Population: 2.25 million (12.29 million in the urban conglomeration)
There can be few cities on the planet that can claim to have been at the centre of history as Paris has. Roman, English, Prussian and German armies have all laid siege, while kings, queens, communes and emperors have reigned and toppled as history played out within its walls.
A centre of progressive thinking, modern Paris is recognised for its architectural beauty, Baron Haussmann famously carving 12 grand avenues into the city soil, radiating from the Arc de Triomphe, during the 1860s. Known as the City of Light, Paris still sets the global agenda for culture, cuisine, and fashion, as well as boasting an unmatched artistic heritage.
First known by the Gallo-Roman name Lutetia, the settlement was called Paris after the Celtic tribe that had settled in the area in the third century BC, and was declared capital in 508 by Clovis, king of the Franks, after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Paris continued to prosper and develop under Capetian (the House of France) rule, with a notable achievement being the founding of the Sorbonne, one of the most prestigious teaching establishments in the world.
Renowned for the architecture of its avenues, the most famous of which is the Champs-Élysées, contemporary Paris was fashioned by Baron Haussmann in the 19th century who was given the task of reconstructing the city after the bloody period of the Paris Commune. The Eiffel Tower was subsequently conceived for the Universal Exposition of 1889 and became the symbol of Paris.
From the storming of the Bastille to the events of May 1968, Paris has always been at the heart of momentous events in French history. As the capital city, past and present, Paris is multi-ethnic and always looks to the future. Paris has an artistic and cultural influence on the world that is beyond compare.
• Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known as Molière, dramatist (1622–73): a venerated figure in French literature and author of the most performed works in France
• Pierre de Coubertin, historian (1863–1937): a campaigner for the introduction of school sports, De Courbertin established the movement for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1894
• Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher (1908–86): a partner of Jean-Paul Sartre, De Beauvoir was a leading light of feminism
• Charles Aznavour, author, composer, performer and actor (1924–): singer with 1,000 songs who achieved worldwide success and has sold over 100m records
• Catherine Deneuve, actress (1943–): a stylish, committed performer, Deneuve is one of the greatest actresses of her generation
THINGS TO SEE
• Eiffel Tower and Montmartre: There are many vantage points that afford magnificent views over the city. First and foremost is the view from the Eiffel Tower. Access from ground level is by stairs (free up to the second level) or lift. To reach the top of the tower (276m), you must pay to take the lift from the second level. The Basilica of Sacré Cœur which stands atop the hill of Montmartre offers breathtaking vistas of Paris.
• Marché des Enfants Rouges: The narrow streets and alleyways of the historic Marais district are home to a vast selection of restaurants and cafés. In particular, there are an abundance of traditional Parisian brasseries. Don't forget to visit the Marché des Enfants Rouges to peruse the countless stalls.
• Cruise on the Seine: A river trip on the Seine is an essential part of a visit to Paris. Many cruises depart from alongside the Eiffel Tower and generally last 60 minutes with commentaries in English and French. Price: €13.
• Tuileries Garden: The Tuileries Garden, situated between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde, is a favourite promenade destination for Parisians and tourists alike. Statues by Maillol rub shoulders with works by Rodin. Open from 07.00 to 23.00 in June, July and August.
• The Louvre: With its emblematic glass pyramid, the Louvre Museum is a must when exploring Paris's cultural heritage. It is the most visited museum of art and antiquities in the world. Its most famous work is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Entrance fee: €16.
• Boulevard Haussmann: Between Opéra Garnier and Gare St-Lazare, Boulevard Haussmann is home to all the major shopping outlets you would expect in a large city. In addition, the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores offer a particularly Parisian style of shopping, blending sophistication and high-quality service with settings of exceptional architectural merit.
As France's capital, Paris is at the centre of a diversified, efficient transport network. The City of Light can easily be reached by road, rail or air. There are two international airports: Roissy Charles-De-Gaulle, the seventh busiest airport in the world with connections to 315 destinations, and Orly, that links Paris to 60 different countries.
Paris is the hub of a comprehensive network of over 800km of motorways that connect to all France's main cities (A1, A3, A4, A6, A10, A13 and A15) as well as major European destinations. When approaching Paris, take the Périphérique ring road, which encircles the capital in a 35km loop. Thirty junctions give access to the different districts of Paris.
