Six Surprising and Intriguing Paris Facts

paris facts

Moyan Brenn, Flickr

Long has Paris been the crown jewel of France, dazzling and delighting those who open up to the many complex subtleties of the city. With nearly 27 million tourists a year and a history dating back to at least 250 B.C., it's easy to see there's a love affair with all things related to this amazing city. Ask most anyone and they'll be able to tell you at least a few generic facts about Paris: it sports the iconic Eiffel Tower, excellent cuisine, and a long fashion history. But we've got some lesser known Paris facts that cause even some locals to give a look of surprise.

Paris Fact 1. Paris has the sixth most used Metro in the world, with over 1.48 billion passengers using it (PDF) in 2009. And while it lags behind the world's fifth busiest (New York City) subway system by only 10 million passengers, Paris has a long way to go to catch up to first. The Tokyo Subway system has that honor, pushing over 3.1 billion people around the bustling city in 2009.

Paris Fact 2. Blistering heat and frigid cold have become a part of the climatological history of Paris. The hottest recorded temperature arrived on July 28, 1948, topping out at 104.7°F (40.4°C). And the coldest recorded temperature in Paris? Parisians surely bundled up on December 10, 1879 when the temperature dropped down to -11°F (-23.9°C).

Paris Fact 3. Paris has converted from a "tyranny of taxis to city of bikes"says Elizabeth Pineau of Reuters. Having few bike lanes and significant pollution, the city started turning things around in the late '90s. Today the city features over 270 miles (440 kilometers) of bike routes, with plans to vigorously expand to 435 miles (700 kilometers) of bike routes by 2014.

Paris Fact 4. Paris has the largest number of the world's best restaurants, brandishing an elite 95 Michelin stars in 2010 (PDF). Among impressive Paris facts, perhaps this is the least surprising to native Parisians. However, non-natives are continually picking up their jaws as they feast their eyes (and taste buds) on the wide variety of top restaurants in Paris.

Paris Fact 5. Modern nighttime photos of the Eiffel Tower aren't legally publishable without the permission of the Eiffel Tower's operating company SETE. Yes, you read that correctly. No joke. Apparently a French court ruled in 1990 that a special one-hundredth anniversary light stream pasted to the tower could be ruled original and copyrightable. Rolling your eyes yet? SETE then decided that any light display on the tower can be protected under copyright, stating that photos of said light displays weren't publishable without their express permission. Yikes.

paris facts

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons /
King Henry says, "I have to get involved."

Paris Fact 6. When it comes to Paris facts, France's King Henry IV has to get involved. That adored royal of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century is renowned for renouncing his Protestant roots and supposedly saying "Paris is well worth a Mass." He defiantly took up Catholicism and set out to bring about an end to religious persecution and poverty.

Despite gaining the hearts of his people as king, he still had enemies. Reported to have been the target of at least eighteen assassination attempts, Henry the Great was finally stabbed to death by the fanatical François Ravaillac in 1610.

But the story doesn't end there. Henry IV's grave at the Basilica of Saint Denis was desecrated and his head nabbed in 1793 during the French Revolution. Over several centuries an embalmed head reported to be Henry IV's was passed around to collectors until it finally found home with a retired tax collector in the 1950s.

In early 2010, scientists from across many fields of study were given the opportunity to examine the head, eventually confirming it to likely be Henry IV's. A reinterment and national ceremony is planned at Paris' Basilica of Saint Denis sometime in 2011 or 2012.

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