Post Overview: Interesting and Unique Facts about Paris
With Paris being one of the oldest and most-storied cities in the world there is always something fun to learn. There are facts about Paris that have left me speechless, confused and impressed – sometimes at the same time!
From the beginning Paris has been a global leader in nearly every facet. From fashion to food to technology so many interesting things have happened in the French capital, meaning there’s plenty of fun facts about Paris to learn.
So whether you’re researching facts about Paris because you’re visiting soon and want to impress your friends or are just gearing up for Trivia Tuesday at your favorite bar you’ve come to the right place.
As you may already know I’m married to a polymath of sorts and we like to impress each other with fun facts about new places we’re visiting. Paris has been no different, I’ve had a hoot researching this post!
So without further ado let me share the most interesting facts about Paris I’ve learned thus far! Let’s dive in.
Interesting Facts About Paris
#1. There are no stop signs in Paris
It’s true albeit a little surprising that the French capital has no stop signs. The city removed the last stop sign in 2016 and relies solely on traffic lights and good-faith to keep the roads from diving into chaos.
While you’re exploring share this fun fact about Paris with your friends. I guarantee they’ll look for one anyways but come up empty-handed.
#2. The Louvre is the biggest art museum in the world
The museum is a masterpiece, even if you don’t consider yourself a “museum person.” It was originally built as a fortress before being repurposed as a royal palace. The Louvre has been collecting art from all corners of the globe since 1793, attracting 7.8 million visitors annually.
#3. The Notre Dame is Considered Paris’ Point Zero
If you’re ever road-tripping across the French countryside and read “100 kilometers to Paris” the distance is measured in reference to “point zero,” a plaque in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
The reason? The Île de la Cité is where the Roman governor, King of the Franks and French Monarchy all decided to build their homes. It is historically (and by definition) the center of Paris.
Although mostly inconsequential this is a unique fun fact about Paris that you can share with your friends. Even better – impress them by taking them to the plaque when visiting Notre Dame.
#4. France uses 12 different time zones
The next time you find yourself complaining about the time-zone differences in your country I want you to think of the following: France used 12 different time zones, and it used to be 13!
The country has territories outside of Europe so its citizens are all spread out. In fact, France has the Guinness World Record for Country with the Most Time Zones!
I can only imagine the headache of working for a French company and having to call the “Tahiti office” only to find out you’re 12 hours ahead. It’s one of the most unique facts about Paris I’ve heard to date.
#5. Ironically the oldest bridge in Paris is the Pont Neuf, which translates to “New Bridge”
Remember how I said that the Ile de la Cite is the historical center of Paris? Well the rulers of France still needed a way to access the mainland, so construction began on Pont Neuf in 1578.
Ironically it still holds onto its original name even though present day it’s the oldest bridge in Paris. I let out a genuine chuckle when my husband shared this fact about Paris with me while crossing the bridge.
#6. Some people who visit Paris suffer from Paris Syndrome
Movies, books and music have all venerated Paris for literal centuries. Kids think of it as the dreamiest place to fall in love and as you get older the notion that it’s magical is only emboldened through Instagram and social media.
And Paris is enchanting, sincerely, but for a lot of tourists it doesn’t live up to the expectation. One of the most unique facts about Paris is that the feeling of disappointment is so widespread it even has a name: Paris Syndrome.
Many folks suffer extreme culture shock when they realize the photos they saw online show only a portion of what Paris really is. It isn’t one-single thing that turns folks off, it’s just that they had envisioned it differently.
The term Paris Syndrome was first coined by Hiroaki Ota, a Japanese psychiatrist working in France in the 1980’s. She even wrote a book about it and in the present the feeling is all too real for many tourists.
To me seeing Paris in person was like breaking down the fourth wall. You know what I’m talking about – like the behind the scenes of a movie that looks significantly different from the edited version with special effects.
