By the Middle Ages Paris was really beginning to take shape; and with the building of Notre-Dame Cathedr al and the Sorbonne University as the city had already established itself as France's intellectual and spiritual hub. The Hundred Years war put the brakes on Paris ' economic development and after defeat at Agincourt the English took control of the city in 1420. English influence was to be short lived and within a decade a teenage upstart named Joan of Arc was well on her way to seeing off the Brits for good.
The Parisian post-card industry owes a debt of gratitude to the Renaissance, which saw many of the city's landmarks built. Meanwhile religious tensions flared between the protestant Huguenots and the Catholics sparking the bloody Wars of Religion.
With the ascension of Louis XVI to the throne in 1774 (at the worldly age of four) time was running out for the monarchy. Louis' lavish spending spree came to an end on July 14th 1789 with the storming of the Bastille prison triggering the French Revolution. Napoleon saw the ensuing mayhem as an opportunity to seize power and as a springboard to Empire building.
Greed led to Napoleon overstretching himself and defeat on his eastern Russian front. Years later Napoleon III would suffer a similar fate at the hands of the Prussians, although he did manage to give Paris an impressive neo-classical facelift first. With Napoleon III locked up in a Prussian jail the city took to the streets and the third republic was bloodily formed.
La belle époque saw Paris flourish as an artistic hub, and the Left Bank gave birth to first Dadaism then Surrealism. Come the onset of WWII the occupying Nazis had little time for the avant-garde and creative Paris was squashed under the Nazi jackboot until the allies liberated the city in 1944.
Come 1968 and the city was once again in the soup as protesting students overran the Sorbonne and won the sympathy of 7 million of their fellow countrymen who promptly went on strike. Since, despite several front-page political scandals, the city has gone from strength to strength and today is a serious contender for Europe's favourite weekend break.
Central Tourist Office: Office du Tourisme (127 Champs-Élysées) Tel: 36 68 31 12
Airport enquiries: Charles de Gaulle Tel: 48 62 22 80, Orly Tel: 49 75 15 15
Rail enquiries (SNCF) Tel: 36 35 35 35
Emergencies: Tel: 17
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell: fresh out of Eaton and ready to tramp around Paris ' underbelly
Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac: beat poet turns genealogist and scales family tree
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: a look at the City of Light through American eyes
Cross Channel by Julian Barnes: thought provoking Gallic goings-on
Nadja by André Breton: Paris portrayed by the father of surrealism
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