Paris has fascinated the masses for centuries, beckoning people from all walks of life. The City of Lights is sophisticated and refined but never ordinary. Part rebellious, part scandalous, a little bit naughty and always tremendously exciting.
It’s not a surprise that Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. What makes it such a tempting destination? Known for its charm, culture, gastronomy and fashion, Paris has been a source of inspiration for writers, artists and painters that have captured it in the imaginations of ordinary people.
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Paris is always a good idea
I think Paris is one of those cities that you will either love or hate right from the start. It’s a big city filled with tourists and seemingly aloof locals. The first time I came to Paris, I thought it was filthy, filled with graffiti and dog poop. I came alone, didn’t speak French, and this was my first trip ever. It was a cold three weeks in December and probably not an ideal time for a first-time visit.
Despite that, I fell in love with Paris right off the bat, and it has always held a special place in my heart. At 21, I was living my best life in Paris, soaking up everything I could about it. I strolled the streets and bridges and visited as many museums, churches and parks as possible. History was coming alive all around me.
As they say, Paris is always a good idea. Many people come to Paris to shop, eat, or find themselves. I didn’t come to Paris to find myself, but in some way, it has profoundly influenced me. It was an ordinary experience that gave me an insight into a city that inspired books, movies and the dreams of many. That was the first real trip that sparked my love for travel and made me fall in love with the City of Lights.
You are probably familiar with at least two Paris nicknames – the city of lights and the city of love. How did they come to be, and what are other Paris nicknames? Let’s take a look.
Paris, the City of Lights
Paris is famous as the City of Lights, or La Ville Lumièr in French. It’s probably one of the most common of all Paris nicknames. If you’ve been to Paris or have seen it in pictures, you might assume that the nickname comes from the many lights illuminating the city today. That would be a natural assumption, but Paris was known as the City of Lights long before the lightbulbs were installed.
Paris was one of the first cities to get street lighting installed. During the mid-17th century, King Louis XIV ordered the streets to be illuminated to help deal with rampant crime. Lit streets made it easier to spot criminals at night.
Many believe that the City of Lights doesn’t refer to the physical lights but rather to knowledge. During the mid-18th century, Paris became the centre of the educational and scientific revolution known as the Age of Enlightenment. Philosophers, artists, writers and poets all flocked to Paris, like the proverbial moth to a flame, adding credence to the name. It has been used ever since.
Paris, the City of Love
Paris, the City of Love, is a staple in movies and books and is almost as famous as the City of Lights. Although popular culture has perpetuated this Paris nickname, there is more to it. While Parisians have a reputation for being romantic by nature, the city has been a pull for lovers for centuries.
Paris is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination with romantic parks and bridges. People from all over the world leave padlocks as tokens of their love attached to the railings of the Pont des Arts bridge. The lovers place the padlock symbolizing their love on the bridge while throwing away the key to symbolize their unbreakable bond. I’m going to leave the effectiveness of that to your imagination.
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As many will tell you, love is in the air in Paris, and often it has nothing to do with other people. Paris is the City of Love for those enamoured by the culture, charm, architecture and history. I fall into this category.
The Fashion Capital/ Capital de La Mode
When it comes to fashion, Paris is its undisputed capital. Home to many leading fashion houses, Paris fashion week and the birthplace of Haute Couture, this nickname is clearly deserved. Here you’ll find Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and many other designers. Shop to your heart’s content and live out your most fashionable dreams.
Other Paris nicknames
There are other Paris nicknames that were once popular and have gone out of use since. La Dame de Fer (Iron Lady) in reference to the wrought iron frame of the Eiffel Tower. Parisii was the Celtic (Gaul) tribe who lived in the area and gave way to the name Parisios, which then became Paris in 887.
The Romans referred to the predecessor of Paris as Lutetia (Lutèce in French), a name sometimes used by local businesses. Paris was also known as Paname, named after the Panama hat that was once all the rage here during the early 1900s. Now you know.
5 Awesome reasons to visit the City of Lights
Paris is one of the most popular cities that draws tourists all year round. While some might consider it overrated, I think Paris is one of those timeless cities you should visit at least once. It’s a place where one hand, monarch lost their heads, and violence and bloodshed marked the street. On the other hand, it’s a place where painters, musicians, writers and other luminaries came to create their masterpieces.
Paris is one of those places that you can walk around and just be. You can do as much as you can fit in your schedule or nothing and still enjoy it all. A certain vibe here makes it an exciting place to be. It’s no wonder so many have come here over the centuries, drawn by its allure. Here are five reasons why you should come to Paris too.
Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with architecture from every period. From Roman influences to Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque to contemporary. It has inspired many other cities with its architecture, style and design. Many have emulated Paris, taking on names like “Paris of the North,” “Paris of the East,” and so on.
Many of the popular styles of architecture that inspired other cities came from Paris. It was the birthplace of the Gothic style, Classic revival and Art Nouveau. Between the extravagance of its kings and Napoleon’s ambitious reign and those that followed, the city was a playground for architects.
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The architecture and urban design in Paris served as an example of how cities were planned. Public buildings, monuments, public squares and grand boulevards beautified the city while dealing with overcrowding and traffic. The city was built to reflect the glory of the French empire and glorious it is.
Museums and culture
When it comes to enlightenment, Paris truly is the City of Lights. There is art on every corner with over 130 museums of all kinds, galleries, cultural landmarks, and historic sites. Art lovers can spend days indulging in the great masterpieces, from classics to modern, and not see it all. You will find art installations on the streets, gardens, and boulevards. In fact, the whole city is like a museum you can walk around.
Paris has always been at the forefront of culture. You can enjoy various international performances, from lively cabaret performances at the Moulin Rouge to more traditional performances at the famous Palais Garnier. If you love live entertainment, Paris is also great for theatre, ballet and opera lovers.
Want to explore more of Paris? Read about the Magic of the Louvre Museum!
Cafes and gastronomy
Paris is renowned as a culinary powerhouse, and rightfully so. Life in Paris is about sitting in a sidewalk cafe and people watching as you nibble on a buttery croissant and sip on your beverage of choice. It’s about drinking wine and hanging out with friends or going out for a romantic dinner with your significant other.
There are over 70 Michelin star restaurants in the City of Lights, numerous trendy bistros and charming cafes to choose from. There are many options for foodies, from fancy restaurants to cheap, on-the-go street food vendors.
The cafes in Paris have been the staple of great minds meetings since the French Enlightenment of the 17th century. From famous impressionist painters to writers and thinkers, the cafes have always been an essential part of public spaces.
If you enjoy reading about Paris, you might like to read about the French Pantheon!
France is full of interesting history with Paris at the heart of it. This is where the French kings ruled for centuries and where the French Revolution broke out in 1789 with the storming of the notorious Bastille prison. The revolt against the monarchy marked a decade of bloodshed that forever changed France. It also had a profound impact on Europe.
Today, the Place de la Bastille is a square with a commemorative column in the centre as the only reminder of the revolution. Here you’ll find several cafés, bars, nightclubs and concert halls. It’s also a popular venue for concerts and events.
History is on every corner of the city, marked by those that ruled it over the centuries. You can’t get away from it even if you tried. Visit the Basilique royale de Saint-Denis, the burial place of French kings, or French luminaries’ resting place at the Pantheon. Tour the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette spent her last days before her execution or Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where many famous people are buried.
Want to know more about Paris? You might like to read about the Pere Lachaise Cemetery!
The history of Paris is not just about the dead. You can channel the creative vibes of Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Picasso and Van Gogh. Many artists who came to Paris lived in the lively hilltop neighbourhood of Montmartre. It was an affordable area in those days, where ideas and theories flowed freely like wine.
Parks and gardens
You can’t go to Paris and not stroll through one of the city’s green spaces. With over 450 parks, there are many green spaces to enjoy. Whether you’re into picnics, music concerts, hanging out with a book or other people, the parks of Paris are for you. It’s where Parisians of all ages enjoy fresh air and scenery.
Just like the rest of the city, the parks in Paris have been designed with beauty in mind. Here you can enjoy manicured lawns, gravelled walkways, fountains, waterfalls and ponds and statues. Jardin des Tuileries is Paris’ oldest and largest public garden, and it happens to be one of my favourites. As it’s near the Louvre Museum, I visited it quite frequently. Other great parks to check out include Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, the botanical Jardin des Plantes and Parc Monceau.
Further thoughts on Paris, the City of Lights
To me, Paris will always be a special place. Maybe it’s because I spent time there when I was younger instead of just dropping in for a short visit. Or perhaps it’s because it offers so many things I enjoy – food, architecture, culture and history.
The City of Lights is also a city of many wonders, and trying to cram everything into a few days can be a challenge. I don’t think you can enjoy Paris until you have a chance to get lost in it. No set schedules and timetables. Just walking out the door and exploring.
I found Paris very walkable and easy to get around. The metro system is efficient, and you can get anywhere in the city pretty fast. When I lived there for those three weeks, getting around by train became second nature. I enjoyed the solitude and the fact that I was in one of the world’s most amazing cities. Since then, I’ve returned to Paris, but all it did was make me want to go back even more. Paris is, after all, always a good idea.