Top 20 Interesting and Amazing Facts About Paris
Did you know that there are dozens of grand pianos scattered across the train stations of Paris? Knowing Paris as I do now, this wild fact no longer shocks me, but it blew my Romanian fried away the first time she came for a visit.
Looking to have my own mind slightly blown by Paris again, I set out on uncovering this list of interesting and amazing facts that follows. Enjoy!
1. There was Vigorous Opposition to the Construction of the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower was never meant to become a permanent feature on the Parisian skyline. It was a temporary construction, intended to showcase the city’s superiority in terms of modern technology at the 1889 World’s Fair.
It was decided that the tower would stay erect for twenty years before being permanently dissembled. The press called it a “useless monstrosity” and after it was reported that the tower would actually be staying for good, a lot of intellectual figures of France at the time offered outrage at the notion.
2. There is a Lake Underneath the Opéra Garnier
In 1862, Charles Garnier began the building of the Paris Opera. He and his architect encountered a big problem as the intended site for the opera house was an existing city swamp land.
The infrastructure would surely have flooded had construction commenced, but instead of move locations Charles Garnier simply ordered the construction of a concrete liner filled with water of its own that would block any infiltrations from the swamp.
The public have no way of accessing said liner, but it is used to this day by the Parisian fire department in the training of their scuba divers.
3. There’s Only One Stop Sign in All of Paris
I had to read this fact over again until it properly sunk in.
One stop sign? In all of Paris? Yes, it’s true. The French capital never had a need for this specific traffic command on its roads aside from one spot along the Seine in the 16th arrondissement.
In Paris, drivers on the right hand side simply get priority, eliminating the need for stop signs altogether.
4. Paris Used to be Called Lutetia
Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC, and at the time was called Lutetia.
Lutetia would have been initially situated in the present day district of Nanterre; a suburb to the northwest, just outside of the city center. The city would have grown from this point outward.
The people of Lutetia would refer to themselves as “Parisii”, and overtime it became natural to refer to the city as Paris instead. At present, there are 38 cities across the planet called Paris.
5. A Crocodile from the Nile Once Made its way to Paris
A lot of myths and fables exist surrounding the various entities that might live in the sewers of Paris. Ghosts, aquatic monsters and estranged gargoyles amongst them.
In 1984, some sewer workers reported sightings of something swimming through the canals. Firemen were dispatched to investigate and discovered a crocodile had been living in and swimming throughout the tunnels.
Even more bizarre, the crocodile was of Nile descent. A long way from home indeed!
6. There are More Fur Babies in Paris than there are Actual Babies
This will be less surprising once you start exploring the city and see the evidence for yourself. It’s a rare occasion to see someone approaching with a stroller, and to find an actual baby inside of it.
Strollers, in Paris, are for pups. And the people of the city as option to adopt animal friends before the thought of breeding with another human ever crosses their mind.
7. It is Free to Shoot in Paris
At any given time, there are at least a handful of film and television shoots taking place throughout the street of Paris. On top of this, probably dozens of photoshoots both professional and non.
8. The French Army is the Only One Still Using Carrier Pigeons
The French are always thinking ahead. In the event of a mass collapse of modern technology and digitization, the French army still employ the use of carrier pigeons to get messages from A to B.
They are the only European army that still makes use of this technique in modern times. No doubt, there is method to the madness and should anything ever happen to our trusted technological platforms, the French will be able to remain in comms with whoever they need to.
9. Paris’ Love-Locks Bridge had to be Removed
Well, the bridge itself is still there but the locks needed to be permanently removed just a few years ago.
It’s estimated that over 1 million locks had been attached to the bridges structure, adding around 45 tons of eternal weight. The bridge in question was not originally designed to handle weight of such grand proportions, and it started to become a safety hazard keeping the locks present.
The removal of the locks was met with great public outcry. The bridge was seen as an intricate part of the Parisian charm; a landmark made by the people, for the people.
10. “Paris Syndrome” is a Real Thing
Think of it as the most sever case of culture shock possible. Depending on where in the world you come from, your perception of Paris may have been skewed thanks to the way the city is represented in mainstream media and films such as Amelie and Moulin Rouge.
For some travelers, Paris is nothing like they expected at the syndrome sets in fast. Depression, anxiety, sweating and hallucinations are all signs of Paris Syndrome, with people of Japanese descent being particularly susceptible to it.
11. There are 10 Statue’s of Liberty in France
And five of them are situated in Paris!
