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Paris History

Paris’ history begins with a Celtic tribe called the Parisii, who set up a fort and a settlement here in the 3rd century. Long-running struggles with the Roman Empire culminated in the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar in 52 BC.

Paris prospered greatly under the Roman Empire, when it was known as Lutetia. From the late 5th century, as the Romans weakened, Paris was threatened by Attila the Hun, Franks and Germans. Covis I ended up taking power as King of the Franks. The Vikings invaded through the 9th century, leading to the construction of mighty fortresses to defend it. The Capetians ruled out of Paris for eight centuries from the 10th century.

When the last Capetian king died without an heir, it led to the Hundred Years War between France and England, followed by the Black Death and then several grisly events surrounding the clash between Catholicism and Protestantism. During the Bourbon dynasty, Cardinal Richelieu influenced the striking Palais du Luxembourg and the rebuilding of the prestigious Sorbonne.

By the end of the 18th century, Paris was world-renowned for culture, wealth and philosophy, but after intervening against England in the American War of Independence, France came close to bankruptcy. Then the harvest failed in 1788 and famine swept throughout the country, tensions rose and crowds stormed the Bastille prison on 14th July 1789, starting the French Revolution.

After the Reign of Terror came Napoleon and the conquest of much of Europe, spreading the tenets of revolutionary France. He was defeated in 1814. By the time the Eiffel Tower went up in 1889, Paris was enjoying its Belle Époque and was once again the envy of the world.

WWI and the Great Depression took their toll, while during WWII the Nazis occupied the city. Spared the widespread bombing that destroyed much of Western Europe’s cities, post-war Paris emerged triumphant and resilient. As the 21st century dawned, it was once again one of the greatest cities in the world.

Did you know?
• Traditionally, Paris’ history begins with Celts, but the area has in fact been inhabited since the distant Mesolithic period some 10,000 years ago.
• With the overthrow of the monarchy during the French Revolution and Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, 2,500 people were executed in Paris.
• Napoleon’s nephew became Emperor between 1852 and 1870, but Napoleon III’s reign ended with the disastrous Franco-Prussian War and the declaration of the Third Republic.

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Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

The wonderful Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg is a renovated 18th century mansion that feels effortlessly like a Parisian town house. Styled by the illustrious Didier Gomez, the rooms in this 5-star hotel are tastefully finished with Louis XV armchairs, vintage mirrors and beds you can imagine libertine lovers losing whole weekends in. Lunch and cocktails in the hidden courtyard terrace are a must too.

Hôtel Des Academies Et Des Arts

Just around the corner from Montparnasse cemetery, this neat boutique hotel offers stunning rooms and a sumptuous breakfast without the wallet melting price tag. Best of all, it feels far more like neighbourhood Paris than similarly sized spots in touristy Montmartre. The lounge area, replete with library, is a great place to kick back before heading out to one of the array of nearby brasseries for dinner.

Le Bristol

There’s luxury accommodation and then there’s Hotel Le Bristol Paris. From marble-panelled powder rooms to its regal 1,210-sq-m (13,000-sq-ft) garden, Le Bristol has been Paris’s most prestigious hotel since its inception in 1925. All services are naturally state of the art and foodies will be happy to hear its three-Michelin starred restaurant continues to stockpile accolades under the guidance of chef Eric Frechon.

Saint James Paris

The Saint James is steeped in weird and wonderful history. A one time hot-air balloon field (some still take off today) and school for France's most talented students, nowadays it is one of Paris's hottest addresses. Situated in a 19th century chateau on the edge of the city centre, rooms are a blend of belle époque decadence and modern luxury. Beyond the bedrooms, the library bar, with a terrace affording views across town, is what makes this hotel really special.

Hotel Dupond Smith

This lush Marais bolthole isn’t obscenely overpriced but will leave you feeling pampered and prepped to take on the area’s myriad coffee stops and macaroon shops. Its furniture is by Phillipe Starck and its wallpaper by Hermes. Sleek and stylish, make sure you dress the part for this classy Parisian hotel.

Ritz Paris

Situated on one of the smartest squares in the city, the Ritz Paris is the capital’s most celebrated hotel and is the very essence of luxury and discretion. The lobby gleams with marble, chandeliers and impressive floral arrangements from designer Djordje Varda, while the oriental carpets, soft to the touch, soak up the sound. It has a magnificent swimming pool and fitness room, as well as a health spa.