There are six centrally located railway stations (Gare de Lyon, Gare St-Lazare, Gare Montparnasse, Gare de l'Est, Gare du Nord, Gare d'Austerlitz), making it the most easily accessed European capital by rail. The journey to Marseille by high-speed TGV train is a mere three hours, while Lyon can be reached in just two hours. Amsterdam is three hours by Thalys high-speed train, Brussels only 1 hour 20 minutes distant and London just 2 hours 15 minutes away by Eurostar.
Distances to other UEFA EURO 2016 venues
Saint-Denis – 15km
Lens – 200km
Lille – 225km
Lyon – 465km
Saint-Etienne – 525km
Bordeaux – 590km
Toulouse – 680km
Marseille – 780km
Nice – 945km
Distances between city centres, by motorway where possible
Source: mappy – viamichelin
Distance of Parc des Princes to...
City centre: 8km
Orly airport: 18km
Roissy airport: 35km
The Paris Métro commenced operations in 1900 and now comprises 16 lines. The comprehensive public transport network in Paris also includes five RER rapid transit rail lines, four tram lines and over 300 bus routes. Taking a taxi and cycling are also very good ways of getting around. Public transport tickets are usually bought in Métro or RER stations, but can also be purchased at many local retail outlets (newspaper and tobacco kiosks). A variety of ticket types are available. A single ticket for the Métro and RER costs €1.70.
After a petition for a major football club to be established in the capital was signed by 20,000 people, Paris Saint-Germain were founded on 12 August 1970 with the merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain (the latter team having existed since 1904). PSG are today the city's largest club by far.
They gained a place in the top tier of French football in 1974 and now hold the record for consecutive seasons in the elite division (40). Chaired by Daniel Hechter in the 1970s, Paris did not win any silverware in their initial years. Their first trophies arrived after Francis Borelli became club president: two consecutive French Cups (1982, 1983) and a league championship (1986).
Competition for recognition as the capital's No1 sporting entity came from Matra Racing between 1984 and 1989, and PSG went into decline. But a takeover by broadcaster Canal+ revitalised the club. Players such as Valdo, David Ginola, George Weah, Raí and Youri Djorkaeff graced the side and secured trophies, including the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1996. Paris and Olympique de Marseille are the only French teams to have lifted European prizes.
After a roller-coaster ride in the 2000s, PSG were bought by the Qatar Sports Investments group in 2011. From Thiago Silva to Zlatan Ibrahimović, Edinson Cavani to David Luiz, the Paris dressing room is now filled with stars, while some of the game's foremost coaches have issued instructions from the dugout (Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc). Two Ligue 1 titles in two years have not changed the ultimate objective of club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi: to win the UEFA Champions League by 2016.
Paris also have an excellent women's team: French league runners-up in 2011, 2013 and 2014, they have become regular UEFA Women's Champions League participants.
• Michaël Ciani (1984–): French international defender who has played for FC Lorient and FC Girondins de Bordeaux and in Italy with SS Lazio
• Lassana Diarra (1985–): an irrepressible midfield ball winner, Diarra won several trophies with Real Madrid CF before moving on to Russia
• Louis Saha (1978–): a product of the FC Metz youth system, the striker has now retired after a very successful career in England
• Sébastien Bassong (1986–): Cameroon centre-back who also learnt his trade at Metz; now based with Norwich City FC in England.
• Mamadou Sakho (1990–): currently at Liverpool FC, he joined Paris aged 12 and stayed with the club until 2013.
Did you know?
Bulgaria and FC Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov, top European goalscorer in 1990, signed a contract with Paris in the summer of 1992 – but then changed his mind and never played for the club.
Paris is host of the French Open tennis tournament, one of the four Grand Slam events. The championship takes place at Roland Garros in late May and early June. The capital is also the centre of attention on the last Sunday in January with the prestigious Prix d'Amérique harness race held at Vincennes.
The Tour de France has organised its final stage in central Paris on a circuit including the Champs-Élysées every July since 1975. Paris can also boast top-level clubs in other sports, including rugby (Stade Français), basketball (Paris-Levallois, French champions in 2013) and volleyball (Paris-Volley).
All you need to know about Paris transport: www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_5000/accueil/
City of Paris website: www.paris.fr/english
Paris urban conurbation website: www.parismetropole.fr
Tourist information office: en.parisinfo.com/
Official site of Paris Saint-Germain: www.psg.fr/en/Accueil/0/Home
Paris cultural highlights: www.paris.fr/culture
Things to do in Paris: www.sortiraparis.com/lang/en
The city's Twitter feed: twitter.com/Paris