Why is Paris called the City of Lights?

September 07, 2020

Why is Paris called the City of Lights?

You might know that Paris is called by many different names.

  • the capital of France,
  • the City of Love (and Romance),
  • the Fashion Capital, and
  • the City of Lights.

So, why does Paris bear this name?

You may think it's about the lights that illuminate the city at nightfall. The city is lit up with a thousand lights.  It’s beautiful strolling along Paris at night as the city looks so different. 

But to be historically correct, the city of lights owes its nickname to the so-called Age of Enlightenment.  Paris was the centre of an intellectual and philosophical movement that became the foundation of modern Western political and intellectual culture. The Enlightenment brought political modernisation to the West, in terms of introducing democratic values and institutions and the creation of modern, liberal democracies.  And Paris was centre stage of the development of such ideas.  It also was a great time for inventions.  The city motivated poets and philosophers, engineers and scientists galore. For example, the stethoscope, hairdryer, and the calculator are just some of the wonders invented by the hands of the French

You see, this was not about light bulbs but rather about the light of knowledge.
It was the time of great philosophers.

You may have heard of their names.

Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu, Rousseau...  This siècle des lumières occurred between 1715 (death of Louis XIV) and the French Revolution (1789).

Other facts you may not have known.

Paris was the first European city to introduce street lighting back in 1889. We're over 100 years down the line and Paris still upholds her reputation of lighting up Europe. If you've ever wondered why, here are a few facts that will enlighten.

The Eiffel Tower

Every night, every hour on the hour, the Eiffel Tower lights up full of golden lights that sparkle for five whole minutes while a beam illuminates the city. It takes 40km of illuminating garlands and approximately 20,000 led bulbs to make this landmark glow. That's a lot of lights! The best place to see the show is from Place du Trocadéro.

Champs-Elysees

The romantic boulevard that is a favourite for tourists is truly a sight to behold around Christmastime. During the Christmas illuminations in Paris the Champs-Elysees hosts over 500 decorated trees and 3km of lights are draped along the path from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.

City Lights

There are approximately 300 illuminated sites in Paris. These include hotels, churches, statues, fountains, national buildings and monuments. In addition to this, 33 of the city's 37 bridges light up at nightfall.

Street Lights

With over 50,000 street lights across the city it's no surprise that Paris is now referred to as the City of Light.

Grands Magasins  (shops)

In addition, 33 of Paris' 37 major bridges are illuminated each night. Perhaps the most famous illuminated object, however, is the iconic Eiffel Tower, which shines brightly each night thanks to more than 20,000 light bulbs.