#7. Paris Has 450 Parks And Gardens
Yes, Paris is a global city full of industry and pretty buildings, but it’s also a vibrant greenspace. One of the facts about Paris I found most interesting is that the city has 450 parks and gardens!
Coming from New York City, where Central Park reigns supreme, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many neighborhood parks in the French capital. Visiting the many parks is one of the best things to do in Paris for free.
My favorite of the lot has to be Parc Monceau, a stunning English garden in the eighth arrondissement. It’s not only stunning and full of life, it’s a hopeless-romantic’s dream come true.
#8. Camouflage military clothing was first used by the French
Although most armies of today’s world implement some sort of camouflage on their uniform, it wasn’t always a common practice. I mean think about it, George Washington wasn’t wearing fatigues.
He was more dressed up than most girls are on their wedding day! However World War I introduced airplanes to the battle field and soldiers needed to remain unseen from above.
Camouflage first began being applied to vehicles and guns, but it wasn’t until the French armies starting wearing camouflage that other countries started picking up on the trend.
It’s an interesting fact to think about whenever someone calls Paris the fashion capital of the world.
#9. The Eiffel Tower gets repainted (by-hand) once every seven years
The Eiffel Tower is an impressive feat of engineering, visited by more than 300 million visitors since it was first built. Therefore you may be wondering, how the hell does the tower stay in pristine condition?
It’s a fair question and up until I did my research reading facts about the Eiffel Tower I too was curious. To my surprise I discovered the Eiffel Tower gets re-painted every seven years, by hand.
What’s even more interesting is that since the tower is made of iron and weighs about 10,000 tons — it takes roughly 60 tons of paint to coat the entire tower! And to make this fact about Paris just a little juicier I should mention it’s been painted 19 times since being built, the first time of which was red.
#10. The Mona Lisa was once stolen
One of the most fascinating things about the Mona Lisa is that for 400 years the painting was seldom known about outside of art circles.
It wasn’t until an employee of The Louvre decided to steal the painting in 1911 that its fame skyrocketed. The thief claimed to have stolen the painting to return it to Italy, its rightful home.
It was only missing for three years, but that’s all it took to become an global icon. The theft of the Mona Lisa inspired an opera, two films and an Oscar-winning song by Nat King Cole (named Mona Lisa, too).
Pocket this Paris fact until you see Miss Lisa in person, the painting is one of the best things to see at the Louvre.
#11. Tom Cruise was denied honorary citizenship of Paris
Tom Cruise is a proven superstar whose films have grossed more than $11 billion, worldwide but he will never be an honorary citizen of Paris. The honor is symbolic and is given to those that defend human rights across the world.
In 2005 Paris City Hall vowed to never welcome the actor because of his association with the Church of Scientology, which is considered a cult by a lot of leaders in France.
The dismissal of him as an honorary citizen didn’t stop Cruise from proposing to Katie Holmes in front of the Eiffel Tower in 2005. It’s an interesting fact about Paris that’s worth sharing, especially those who love the tabloids.
#12. The First Photo of A Person Ever Taken Was In Paris
Louis Daguerre was a French artist and in 1838 it is believed he took the first photograph of a person. At the time Daguerre had created the first practical way to take pictures and named after himself: Daguerreotype.
The artist, while experimenting, pointed his camera outside his window and took the photo. The Boulevard du Temple is both the name of the street he photographed and the photo itself.
Although the street looks deserted some folks say if you look closely you can make out small figures. It’s believed to be the first photo to show humans and one of the most interesting facts about Paris.
#13. Paris was one of the first European cities to install street lights
A lot of folks may think Paris is known as the City of Light because of modern technology like the Eiffel Tower sparkling. The reality predates the use of electricity, back to a time when Paris was a haven for criminals.
After the sun would go down the streets were ripe with robberies and murders, making it hard for honest folks to want to venture out. King Louis XIV put a stop to this by ordering the illumination of the city.
Originally torchbearers would light each individual lamp after sundown and at the time it was revolutionary. It’s an interesting fact about Paris that is so easy to overlook thanks to modern technology!
