The monuments of Paris are imposing, solemn or sacred. Tourists photograph them from every angle and admire them in an often superficial way. But Paris is a city full of history and anecdotes. It would take an encyclopedia to list them one by one. In this article, I just want to give you some facts about Paris to whet your curiosity!
Interesting facts about Paris
1. The golden dome of the Invalids
To celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989, the Dome of Les Invalides was re-gilded, using 12.65kg (or 27.8lb) of gold leaf.
Click here to book your tickets to the Hôtel des Invalides and explore the museums and Napoleon’s tomb.
2. The great watch of the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde
The point of the Luxor obelisk standing on the Place de la Concorde indicated international time, making it the largest sundial in the world. It is also Paris’ oldest monument.
3. The old bridge of Pont Neuf
Despite its name, Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is the oldest of the Paris bridges and was the first road in Paris to benefit from pavements separating pedestrians and traffic. It was also the first bridge to be built without houses on it.
4. Tour Saint Jacques: a bell tower without a church
Tour Saint Jacques is the former bellower of the church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. Dating from the 16th century but of Gothic style, it was one of the starting points for pilgrims journeying up rue Saint Jacques and on to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. When the church was dismantled in 1802, it was decided to keep the belfry which has since been converted to a weather station.
5. The Clock Tower of the Conciergerie
Since 1370 the Tour de l’Horloge (Tower clock) of the Conciergerie has housed the first public clock to be installed in Paris. Click here to book your tickets to the Conciergerie with access to the sublime Sainte-Chapelle.
6. Square du Vert-Galant and the reputation of a king
Down the steps in front of Pont-Neuf, at the western tip of Île de la Cité lies a serene stretch of green known as Square du Vert-Galant. Its name derives from the nickname given to Henri IV, alluding to his reputation as an amorous gentleman despite his age.
7. Half-timbered houses in Paris: a rarity
There are only a few houses from the middle-ages to be found in Paris. Two of them can be seen in Rue François Miron in the Marais (4th arrondissement). They date back to the 15th century and have been much restored in the 1970s.
8. The flame of the Statue of Liberty
On the southern side of the square of Alma stands a life-size gilded model of the flame held by the Statue of Liberty in New York.
It was a gift to the city for the 100th anniversary of the International Herald Tribune. The flowers on the monument are placed in honour of Lady Diana whose car crashed in the tunnel who runs under the square.
9. Montmartre: the Martyrs’ Mound
In Roman times, Montmartre had two hill-top temples devoted to Mars and Mercury. It was known as Martyrs’ Mound from the Ancient Times after Saint-Denis, the first bishop of Lutetia, was beheaded here in the 2nd century AD by the Romans. According to the legend, Saint-Denis picked up his head and walked to the place now known as Saint-Denis Basilica.
10. The Eiffel Tower: a high-maintenance monument
Our last facts about Paris lead us to Paris’ most iconic monument.
The Eiffel Tower weighs about 7,000t and uses 50t of paint every seven years. The tower swayed 13 cm during a storm in 1999, which blew at 240 kph.
The variation of ambient temperature has an influence on the tower. In fact, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by as much as 18 cm. This was indeed recorded during the 1976 heatwave. But no need to worry for Gustave Eiffel had allowed for a variation as much as 70 cm!
Interested in the Eiffel Tower? Check out my discovery course: the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower!
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