful, experiencing big cost overruns and a series of technical problems.

rental bicycle program called Vélib Tram T3 in Paris Banlieu

Left, bicycles for rental, right, tramline in Banlieu of Paris

In March 2001, Paris voted for a left-wing mayor for the first time since 1871. Bertrand Delanoë made history not only as the first left-wing mayor for 130 years, but for the fact that he is the first gay man to hold such a high public position in France. His election was widely seen as a rejection of the corruption of the Chirac era. His manifesto promised to tackle the city corruption and inefficiency, as well as reducing crime and improving education. Another of Delanoë's undertakings is to continue to reduce motor traffic in Paris and use alternative modes of transportation. Extensive rental bicycle program called Vélib' was introduced in 2007 and tram line on the southern "boulevard of the marshals" was open in 2006 and is due to extend further.