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Paris by night | ©liudanao1991/Pixabay
Paris by night | ©liudanao1991/Pixabay
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The Real Reason Paris Is Called "The City of Lights"

Picture of Jade Cuttle
Updated: 24 January 2018
Most people think that Paris is called the City of Lights because of its dazzling boulevards and bridges, and with 20,000 light bulbs charged with the task of lighting up Paris‘ most famous landmark, there’s good reason to think so. However, the name actually stems from its intellectual legacy. Paris is a gorgeous city that glows every night. There are over 296 illuminated sites if you count everything from hotels and churches, statues and fountains, national buildings and monuments. Out of 37 major bridges in Paris, an impressive 33 of them are illuminated to full glory each sunset.

Of course, it’s the sparkling Eiffel Tower that’s to blame for the misinterpretation behind the famous nickname, ‘City of Lights’. The monument shines like a beacon each night with 40km of illuminated garlands made up of 20,000 light bulbs.

The Champs-Elysées is also all aglow, especially during Christmas time. The world’s most romantic boulevard lights up during the festive season with over 2.4km of lights stretching from the Place de la Concorde right down to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s made even brighter with its 450 decorated trees along the avenue and on the pavement.

Illuminated Paris
Illuminated Paris | © liudanao1991 / Pixabay

However, putting the street lighting aside, Paris’ reputation as the ‘City of Lights’ is actually due to its historical legacy. It used to be dubbed ‘La Ville-Lumière’, because Paris was the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment and was known as a centre of education and ideas throughout the whole of Europe. The city inspired poets and philosophers, engineers and scientists galore. For example, did you know that the stethoscope, hairdryer and the calculator are just some of the wonders invented by the hands of the French?

Of course, the fact that Paris adopted street lighting much earlier than other cities probably did help the nickname of ‘City of Lights’ stick. But it’s less to do with wattage and more to do intellectual prowess.

Le Louvre Paris
Le Louvre Paris | ©Pexels

So, the next time you find yourself marvelling in front of the façade of Galeries Lafayette on the Grands Boulevards, whose 2,000 square metres of lights inspire awe during the festive season, with some 250,000 light bulbs, remember that the legacy of Paris is much more than just sparkle and shine.