#14. Paris is broken down into districts, also known as arrondissements
At more than 40 square miles Paris is massive and the only way to eat the whole pie is one slice at a time. That’s why the city is broken down into 20 administrative districts – better known as arrondissements.
On top of being fun to say (go ahead, try it, throw on the French accent) arrondissements make the city easier to digest for both tourists and city planners. You can choose to tour Paris an arrondissement at a time since each is unique and provides its own sub-culture.
One of the most curious facts about Paris is that the arrondissements are labeled in a spiraling order from the center of the city (remember, point zero?). It’s often described as a snail’s shell, and the only reason I can think of labeling them this way is because you really like escargot.
#15. Many Parisians take a month-long vacation in August, leaving the city empty.
I’m going to be honest here – Paris is hot. I spent a month in the city this past May and even then it was getting to be unbearable some days.
Mix in the fact that Paris is an old city and most buildings don’t have air-conditioning and you’ll understand why (those that can) leave the city for the month of August.
The heat is a huge draw-back to visiting Paris in August. With that said August is also one of the best times to score deals on flights and hotels.
If you’re well hydrated you might enjoy the quieter, more barren landscape of Paris in the summer. Just be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and one of those backpacks with a straw. 😉
#16. The city’s first café has been in business 90 years longer than the US has been a country
Le Procope has been around so long it was rumored the dinosaurs liked to enjoy coffee here. Founded in 1686, the cafe claims to be the oldest continuously-operated cafe in Paris.
I say “claims” because Le Precope closed in 1872 and didn’t reopen until 1920, and frankly I wasn’t around way back then to verify. One thing is for certain, Napoleon and Marie-Antoinette were said to be regular patrons.
So the next time you’re enjoying all the great things to do in Saint-Germain consider swinging by the cafe for a cup of joe. They also sell traditional French fare if your appetite becomes to much to bear.
#17. There’s an annual competition to determine the best baguette in Paris
The French take their baking seriously, and why shouldn’t they – they’re great at it.
One of the most delicious facts about Paris is that every year the best baguettes in the city go head to head for the crown of “Best Baguette in the City.” The official name of the competition is the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Traditional Francaise de la Ville De Paris.
And adding on to this interesting fact about Paris is that the winner doesn’t only get bragging rights. For the year they’ll also supply baguettes for the Elysee Palace, where the president of France lives.
The 2023 winner is Au levain des Pyrénées in Paris 20th arrondissement.
#18. The Eiffel Tower was only meant to be up for 20 years
It’s hard to imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Yet one of the most unbelievable facts about Paris is that the Eiffel Tower was originally built on a 20 year lease.
It was only supposed to be a temporary fixture in the French capital. Intended to up for the World Fair and then destroyed and sold for parts by 1909, the Iron Lady is not just beautiful, she’s a survivor.
Gustave Eiffel had the ingenious idea of giving the tower a scientific purpose in order to save it from destruction. He started working in conjunction with the military and began experimenting using the tower as an antenna.
By adding an extra 6 meters of height to the structure they were able to outfit the Eiffel Tower with a radio antenna. The military saw this as a win-win situation and allowed the landmark to stay, permanently.
An additional fun fact about Paris is that the Eiffel Tower’s antenna is still in use today for radio and television transmissions.
#19. Every summer the city hauls in tons of sand and palm trees to Paris
When folks think of French beaches their minds go to the south of France, not the Seine River. However, one of the best facts about Paris is that every year the city brings in tons of sand, bringing the beach to the French capital.
The tactic was first employed in 2002 by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe in an effort to attract tourists during the hot summer months. Not only do they haul in white sand, there’s also palm trees and lawn chairs.
Now in its 21st year, Paris Beaches is a beloved tradition of both the locals and tourists alike. If I’m ever brave enough to take on the city in August odds are you’ll find me sunbathing at the beach. 😉
#20. Paris has its own Statue of Liberty
As you know, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French. But did you know you can see two other smaller versions of Lady Liberty in the French capital?
