Paris Today

Bienvenue à Paris! Or, welcome to Paris! Although it may seem as if time stands still in this city—with its romantic buildings, elegant parks, and sublime squares—there's an undercurrent of small but significant changes happening here that might not be immediately obvious.

City of the Future

While Paris may be one of the world's top destination among travelers, entrepreneurs have long shunned the City of Light as a tourist town rather than a cutting-edge capital. All that quickly changed after the upstart Emmanuel Macron won the presidency in May 2017 at the tender age of 39. The new president instantly began unfurling an ambitious agenda to overhaul the country's notoriously rigid labor laws, lower the sky-high taxes, and loosen visa rules to attract top talent in business and tech (and to lure back French talent who had fled to more convivial business climates). With British industry threatened by the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, Macron has set his sights on dethroning London as Europe's investment capital. Innovation has already come knocking, with new ventures like the gigantic Station F, an incubator with space for 1,000 start-ups and backed by Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. Paris has also begun making headlines for producing other highly valued start-ups like BlaBlaCar, a low-cost ride-sharing service, upping the talk from venture capitalists that Paris is in the midst of a business revolution. The news that France won its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games injected another dose of optimism into the capital.


The recent wave of innovation in Paris hasn't been limited to start-ups. The contemporary art venue Gaîté Lyrique mixes innovation with art, and it's a quick walk from the wonky Musée des Arts et Métiers, a treasure trove of inventions like the first flying machine to cross the English Channel. Google has opened the Google Cultural Institute, which includes the permanent exhibit "Liquid Galaxy" at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal. In 2016, the Grand Palais become the first exhibition space to offer visitors glasses linked to earbuds that offers explanations of what's being viewed (some movie theaters now use the glasses to translate subtitles). Next, the Louvre raised the cool quotient for audioguides by switching to the Nintendo 3DS system. You can also rent bikes via an app, and the handy Smarter Paris app updates everything from transit info to maps in real-time, even when offline.

The Environment

Over at Paris City Hall, mayor Anne Hidalgo has been waging her own campaign to shake things up. The city's first female mayor enraged motorists in 2017 by closing the roadways hugging the banks of the Seine to traffic at all times (previously this had just been done on weekends). Benches and palm trees popped up on the previously bare cement terrain, and residents and visitors alike hailed the transformation. But with more cars idling on the surrounding streets, gridlock exploded, pollution ticked up, and legal challenges followed. Yet Hidalgo was unmoved in her goal of ending the city's dependence on cars. She also wants all public transportation to be electric by 2030—and a majority of Parisians support this initiative. To that end, in 2018 the city revamped—with some hiccups—its much-copied Velib' bike-share program, adding electric cycles to the regular bikes you can rent for short rides. Expansion also continued of the city's zero-emissions fleet of Autolib' electric cars that are also available to rent. Have you ever imagined being able to stroll down a car-free Champs-Elysées? It happened on a Sunday in October 2017, and you can expect a repeat in 2018 and 2019.

Healthy Eating

You'll always find foie gras, steak frites, Camembert cheese, and multiflavored macarons in this gastronomic mecca—and thank heavens for that. But for those who avoid meat, gluten, and dairy, options for a meal in Paris were slim even just a decade ago. Now options for those living a vegetarian and even vegan lifestyle have blossomed, including the popular Soya in the trendy 11th arrondissement, Wild & the Moon in the Marais, the gluten-free Biosphére Café in the 8th, and Hank' Burger, a crowded hole-in-the-wall in the 3rd. Even traditional restaurants that serve meat are usually happy, or at least willing, to feature at least one vegetarian option. Once known for mocking exercise, Parisians are also getting into shape, and the capital has boomed with new fitness centers and studios offering yoga and pilates. Even trends like AquaBike have taken off. But locals still seem puzzled by visitors who wish to work out on their vacations, and fittingly one-day passes at gyms are still quite expensive.

Luxury Hotels

Did somebody say "la crise"? If so, the hospitality industry has been too busy renovating luxury palace hotels (an official designation for five-star digs that demonstrate "exceptional hospitality") to worry about economic woes. The elegant Crillon reopened in 2017 after an expensive facelift (the low estimate was €200 million) with rooms starting at €1,200 and two suites designed by Karl Lagerfeld. The glamorous Ritz Hotel in Place Vendôme reopened in 2016 after undergoing a €200 million spiff-up. That’s pennies compared to what was spent on The Peninsula Paris; renovation of that century-old building near the Arc de Triomphe cost (gulp!) €430 million. Rooms there now start at €1,000 a night (the rooftop penthouse goes for €25,000—but, hey, it comes with its own garden).


Although Paris was once described by Hemingway as being "full of nocturnal pleasure-seekers," the newspaper Le Monde named it the "European capital of boredom" a few years ago. To help prevent the City of Light from turning into the City of Lights Out, Paris enlisted a “Nightlife Mayor” to liven things up. Clément Léon promised an after-dark scene to rival such Continental hotspots as Berlin, London, and Barcelona. So has Paris turned the beat around? The exploding cocktail scene, with bitters, lime cordials, and syrups made à la maison, has certainly livened things up. And a veritable invasion of innovative chefs has helped steal the limelight from Berlin and other European culinary capitals. But with all that revelry came noise, and the city then deployed Les Pierrots de la Nuit, or night mimes, whose mission is to silently inform revelers they need to quiet down.


The year 2015 changed Paris forever, with the Charlie Hebdo attack in January followed by the devastating Bataclan massacre in November. Many Parisians wondered how life could ever return to normal. But rather than staying home and cowering to threats, Parisians took to the streets, filled café terraces, and lived their lives with the usual joie de vivre. While tourism did dip briefly, it came roaring back to set records in 2017, with overjoyed officials predicting 89 million visitors by the year's end. Of course, additional security in Paris is now simply a reality. Machine gun-toting soldiers patrol the streets, and there are longer waits at security checks for public buildings and airports. After the Bastille Day 2016 truck attack in Nice, concrete barriers were positioned to protect public spaces, and the feet of the Eiffel Tower are now encased in bulletproof glass.

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