132 years ago, Gustave Eiffel built in the heart of Paris what would become the symbol of the French capital: an iron tower nearly 324 meters high, erected for the centenary of the French Revolution. Today, the Eiffel Tower has become one of the most visited tourist sites in the world. In turn an object of envy, discord and fascination, it is a likeness of the city in which it was built.
"In Paris, I have before my eyes the five thousand hectares of the world where it was the most thought, the most spoken, the most written" declared Jean Giraudoux in 1923 in his prayer to the Eiffel Tower.
And indeed, the Paris of the early 20th century was a bustling Paris; a crossroads of Europe where aristocracy, intellectuals and penniless artists met. This was the case for Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire who became friends in an English bar in the Saint-Lazare district and later for Ernest Hemingway, one of the most famous members of the Lost Generation, a group of American writers who had moved to the capital during the 1920s. Their headquarters, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, has become so famous that it attracts many tourists and writers on a pilgrimage every year. Relocated in the fifties, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, you can admire the mythical store during a run in the 5th district.
19th century Paris was also the time of great industrial inventions such as electricity and the train, and the period during which the great Haussmanian boulevards were built, radically transforming the morphology of the city. However, the history of Paris is not limited to the last few centuries and is as much a part of the city's geographical location as it is of the country's major political events.
Once upon a time in Paris
Long before the coronation of Napoleon, the storming of the Bastille or the construction of Notre-Dame, Paris was only a group of small islands on a loop of the Seine, where a Gallic tribe, the Parisii, settled a few centuries before Christ. Once conquered by the Romans, the city developed on the left bank of the river, where traces of their passage can still be seen. But it was not until the 6th century that it became the capital, with the arrival of the first King of France, Clovis I. Since then, it has remained a home to kings and other rulers of the country, who in turn left their mark on it, while taking care to preserve a certain homogeneity. This one was characterized in particular by rules of town planning decreed during centuries but was also reinforced by the absence of ravages perpetrated on the city. For unlike great capitals such as Berlin, London or Lisbon, Paris was never destroyed.
The Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis, both located respectively in the 1st and 4th arrondissement of Paris, are the cradle of the city, the ancient Lutetia. While walking or running in the historic heart of the capital, you will come across its most emblematic monuments, such as the Palais de Justice, the former royal palace built by the Capetian kings, or the Sainte-Chapelle, a masterpiece of Gothic art commissioned by Saint-Louis. Among other political institutions, the Ile de la Cité also contains the famous Conciergerie, a prison used during the Revolution, but also the emblematic 36 Quai des Orfèvres, headquarters of the judicial police immortalized by the adventures of the famous Commissioner Maigret. Continuing on Saint-Louis island you will discover narrow streets and old houses, characteristic of the Paris of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Bridges of the Seine
Paris would not be Paris without its bridges and footbridges. There are no less than 37 of them, spread over the 13 kilometers of the Parisian banks of the Seine. On your way to the Louvre, you may cross the Pont des Arts, famous for the padlocks that hundreds of lovers hung on its gates. As for the Alexandre III bridge, undoubtedly the most imposing, it is lit at night by 32 street lamps, among the 56,000 that gave Paris the nickname of "City of Light". You will take it on your way to the Invalides, located on the left bank. The most famous of them is certainly the Pont Neuf: it is also the oldest, the first to link the two banks, and will allow you to reach the tip of the Ile de la Cité during your run.
Running in Paris also means enjoying the unique atmosphere of the Quays of the Seine and the numerous barges that run along it. But the charm of the city is multiple and resides as well in its architecture, as its gastronomy or its literary heritage, which participated each in their way to make of Paris the city of the love.
Paris, a city of culture
Elected European capital of culture in 1989, Paris is above all a city of museums. While walking in the capital, you will surely come across dozens of them, nestled in the alleys or proudly installed in plain sight. Many monuments have been converted into exhibition spaces, like the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre, which were originally used as a train station and a fortress respectively, while others were used as such from the start. This is the case of the Petit Palais, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, or the Centre Pompidou, a museum of modern art built during the Fifth Republic.
If you go to the 9th arrondissement, your run will take you to one of the most remarkable buildings in Paris: the Opéra Garnier, whose fame is so great that it helped build the reputation of the Parisian art scene throughout the world.
(Re)discover Paris with Runnin'City, whose many routes will take you from the hill of Montmartre to the Montparnasse Tower while you learn!