Indeed, it’s one of the most interesting facts about Paris – especially for Americans. The original bronze replica was cast in 1900 for the World Fair and later placed in the Jardin du Luxembourg, where it sat for more than a century.
That 1/16-sized cast now triumphantly stands over the entrance to the Musée d’Orsay, one of the best museums in Paris.
The other was a gift in 1889 from Americans to the French people to celebrate the French Revolution. It sits on the Île aux Cygnes, a man made island on the Seine and faces west towards its sister statue in New York.
#21. The guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until 1981
Most of us learned about the prolific use of the Guillotine when studying the French Revolution in school. What many of us didn’t learn however is that the guillotine was the official method of execution until 1981!
That’s because the death penalty was abolished altogether in France in 1981. At that point the death penalty hadn’t been used in five four years (the last execution was in 1977).
And speaking about guillotines, an interesting fact about Paris is that the Place de la Concorde is one of the most blood-soaked places in the city. Of the more than 10,000 people beheaded during the French Revolution about 1,000 of them were guillotined here, the most famous of which are King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette.
#22. It’s impossible to see every piece of art at the Louvre
Alright this might not be an outright fact (there are always overachievers), but while visiting Paris it is nearly impossible to see every piece of art in the Louvre.
I mean you can try to see it all, but for starters that place is a maze. I recently went in with a list of 20 things to see and planned to spend two hours in the museum — it ended up taking me six!
Boasting more than 650,000 square feet (60,000 square meters) and 35,000 items on display some estimates say it’d take 200 days to see every piece of art in the Louvre! Now that’s an interesting fact about Paris.
#23. There’s free sparkling water fountains throughout Paris
Paris has been at the cunning edge of innovation for centuries but they’ve officially outdone themselves. The city offers sparkling water for free out of its public fountains!
They do this in an effort to reduce waste in the city. Instead of buying a water bottle and tossing it locals are now more inclined to use reusable bottles.
Although Paris has more than 1,000+ water fountains they’re working on expanding the availability of sparkling water. The goal is to have at least one sparkling water fountain in each of the 20 arrondissements.
#24. People will travel to Paris just for discount skin-care
Paris, the city of light, love and… discount skincare? A little baffling but true, one of the most interesting facts about Paris I’ve recently learned is that folks will travel to French capital hoping to save big on skin-care.
The most famous of the discount pharmacies is named Citypharma, found in Saint-Germain. Products are sold significantly less expensive (sometimes half-off) than you’d find in the states. A million dollar smile just became so much more affordable!
And I’m glad I picked up on the trend – during my most recent trip to Paris I indulged spending more than $200 on skin-care, hair-care and hygiene products. Am I embarrassed? Absolutely not, I saved some serious cash!
#25. The Eiffel Tower is not the most visited monument in Paris
Woah, woah I love the Iron Lady just as much as the next gal, but I have to give credit where credit is due. An interesting fact about Paris is that its most famous attraction isn’t necessarily its most visited.
Before the devastating fire in 2019 the Notre Dame Cathedral was receiving more than 12 million visitors a year. It’s a whopping five-million more than the Eiffel Tower!
The Cathedral was intended to be complete in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics, but now looks like it’ll be done closer to December of 2024.
#26. Le Marais was once a swamp
Le Marais is one of the cutest, trendiest, most chic neighborhoods in Paris – but it wasn’t always that way. A fun fact about the Paris neighborhood is that it was once a swamp.
In fact that’s what the neighborhood’s name translates to, marais means swamp in English. It’s baffling to think that the unique boutiques, charming green spaces and quaint cafes were at one point a marshy goop.
I have an article about all the best things to do in Le Marais if you’re interested. For those wondering none of them include alligators. 😉
#27. Paris was held by the Nazis for four years
It’s unbelievable the way time is able cover up scars of a city’s past, and in Paris that past includes a four-year Nazi occupation. The city fell on June 14, 1940 and wouldn’t be liberated until August 19, 1944.
