One of the world’s five largest economies, France is not made up of European soil alone. Because of its colonial past, it still has territories in various regions of the world, including French Guiana, located in South America, Guadeloupe and Martinique, both located in the Caribbean Sea, and Réunion, located close to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
France is a Catholic country. Eighty-eight percent of the country is made up of Catholics, and the nation has, in the past, spread Catholicism. In schools they opened in various nations years ago, they taught their language, religion and culture to other peoples. Today, French is spoken in 49 countries by 160 million people; there are 15 Francophone countries in Africa alone. France is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
There are about 500,000 Turks in France, although some sources say this number may be as high as 600,000.
France is a country that has done very well promoting itself internationally. It has done an excellent job utilizing its tourism wealth. France hosts approximately 80 million tourists annually.
Home to 13 million
Paris is set on flat land and is home to 13 million people. It is one of the world’s most famous capitals. The streets of Paris are filled with tourists all year round, so much so that it becomes hard for one to run into the French on touristy streets. Paris alone hosts 30 million tourists each year.
The Eiffel Tower, which is a massive structure 324 meters high and weighing approximately 10,100 tons, was built between 1887 and 1889 by architect Gustave Eiffel. It has three levels for visitors. One can climb the first two levels; however, one must take an elevator to reach the third level. The highest level is 276 meters high, and the view of Paris from the top of the tower is quite exquisite. The long line of people waiting to visit the tower is truly a sight. On an average day, it takes about one to one-and-a-half hours to get into the tower for a fee of 13 euros. This fee changes according to the level you visit. Roughly 7 million people visit the tower each year, and the lines remain even in winter. Once up the tower, one can see the River Seine complete with tour boats full of people.
The architect who built the tower never thought the tower would have such a magnetic effect. The tower, which was initially seen as a pile of metal and said to ruin the esthetic of the city, is France’s most popular venue today and accommodates about 1,000 tourists at a time on all three levels.
The Arc de Triomphe is a monument left by French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte. The massive monument, which is 50 meters high, is located at the intersection of 12 streets. The Axe historique, where the arc is located, is home to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It costs nine euros to climb the Arc de Triomphe.
The Champs-Élysées is Paris’ most famous street. There are shopping districts, cafés and restaurants as well as nightclubs. This street, which is two kilometers long, never sleeps. It begins at the Arc de Triomphe and ends at the Place de la Concorde. Designer shops can be found on this street, and items are priced at fees that are sure to raise your eyebrows.
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde is one of Europe’s largest squares. The square, which is quiet nowadays, was once an area that witnessed very important events. Following the French Revolution, 119 people were beheaded in this square, including French King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.
There is an obelisk in the Place de la Concorde that is similar to the one found in Sultanahmet Square. It was brought from the tomb of Ramses II in Egypt. The obelisk has been there since the 19th century.
A garden called the Jardin du Luxembourg is located in the heart of Paris. It is a tranquil getaway for Parisians.
Notre Dame de Paris cathedral sits on the banks of the River Seine. This church has hosted the coronation ceremonies for many kings and queens as well as Napoleon.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a church that is located atop the summit of Montmartre. This hill is another wonderful location where one can get a great view of the city.
Paris, which has no connection to the sea, cherishes the River Seine. The Seine was so appreciated by Napoleon that he asked for his ashes to be sprinkled over it after his death. However, Napoleon’s request was not honored. Today the Seine is quite popular for boat tours. One-hour tours on the river, which divides the city into two, that cruise under the numerous bridges are another tourist must.
The Palace of Versailles is one of the largest palaces in Europe and another tourist magnet. The palace was built in 1168 by King Louis XIV and could host up to 20,000 people at once. However, this massive palace doesn’t have a single washroom, which tells us that there was no concept of indoor bathrooms in 17th-century France.
The Palace of Versailles, which was transformed from a small hunting mansion into a massive palace, is 25 kilometers from Paris. This large and glorious building is a sizeable structure. Its spacious garden contains bodies of water that would have allowed the king to take boat tours. Because the garden continues to receive a deluge of visitors, its maintenance is quite impressive. Visitors rent golf carts for the garden as it may prove to be too large to travel on foot for many.
This palace is the very location where Marie Antoinette uttered the famous sentence, “Let them eat cake,” in response to the population that was suffering from hunger and unable to find bread to eat.
Disneyland Paris, located 27 kilometers outside the capital, is another popular spot, particularly for children. It receives 13 million visitors a year.
Paris does an incredible job hosting its visitors. It’s possible to see traces of history in every corner of the city.
Jardin du Luxembourg
The Palace of Versailles
The Sacre-Cœur Basilica
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Official language: French
President: Nicolas Sarkozy
Area: 643,427 square kilometers
Gross domestic product (PPP): $2.11 trillion**
Main religions: Roman Catholic (83-88 percent), Protestant (2 percent), Muslim (5-10 percent), Jewish (1 percent).
*July 2009 estimate **2009 estimate