Fun facts and things to do know about Paris
Let’s start with a few fun facts and weird and wonderful things to know about Paris.
Paris is known as the City of Light
One of Paris’ most famous nicknames is the ‘City of Light.’ Some travellers assume it’s because of the lights that festoon attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, but that’s not quite correct. Instead, the moniker came about after the city became one of the first cities in Europe to install streetlights. This happened after Louis XIV commissioned the installation of streetlights to improve the city’s safety in the wake of recent wars.
Paris has seven statues of Liberty
The world’s most famous Statue of Liberty in New York was a gift to the city from France. What many people don’t know is that there are seven replicas of the statue sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi in Paris. They include one on the man-made island called Île aux Cygnes near Grenelle Bridge, one tucked away among the foliage in Jardin de Luxembourg, one inside the Musée d’Orsay, one inside the Arts-et-Metiers Museum, a tiny one peeping out of the breastplate on the 5m tall statue called Le Centaure at 2 Place Michel Debré in the 6th arrondissement, and one in the lobby of 5 rue du Cirque in the 8th arrondissement, a private building.
Paris has an “underground city”
The catacombs of Paris are part of a network of underground tunnels built to consolidate the city’s old stone quarries. The catacombs are the final resting place of more than six million people. They were buried there as part of an effort to find a solution to the city’s overflowing cemeteries in the 1700s.
The first Bloody Mary cocktail was made in Paris
Enjoyed as an almost savoury yet refreshing cocktail (or hangover cure) around the world, the Bloody Mary was born in Paris. Sometime in the 1920s, Fernand Petiot, an American bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, mixed equal parts of tomato juice and vodka. Guests felt his initial concoction lacked a certain something, so he spiced it up with cayenne pepper, black pepper, lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce, and an iconic cocktail was born.
Notre Dame Cathedral is Paris’ Point Zero
All distances in Paris (and France) are measured from Notre Dame Cathedral, which is considered to be the centre of the city. You can visit the actual point – it takes the form of a paving stone that looks like a compass engraved with the words, “Point zero des routes de France.”
Travel tips when visiting Paris
These simple travel tips can turn a good Parisian holiday experience into a great one. Use them when you visit the city.
Walk as much as you can: The best way to explore Paris is on foot, as you’ll get a feel for the authentic city. Walking also gives you the chance to find hidden gems, spot little details you’d otherwise have missed, and to find places that appeal to you but aren’t mentioned in travel guides. If you start feeling tired, or if you need to get somewhere in a hurry, you’ll have no trouble finding public transport links. Bring comfortable shoes!
Go on self-guided and free walking tours: Google “self-guided walking tours in Paris” or a specific part of the city and you should find plenty of options. You can also search for themed self-guided tours if you have specific interests, such as period architecture, religious history, or fashion. Free guided walking tours are great, as guides share local knowledge and anecdotes. Please note that guides usually ask for a tip at the end of the tour. This is normal, and tips are appreciated, so please give what you think the tour was worth.
Purchase a Paris Pass: A Paris Pass might be a good option for your holiday in the city. The Pass offers unlimited travel on buses and the Metro, as well as entry to numerous attractions and museums, such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and a cruise on the Seine. The Pass is pricey, so do some research before purchasing one: Add up the entrance fees of all the attractions you plan to visit, include the cost of public transport, and compare that to the cost of the Pass. Passes are valid for two, three, or four days. If you don’t purchase a pass, buy tickets for things to do in Paris online in advance to avoid long queues.
Learn a few French words before travelling: You’ll find locals much friendlier and more willing to assist if you show them that you’ve learned at least a few words before visiting the city. You don’t need to be fully conversant in the language – a few simple words, such as “Bonjour/Bonsoir” (Hello/Good evening), “S’il vous plait” (Please), “Merci” (Thank You), and “Pardon” (Sorry) are a good place to start.