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Fun and little known facts about Paris
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Eifel Tower at dusk, Paris
  • The Champs-Elysées were named after the Elysian Fields or Elysium, a section of the Underworld in Greco-Roman mythology, the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. Its better known Germanic equivalent if the Valhalla. The official residence of the French president is also called the Elysée.

  • The Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées was located at the western gate of Paris when its construction started in 1810. At the time it was still well into the countryside, and travellers would walk under the arch as they enter the city's boundaries.

  • In August 2012, the Chamber of Commerce of Monza and Brianza, in Italy, estimated the value of the Eiffel Tower at 434 billions € (the equivalent of 20% of the GDP of France). This is based on the value of its 7,300 tonnes of iron and, especially, on the revenues generated from the 7 million annual visitors. The Eiffel Tower is by far the most visited monument in Europe.

  • Napoleon I originally planned to build four triumphal arches in Paris. Only two were completed, and only one under his rule (the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries). The two others were supposed to be dedicated to the arts and to science.

  • The Column on Place Vendôme was erected by Napoleon I to celebrate the victory of Austerlitz. It was modelled after Trajan's Column in Rome, and said be made by melting the bronze of the cannons taken from the combined armies of Europe.

  • The sumptuous Place de la Concorde was created by Louis XV in his own honour. During the French Revolution, it was the site of the guillotine, where Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and 1100 other people were executed. It was renamed Place de la Révolution. To clear this bloody past, King Louis-Philippe decided to change the name to Place de la Concorde and dedicate it to all the people of France, with allegoric statues representing the largest French cities. The Egyptian Obelisk now standing in the middle of the square was built under the reign of pharaoh Ramses II, some 3,300 years ago. It was offered to France in 1831 by the viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. A ship was purposedly built to carry the 250-ton monument back to France, but the trip took two years due to storms and cholera epidemics. The missing gold-leafed pyramid cap was added by the French government in 1998.

  • The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world upon its completion in 1889, and remained it until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. It is still the fourth highest man-made structure in the EU.

  • The Procope (13, rue de l'Ancienne Comédie) is the oldest café in Paris. Founded in 1686, it was the first place in Paris where one could drink Italian coffee, a specialty brought back from Italy by its founder Procopio Cutò. The Procope became the first literary coffeehouse in the French capital. It was frequented in the 18th century by such people as Diderot, Voltaire, Danton, Marat or Robespierre, and later by numerous writers, including Musset, Verlaine and Anatole France.

  • In spite of its name, the Palais-Royal was never the residence of the Kings of France. It was given by Louis XIV to his brother Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, who was known simply as Monsieur. It remained the possession of the Dukes of Orléans until the Revolution. The Palais-Royal was the only place in Paris closed to the royal police and became a notorious place of libertinage and illicit activities.

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