Paris is the capital and largest city of France. It is situated on the river Seine, in the north of the country, at the heart of the Île-de-France region. Within its administrative limits (the 20 arrondissements), Paris has a population of about 2,230,000, and its metropolitan area is one of the largest population centres in Europe, with more than 12 million inhabitants.
An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris had become, by the 12th century, one of Europe's foremost centres of learning and the arts and was the largest city in the Western world until the turn of the 18th century. Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.
Paris' sights include monuments and architecture, such as its Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and neo-classic Haussmannian boulevards and buildings as well as museums, operas and concert halls. There are also more modern attractions such as its suburban Disneyland Paris.
Three of the most famous Parisian landmarks are the 12th-century cathedral Notre Dame de Paris on the Île de la Cité, the Napoleonic Arc de Triomphe and the 19th-century Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was a "temporary" construction by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Universal Exposition, but the tower was never dismantled and is now an enduring symbol of Paris. The Axe historique (Historical axis) is a line of monuments, buildings, and thoroughfares that run in a roughly straight line from the city-centre westwards.
The line of monuments begins with the Louvre and continues through the Tuileries Gardens, the Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe, centred in the Place de l'Étoile circus. From the 1960s, the line was prolonged even farther west to the La Défense business district dominated by a square-shaped triumphal Grande Arche of its own; this district hosts most of the tallest skyscrapers in the Paris urban area. The Invalides museum is the burial place for many great French soldiers, including Napoléon; and the Panthéon church is where many of France's illustrious men and women are buried.
The former Conciergerie prison held some prominent Ancien Régime members before their deaths during the French Revolution. Another symbol of the Revolution are the two Statues of Libertylocated on the Île aux Cygnes on the Seine and in the Luxembourg Garden. A larger version of the statues was sent as a gift from France to America in 1886 and now stands in New York City's harbour.
The Palais Garnier, built in the later Second Empire period, houses the Paris Opéra and the Paris Opera Ballet, while the former palace of the Louvre now houses one of the most renowned museums in the world. The Sorbonne is the most famous part of the University of Paris and is based in the centre of the Latin Quarter. Apart from Notre Dame de Paris, there are several other ecclesiastical masterpieces, including the Gothic 13th-century Sainte-Chapelle palace chapel and the Église de la Madeleine.