The most well known of the statues is the one in the Pont de Grenelle. It was erected in 1889, and faces the statue of Liberty in New York City as a symbol of friendship between the USA and France.
In fact, the Statue of Liberty in NYC was actually a gift from France to the United States.
12. The World’s Biggest Sundial is in Paris
This crazy fact is ignored by a lot of people when they first visit the Place de la Concorde. Admittedly, I was one of them for a while.
If you actually look at the layout of the square, you’ll see that it is, in fact, a massive sundial working off of the Obelisk in the center.
Depending on where the sun is, the Obelisk will cast shadows onto the ground allowing those with half a brain to read the time. There are even Roman numerals carved into the pavement if you look close enough.
13. Tom Cruise was Prohibited from Becoming an Honorary Citizen of the City
Tom Cruise is a world famous Scientologist, and the nation of France classifies Scientology as a cult practice, and not without reason.
In 2005, Cruise was hard at work in trying to become a honorary citizen of France. The municipal government of Paris wasn’t having it, and managed to block the movement by passing an official resolution that would permanently bar the Scientologist from becoming a French citizen.
14. The ‘City of Light’ has Nothing to do with Actual Lights
Perhaps my favorite fact about Paris: the name “city of lights” was never actually intended to refer to the physical lights of the city at all.
It was actually coined as a term to describe the way in which writers, artists and intellectuals from all over the world would flock to Paris as this beacon of light for their works. Similar to how a moth is drawn to a flame, so too were these individuals and thus the city become known as one of light energy. Beautiful!
15. In Paris you can Write a Cheque on a Piece of Toilet Paper
That you can. And all banks have to cash it, if it is brought to their establishment.
Under the act of Article L131-2 of the Monetary and Financial Code of October 30th 1935, any one with a local bank account may write a cheque on a piece of paper durable enough to withstand banking procedures, toilet paper included.
To get around the law, most Parisian banks have made the use of cheque books nonnegotiable when registering new clients. That way, they limit the chance of ever needing to actually deal with a toilet cheque.
16. The Eiffel Tower is Not the Most Visited Landmark in Paris
This may no longer be the case, but the Notre Dame actually exceeded the Eiffel Tower in number of visitors for many years in a row.
Since the devastating fire that raged through the cathedral, the Notre Dame has been closed to visitors for a while, forcing travelers to venture elsewhere upon arrival in the city.
While you might not be able to get into the Notre Dame at present, visitors are still permitted to explore the outside and surrounding suburb, giving 360 degree views of the cathedral.
17. It Costs €200,000 to Become a Taxi Driver in Paris
Paris is notorious for having a shortage of taxis. Compared to other cities in Europe and the world, there are rarely taxis available when you need them most, and Uber really took over the minute it was introduced onto the scene.
The reason for the lack of drivers is that it costs €200,000 to apply for a taxi driver license through the city of Paris. It’s an unfathomable amount of money for a city worker, and largely justifies why actually using taxis in the city costs so much money, too.
18. The Oldest Bridge in Paris is Called the New Bridge
Ironically, the Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is the oldest bridge in the city.
The name “new bridge” was given to this old bridge because, at the time, it was one of few bridges in the city built using stone. The stone structure meant that it had a proper sidewalk and could facilitate pedestrians in avoiding trailing through unnecessary mud.
So the new bridge is the old bridge. Simple.
19. In Paris, You May Not Name Your Pet Pig ‘Napoleon’
Napoleon ruled France in the 19th century. At the time, rebellious groups used to organize pranks in which they would call after pigs yelling “Napoleon, Napoleon” as an attempt to mock the man in power.
In retaliation, Napoleon introduced a law that stated no pigs may ever be named Napoleon. The law still stands today though it is probably rarely prosecuted.
20. The Glass Panes of the Louvre Pyramid Might Add up to 666
This urban legend began to gain traction in the 1980s when museum brochures and newspapers really did cite this number when stating facts about the main Louvre pyramid.
However, anyone with the ability to do elementary math would easily be able to observe said pyramid and calculate using a series of simple equations.
The entrance panel of the pyramid would need to be taken into consideration, as it contains 11 triangles fewer than the other three. It is estimated by the more intellectual folk that the Louvre pyramid, in fact, displays 673 triangles in total.
The legend resurfaced in 2003, when author Dan Brown used the number 666 in his novel The Da Vinci Code. As you probably know, most of the movie rendition of the book was filmed in and around Paris, including inside of the Louvre.