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The Ile de la Cité is the cradle of Parisian civilization. It was here that the Parisii tribe lived; the Romans, led by Caesar's lieutenant Labenius, conquered the Parisii in 52 AD and set up camp. The city was given the name Lutecia, from the Latin lutum meaning "mud". During the barbarian invasion, Lutecia's inhabitants, galvanized by the young Sainte Geneviève, took refuge on the easily defended Ile de la Cité. Clovis, king of the Francs and defeater of the Romans, made the island his capital. It stayed the area's center of activity throughout the Middle ages. 

   In the 9th century, the Norman invasions subjected Paris to repeated Viking attacks. One such attack in 885 met with the resistance led by Count Eudes, later king; once again, the defeat was organized on the island. 

   The island kept its role as a religious and judicial center throughout the Middle Ages. Notre-Dame (begun in 1163 under the guidance of bishop Maurice de Sully on a spot sacred since Roman times), Sainte-Chapelle (built in 1245 under the reign of St-Louis), and the Conciergerie are the last three Middle-Aged buildings left on the island. Nonetheless, you can still see remnants of medieval streets on the square in front of Notre-Dame. The plaque here in the square is the zero-point for all distances measured from other towns to Paris, underlining yet again the central role of the island in Parisian history. 

   The Ile St-Louis was originally two smaller islands: the Ile aux Vaches (Island of the Cows), originally nothing but pasture; and the Ile Notre-Dame, site of judicial duels during the Middle Ages. It wasn't until the 17th century that the 2 islands were united. The work was done by Marie, a general contractor, and his 2 sponsors, Le Regrattier and Poulettier. After the construction, lords and financiers built their homes here. As a result, the Ile St-Louis remains a lovely place to walk around and admire the mansions, still standing. 


Hotel de Vendôme - Le Relais du Louvre - Hotel de la Place du Louvre
Hotel Britannique

The neighborhood of the Tuileries is completely dominated by the Louvre, whose turbulent and eventfull history has left us one of the richest museum collections in the world. The gardens (the Palais Royal and the Tuileries) and the squares (Vendome, Victoires, and the Place de la Concorde) surround the Louvre, making this area exceptionally nice to visit. It is also well-known for its small luxury boutiques. 


Hotel de la Bretonnerie - Rivoli Notre Dame - Saint Paul le Marais - Hotel Beaubourg

Le Marais, literally "the swamp", was originally exactly that. It wasn't until the 13th century that convents came to the area and it began to develop life and culture. The neighborhood became part of Paris when Charles V reinforced and extended the city wall constructed under Philippe Auguste. Charles V then moved to the Hotel St-Paul in the Marais, but his successors preferred the Hotel des Tournelles. It was here that Henri II died, following a wound from a tournament. Catherine de Medicis later had the mansion torn down. 

The Place Royale (now the place des Vosges), built by Henry IV, was finished in 1612 and the Marais became a very stylish neighborhood, home of many grand French mansions and "salons", a sort of intellectual and philosophical conversation group. But after the Henry IV's assassination (by Ravaillac) and Louis XIII's accession, the high society left the area and it was taken up by artisans and small industries.

Today, a trip around the Marais shows the numerous restorations it has seen. The neighborhood contains some of the oldest buildings in Paris, and their architectural treasures make the Marais a charming and unforgettable place to visit.  

The churches of St-Eustache and St-Germain l'Auxerrois held the first Parisian marketplace, dating from the beginning of the 12th century. In 1183, Philippe Auguste enlarged the marketplace and built a shelter for the merchants, who came from all over to sell their wares. For centuries, until the marketplace was moved to Rungis, The Halles were the "stomach of Paris". The liveliness once associated with the area has disappeared, even if the new modern shopping mall, the Forum des Halles, still attracts a large number of people. On the other side of Boulevard Sebastopol, a very controversial building project resulted in the Pompidou Centre which until very recently attracted the largest number of people of any attraction in the city, including the Louvre. It is the home of the National Museum of Modern Art, and has a fascinating and rich collection of modern works. It is also the home of many temporary exhibitions, and a large public library.  


