Paris is the capital and most populous city of France. Paris has been one of the world's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, culture, fashion, gastronomy and many areas. For its leading role in the arts and sciences, as well as its early and extensive system of street lighting, in the 19th century, it became known as "the City of Light". Paris is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Charles de Gaulle Airport and Orly Airport. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Metro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily. It is the second-busiest metro system in Europe after the Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th-busiest railway station in the world and the busiest outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015. Paris is especially known for its museums and architectural landmarks: the Louvre received 7.8 million visitors in 2022, keeping its position as the most-visited art museum in the world. The Musee d'Orsay, Musee Marmottan Monet and Musee de l'Orangerie are noted for their collections of French Impressionist art. The Pompidou Centre Musee National d'Art Moderne has the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe and Musee Rodin and Musee Picasso. The historical district along the Seine in the city centre has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
Paris is located in northern central France, in a north-bending arc of the river Seine whose crest includes two islands, the Ile Saint-Louis and the larger Ile de la Cite, which form the oldest part of the city. The river's mouth on the English Channel (La Manche) is about 233 mi (375 km) downstream from the city. The city is spread widely on both banks of the river. Overall, the city is relatively flat, and the lowest point is 35 m (115 ft) above sea level. Paris has several prominent hills, the highest of which is Montmartre at 130 m (427 ft). Paris is one of the few world capitals that has rarely seen destruction by catastrophe or war. For this, even its earliest history is still visible in its streetmap, and centuries of rulers adding their respective architectural marks on the capital has resulted in an accumulated wealth of history-rich monuments and buildings whose beauty played a large part in giving the city the reputation it has today.
Modern Paris owes much of its downtown plan and architectural harmony to Napoleon III and his Prefect of the Seine, Baron Haussmann. Between 1853 and 1870 they rebuilt the city centre, created the wide downtown boulevards and squares where the boulevards intersected, imposed standard facades along the boulevards, and required that the facades be built of the distinctive cream-grey "Paris stone". They also built the major parks around the city centre. The high residential population of its city centre also makes it much different from most other western major cities.
Tourism in Paris is a major income source. Tourists visited the city, mainly for sightseeing and shopping (and estimated to be well over double if including domestic overnighting visitors). Top sights include Notre Dame (12 million visitors yearly), Disneyland Paris (11 million), Sacre Cœur (10 million), the Versailles Palace (7.7 million), the Louvre Museum (6.9 million), the Eiffel Tower (5.9 million), Centre Pompidou (3.33 million), and the Musee d'Orsay (3 million). The largest numbers of foreign tourists who come to the Paris region are British, American, German, Italian, Chinese, and Canadian. Paris is a major rail, highway, and air transport hub.