Home : Paris City Paris Geography continuation



For some years, there has been clear increase in high-tech industries, particularly in the electronics and computer sectors, matched by a simultaneous decline in traditional industries like timber, clothing, leather and printing. What’s more, the number of businesses has decreased by 15%, or 30,000 companies, predominantly among trade activities and light industry.

Paris and the Parisian region therefore constitute one of the most complex industrial poles there is, much more even than the large industrial regions, such as La Lorraine or Le Nord. In reality, efforts to decongest the capital are constantly battling against the need to keep a sufficient mass of jobs there for the tertiary sector to be supported and developed. The array of tertiary activities being conducted in Paris and its suburbs is more and more visible as time goes on. The effect on the city is an increased demand for office space, and consequently modern office buildings rapidly springing up throughout the city. Along the axis formed by la DĂ©fense, the Champs-ÉlysĂ©es and Bercy, one of the most attractive tertiary sector corridors in Europe stretches over 30 km all the way from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Marne-la-Vallée.

Paris attracts more conferences, salons and expositions than any other city in the world. Some of the city’s attractions are visited by more than a million visitors each year, notably the Pompidou Art & Cultural Centre or the Eiffel Tower, or outside the city: Versailles or Disneyland-Paris, at Marne La Vallée. Certain monuments, of course, will always remain the must-see spectacles for tourists: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, Notre-Dame, the Pantheon, the Louvre, or the Palais des Invalides. Of course, tourists also make up a great number of the visitors to the 200 museums, the 120 theatres and music venues and the hotels: 200,000 rooms are available in Ile de France, three quarters of them in the capital. The wholesale food business was radically transformed by the transfer from Les Halles to Rungis, which has become a unique centre for the redistribution of produce, not only throughout the whole of France but even overseas.

The greatest concentration of head-quarters and power centres are located in the west of the city. Since 1977, Paris has been administrated by a mayor elected by universal suffrage. Jacques Chirac was the first person to be elected to that post.
The Elysée Palace, residence of the President of the Republic, is situated on the right bank of the Seine, behind the gardens of the Champs-Elysées. The ministries are located on the other side of the river, in sumptuous buildings in Faubourg Saint-Germain (such as HĂ´tel Matignon, the residence of the prime minister). Nearby, and closing the perimeter inside which are gathered the central powers, the Palais Bourbon houses the Assemblée Nationale, facing Place de la Concorde, and the Palais du Luxembourg, constructed for Marie de Medici in the early 17th century, which now houses the Senate. The relocation of the Ministry for Public Facilities to the Grande Arche de la Défense didn’t very much change the geography of the official palaces.

The centres of economic and financial power are almost exclusively on the right bank, in the quarters most marked by Haussmann’s works, between OpĂ©ra and Place de Étoile. This business quarter, based around the Banque de France and the stock exchange, or Bourse (1808-1826, architect Brongniart) the second in Europe after London, has been expanding steadily towards the west. There you can find the headquarters of various insurance companies, banks and big businesses, but equally the area has many luxury stores: jewellers in the Place VendĂ´me, big car dealerships on the Champs-Elysées and fashion houses on Avenue Montaigne.
On the left bank, within the triangle formed by the Natural History Museum, the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Institut de France, can be found the most prestigious academic establishments in France: Sorbonne and the Collège de France . The cultural vocation of the quarter is further emphasised by the presence of numerous publishing houses and by the general literary life that animates the area around the church of Saint-Germain-des-Près.

The right bank is not entirely left out: the Palais Royal, which was home to the Orleans family, was in the 18th century one of the centres of the Enlightenment movement. Napoleon I also made an impact on the right bank when he decided to transform the Louvre into a museum. With the construction of the Georges Pompidou Centre for Art & Culture, the Picasso Museum, the Cité des Sciences at La Villette and the Bastille Opera, cultural points of interest were installed in parts of the city that had, until then, been quite barren. While the west of Paris developed a bourgeois and plush character, the eastern districts have long housed a working class population and various industrial and trade activities. The story of the Commune of Paris and the inexorable march of the Versailles forces from west to east, until the Wall of the Federates in Père Lachaise cemetery, illustrate this political and social asymmetry in the city.

The presence of the Saint-Martin canal, the major freight stations (North, East, Tolbiac) and the warehouses of Bercy explains the location of materials handling and conversion activities in the north and east of the city. Bastille was traditionally the quarter of the cabinet makers, while the rug makers of “Manufacture des Gobelins” set up shop close to Place d’Italie.
The desire to rebalance the city towards the east, combined with the departure of industry from the city, brought about efforts to rapidly install tertiary activities in these districts – a prime example is the ZAC at Bercy. Simultaneously, the arrival of wealthier residents in the east of Paris is gradually changing the social composition of that part of the city.