Every city has its secrets and facts that cannot be found in the average guidebook. Although Paris is the most visited capital in the world and has famous monuments and specialities, the city also has some well-kept stories that might blow your mind. Here’s a list of the 10 random, crazy or surprising facts about The City of Lights that even most Parisians ignore and that will allow you to sound smart and cultured during your next family dinner…
1. The Eiffel Tower was a temporary construction
The most famous monument in the entire world, built in 1889, was only supposed to be a temporary structure. The tower was aimed to demonstrate the superiority of France in modernity and technology during the 1889 World’s Fair. The original structure was supposed to be taken apart 20 years after its inauguration and the tower used to be extremely unpopular. Various intellectual figures of the time protested against what the French press used to call a useless monstrosity.
2. There’s only one STOP sign in the entire city of Paris
Yes, that’s it. The lucky one is situated at the exit of a building company’s drive, in the rich 16th arrondissement. Concerning the traffic rules in the city centre, it’s simply the right which gets priority.
3. You have to pay around €200,000 to be a taxi driver in Paris
If you have ever been to Paris, you may have noticed that taxis are nearly impossible to find. On Saturday nights, it’s very common to spot dozens of people on the sidewalk waiting (or fighting) for a taxi. The most complained about Parisian fact actually has a very simple explanation: in Paris, taxi drivers have to pay nearly €200,000 to get their licenses. Yes, you read it well. Can you guess what was most Parisians’ opinion regarding Uber…?
4. The oldest bridge in Paris is the Pont Neuf (New Bridge)
Alright, the truth is, the bridge was given this name in order to distinguish it from older bridges that, at the time, were not built in stone and did not have a proper sidewalk allowing pedestrians to avoid the mud.
5. The famous love-locks bridge no longer exists
Well, the bridge is still there, but all the locks were recently removed for safety reasons. Indeed, the huge number of locks (nearly 1 million, weighing around 45 tons!) attached to the bridge were progressively damaging its structure. Paris city officials were strongly criticised for taking the decision to remove the emblematic locks, considered by most Parisians (and tourists!) as cultural patrimony and as one of the main symbols of the city.
Here is the new version of the bridge… :
6. There is a Statue of Liberty in Paris
Located on the Pont de Grenelle, this reduced version of the statue, inaugurated in 1889, faces the American one and symbolises the friendship between the two countries. In fact, New York’s Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the United States.
7. The Eiffel tower is NOT the most visited monument in Paris
In 2014, the Eiffel Tower was only the 4th most visited site of the French capital. It’s the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris that’s in first place.
8. The main bell in Notre Dame’s Cathedral weighs 13 tons
…Or more than 3 Elephants. The inner part of the bell (its clapper) weighs 500kg by itself. It is sounded for the main catholic holidays like Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday etc., or for other important events such as the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor Benedict XVI. Oh, and the largest bell has a name : Emmanuel.
9. There is a beach in Paris
Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but this title was catchy. The truth is, each summer, the banks of La Seine turn into a beach : tons of sand, but also swimming pools, tanning chairs, volleyball nets, ice cream stalls etc. sprout up alongside the Parisian river. The concept, called Paris Plages, was initiated in 2002 by the mayor of Paris for Parisians who don’t have the chance to take summer vacations. Initially destined to those who couldn’t afford to go to the seaside, it has now become a popular spot for all Parisians and is always very crowded.
10. Place de la Concorde is one of the biggest sundials in the world
It’s not obvious and most Parisians ignore it, but the Concorde square is a giant sundial. The Obelisk (the main monument of the square, a 23 metre-high Egyptian column) allows us to read the approximate hour according to its shadow, according to the position of the sun. If you pay attention while walking around the Place de la Concorde, you’ll even notice some hour markers in Roman numerals on the pavement.
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