While exploring the French capital I would try to imagine tanks and battalions patrolling the city’s streets. I would also try to put myself in the French people’s shoes, with strangers occupying my home.
The occupation is one of the most bone-chilling facts about Paris’ past that also showcases a great deal of resilience by the French people. It’s a reminder of a road we should never walk again.
#28. Women weren’t allowed to (legally) wear trousers in Paris until 2012
Although seldom used, there was a law in Paris that prohibited women from wearing trousers in Paris unless they were riding a bicycle or a horse. Speaking of which – isn’t that a load of horse you know what?
The law stood for over 200 years! Fortunately it was officially rescinded in 2012 and is now just one of the quirkiest facts about Paris.
#29. The weight of “love locks” caused a bridge’s rail to collapse
A lot of you might have heard of Love Lock Bridge, a bridge in Paris where couples go to profess their undying love. It’s the Pont des Arts where couples snapped a lock onto the bridge’s railing and threw the key into the Seine.
After numerous warnings by public officials the bridge finally had its last straw. In 2014 a section of a little more than 10 feet collapsed under the weight of the locks.
Present day the Pont des Arts is under reconstruction and public officials have opted to go with glass paneling to stop lovers from attaching locks to the railing.
The bridge is one of the most popular in Paris and is right next to the Louvre, so odds are you’ll cross it at least once while visiting. Don’t forget to share this fun fact about Paris when you do.
#30. Moulin Rouge is the largest consumer of champagne in the world
I had heard the name “Moulin Rouge” for years before actually learning what it is. For those in a similar boat, Le Moulin Rouge translates to “The Red Mill” and it’s the home of the most famous cabarets in the world!
It also leads me to one of the most unique facts about Paris, which has to do with booze. Le Moulin Rouge is the world’s greatest consumer of champagne!
Each guest receives half a bottle of champagne (hello!) which is reason alone to visit. It’s estimated the cabaret goes through 240,000 bottles of champagne a year, which is both impressive and scary at the same time.
Cool facts about Paris (Post Summary)
- There are no stop signs in Paris
- The Louvre is the biggest art museum in the world
- The Notre Dame is Considered Paris’ Point Zero
- France uses 12 different time zones
- Ironically the oldest bridge in Paris is the Pont Neuf, which translates to “New Bridge”
- Some people who visit Paris suffer from Paris Syndrome
- Paris Has 450 Parks And Gardens
- Tree Counting is an official job In Paris
- Camouflage military clothing was first used by the French
- The Mona Lisa was once stolen
- Tom Cruise was denied honorary citizenship of Paris
- The First Photo of A Person Ever Taken Was In Paris
- Paris was one of the first European cities to install street lights
- Paris is broken down into districts, also known as arrondissements
- Many Parisians take a month-long vacation in August, leaving the city empty.
- The city’s first café has been in business 90 years longer than the US has been a country
- There’s an annual competition to determine the best baguette in Paris
- The Eiffel Tower was only meant to be up for 20 years
- Every summer the city hauls in tons of sand and palm trees to Paris
- Paris has its own Statue of Liberty
- The guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until 1981
- It’s impossible to see every piece of art at the Louvre
- There’s free sparkling water fountains throughout Paris
- People will travel to Paris just for discount skin-care
- The Eiffel Tower is not the most visited monument in Paris
- Le Marais was once a swamp
- Paris was held by the Nazis for four years
- Women weren’t allowed to (legally) wear trousers in Paris until 2012
- The weight of “love locks” caused a bridge’s rail to collapse
- Moulin Rouge is the largest consumer of champagne in the world
Fun facts about Paris (map)
Here’s a map to the locations mentioned in this article about fun facts about Paris
I hope you enjoyed this quick list of cool facts about Paris. Let me know if there’s any I missed and I’ll add them to the list!