Hotel d'Aubusson - Au Manoir Saint Germain - L'Hotel - Le Relais Saint Sulpice - Hotel de l'Académie - Left Bank Saint Germain

St-Germain-des-Prés was originally a little market town formed around the abbey of St. Germain. At that time, it consisted mostly of fields worked by the Benedictine monks. The church, which dates from the era, shelters the tombs of the Merovingians and St. Germain, bishop of Paris. The current building has been reconstructed and added to over the years, starting in 990 after the Norman raids. The abbey gave a piece of its land along the Seine to the University Pré-aux-Clercs. 

   Marguerite de Valois, Henry IV's first wife, also managed to get a piece of the Pré-aux-Clercs, where she built an enormous mansion overlooking the Seine. She got the land under the condition that the banks of the river would have the name "Malacquis" (ill-gotten) - the name has since been transformed into "Malaquais". Many big statesmen lived here around the end of the 17th century, and their mansions and courtyards are today the seat of many governmental ministries. 

   After the Revolution, the neighborhood would not come back into style until after the Second World War. Ultimately, it came to be known as a center of intellectualism; the Café de Flore and the Deux Magots were popular hangouts for such minds as Vian, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir.  


The name Montparnasse comes from the nickname "Mount Parnassus", given to the neighborhood by students who came here to recite poetry. In the 18th century, the Boulevard Montparnasse was laid down and during the Revolution, lots of dance floors and cabarets opened their doors. The neighborhood became famous at the beginning of the 20th century when it was the heart of intellectual and artistic life in Paris. It attracted people from all over the world come to experience the bohemian lifestyle; it also found itself the home of political exiles such as Lenin and Trotsky. The real action in the neighborhood was to be found in endless talks in cafés like as le Rotonde, le Sélect, le Dôme, la Cloiserie des Lilas, or la Coupole. Here the great minds gathered: Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine, Zadkine, Paul fort, Apolinaire, Max Jacob, Hemingway, Fargue, Breton, Cocteau, Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Miro, Fujita... All have left their eternal mark in the memory of this area. 


Les Jardins du Luxembourg - Hotel de Notre Dame - Hotel Abbatial - Hotel Agora

  The Romans, after having conquered the Parisii tribe in 52 BC and taken up residence on the Ile de la Cité, extended their settlements little by little along the Left Bank of the Seine. They eventually reached what is now Mt. St-Geneviève, which got its name from the brave girl that banded the Parisians together during the barbarian raids. The Romans built a Forum, a theater and amphitheater, an aqueduct, thermal baths, as well as laying main roads through the area (such as the modern Rue St. Jacques). Traces of this ancient era still remain today; especially at the Cluny Museum, site of an old thermal bath. 

   In the 12th century, the University of Paris took up residence in the old Notre-Dame cloister on the Left Bank; ever since, the whole neighborhood has been marked by its scholarly traditions. In 1253, Robert de Sorbon founded a school for the poor that over time gained international renown: The Sorbonne. The allure of the Sorbonne attracts huge numbers of students; it has been a powerful center of learning throughout its history. 

   The Latin Quarter got its name because Latin was spoken here, and was in fact the official language until 1793. The university tradition lives on in this neighborhood, seat of the famous student protests of May 1968. 

   Many rich monuments are also to be found in the area. The Pantheon, located on the top of Mt. St-Geneviève, looks out over all Paris. Tourists often love to stroll through this quaint, historic area; its many cafés, restaurants, theaters, and little bookshops make it a lively and attractive place to visit.  


This area of the fifth arondissement, now the Palace and Gardens of Luxembourg, was originally a Roman camp. Before the Carthusians came along in 1257, the neighborhood was ill-reputed and considered to be "evil". The monks converted the area into a flourishing monastery. In 1612, Marie de Médicis bought the Duke of Luxembourg's mansion and made it into a palace. It was designed by Salomon de Brosse in a Renaissance style inspired by his native Tuscany. Despite her exile and banishment from Paris, Marie's palace remained the property of the royal family until the Revolution. The gardens grew and are now a marvelous area to walk, play, or sit and watch passers-by. The Luxembourg Palace is currently the seat of the Senate. Also of note in this neighborhood is the church of St-Sulpice, one of the largest churches in Paris

Jardins des Plantes

The Lutecian Arenas, one of the few traces left of the Gallo-Roman era, is one of the unique features of this lively area of Paris, where the restaurants and bars along the Rue Mouffetard give its inhabitants a whiff of summer all year round. Aside from the Jardin des Plantes itself, the Paris Mosque, the Arab World Institute, and the new Bibliothèque Nationale are among the many offerings of the neighborhood.


