Paris, city (1999 pop. 2,115,757; metropolitan area est. pop. 11,000,000), N central France, capital of the country, on the Seine River. It is the commercial and industrial focus of France and a cultural and intellectual center of international renown. The city possesses an indefinable unity of atmosphere that has fascinated writers, poets, and painters for centuries. Paris is sometimes called the City of Light in tribute to its intellectual preeminence as well as to its beautiful appearance.
Paris is the center of many major newspapers and periodicals, as well as all the major French radio and television stations. Elegant stores and hotels, lavish nightclubs, theaters, and gourmet restaurants help make tourism the biggest industry in Paris. Other leading industries manufacture luxury articles, high-fashion clothing, perfume, and jewelry. Heavy industry, notably automobile manufacture, is located in the suburbs. About one quarter of the French labor force is concentrated in the Paris area.
Situated in the center of the Paris basin (see ile-de-France), and only 90 mi (145 km) from the English Channel, the city handles a great volume of shipping. Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports (the latter opened in 1974) and many major railroad stations make Paris one of the great transportation centers of western Europe. The Paris metro (subway), built in 1900, was modernized and extended during the 1970s. There are now 16 principal metro lines and a high-speed express subway system servicing the suburbs. The system's hub, Chatelet Les-Halles, is perhaps the largest, busiest underground station in the world. Paris is also the hub of the national rail system, with high-speed trains connecting it to most major European cities.
Paris is divided into roughly equal sections by the Seine. On the right (northern) bank are the Bois de Boulogne, Arc de Triomphe, Bibliotheque nationale, Elysee Palace, Georges Pompidou National Center for Art and Culture (see Beaubourg), Place de la Concorde, Opera, Comedie Francaise, Louvre, Palais de Chaillot, Maison Europaenne de la Photographie, Grande Arche de la Defense, Champs Elysee, and other great streets, sites, and boulevards. In the eastern part of the right bank is the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism, the Place de la Bastille and the Bastille Opera; to the north is Montmartre, the highest area in Paris, topped by the Church of Sacre-Coeur. Much of the right bank, which has many of the most fashionable streets and shops, has a stately air. At night many monuments and boulevards are floodlit. In the city's northeastern outskirts is the Parc de la Villette, home of the large Cite de la Musique, opened in the early 1990s, and the planned site of a number of performance and exhibition spaces.
The left bank, with the Sorbonne, the French Academy, the Panthaon (see under pantheon), the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens, the Jardin des Plantes (site of the National Natural History Museum), the Chamber of Deputies, the Quai d'Orsay, and the Hotel des Invalides, is the governmental and to a large extent the intellectual section. The Latin Quarter, for nearly a thousand years the preserve of university students and faculty; the Faubourg Saint-Germain section, at once aristocratic and a haven for students and artists (the celebrated Cafe des Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore are there); and Montparnasse are the most celebrated left-bank districts. The Eiffel Tower stands by the Seine on the Champ-de-Mars.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (districts or boroughs), each of which has a local council and a mayor, but most of the power is held by the mayor of the City of Paris who is chosen by the city's council. Paris and its suburbs together make up the eight departments of the ile-de-France administrative region, which is governed by an elected assembly, chairman, and supervisor and overseen by a prefect appointed by the state.
Immigrants to France now constitute nearly 20% of Paris's population. The majority of these are Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian. Large groups of Indochinese have also immigrated to Paris. About 75% of all Parisians live in the suburbs due to high costs and a high population density in the city. New towns have been built, consolidating suburban areas, and a great deal of manufacturing and other industry takes place in the suburbs.