Hotel Le Tourville - Hotel de la Bourdonnais

This chic district of Paris is the home of the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides. Many old mansions built here in the 18th century now hold government offices. The Invalides were created under Louis XIV to come to the aid of old soldiers who had been forced into either panhandling or subsiding on church charity. So the institution of the Invalides was created in 1670 and quickly became home to a number of wounded soldiers. The plans were carried out by Libéral Bruant, and construction was finished in 1676. The dome crowning the church is the work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and is a perfect symbol of the spendour Louis XIV wanted under his reign. The Church of St. Louis des Invalides, whose construction predates the dome, is Hardouin-Mansart's work as well, and many flags stolen from the enemy were hung here as decoration. The major historical event witnessed by the Invalides was the reception of Napoleon's ashes on December 15th, 1840, now housed in a tomb designed by Visconti.

Hotel Le Parc - Les Jardins du Trocadéro - Hotel Tilsitt Etoile - Hotel du Bois- Hotel Kleber - Résidence Monceau - Hotel Mercedes

This area of Paris still carries the mark of World Expos past. The Expos majestically transformed the shape of this little neighborhood on a hill along the Seine, where Napoleon dreamed of building a palace for his son. During the Third Republic the first Chaillot Palace was built for the 1871 expo. In 1937, the architects Carlu, Azema, and Boileau built the current Chaillot Palace facing the Eiffel Tower. The monuments' different elements work together in harmony. The neighborhood is rich with different museums and embassies, which characterize perfectly the luxury of this area.

The Champs Elysées (Elysian fields) were originally nothing but fields, until Marie de Medicis decided in 1616 to put up a long tree-lined pathway. In 1667, Le Notre extended the vista of the Tuileries and the Champs-Elysees became a very fashionable place to walk. In 1724, the avenue was extended up to Chaillot hill, now the site of the Arc de Triomphe and the Etoile. 

   The actual avenue of the Champs-Elysées did not become city property until 1828, when they added footpaths and fountains. They also added gas lighting at this time. 

   Today, the Champs Elysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, with its cinemas, cafés, and luxury specialty shops. This special status made it the site of much growth and activity. At the very heart of Paris, it is one of the most symbolic places in the city, representative of its spirit and glory.  

Beau Manoir - Hotel Lido - Hotel Queen Mary - Louvre Marsollier Opéra

The Opéra area, with its cafés, terraces, and chic luxury boutiques running along the "grands boulevards", shows more than any other area traces of the grandiose Second Empire of Napoleon III and the work of Baron Hausmann. These wide streets charaterise the wonder of the era, a time when Paris was the epitome of European luxury. The splendour of the Second Empire attracted nobility from all over Europe. 

   This is also the area where Paris is truly the "City of Light". The Opéra area of today is a very lively area with all of the cafés, restaurants, and cinemas.  

Set on a hill 130 meters high, the area of Montmartre looks grandly out over all of Paris. The name "Montmartre" comes from "Mont des Martyrs" (the bishop St. Denis, the priest Rustique, and the archdeacon Eleuthère were all decapitated there around the year 250). In the 12th century, Benedictine monks built a monastery near Rue des Abesses. It later became the seat of a powerful abbey. 

   The Montmartre area was the center of a lot of activity during the Paris Commune in 1871. Despite the resistance of the people of Montmartre, the area remained under Federal control from March 18 until May 23. 
The end of the 19th century saw Montmartre to be the center of artistic life in Paris and the model of a free, bohemian existence. Many artists, from Berlioz to Picasso, lived, worked, and played here. These creative spirits (and their café, the Lapin Agile) helped keep this area the city's intellectual and artistic center up until the first World War.

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