Paris has a very unique atmosphere and this is probably why it s ranked as first city visited in the world. The XIX century streets and avenues are uniforms and different at the same time and seem to be in complete harmony. These luxurous buildings were designed by baron Haussmann, chosen by Napoleon III to reorganise the capital.
At that time, Paris was still an old medieval city, with several hygiene problems due to outdated buildings, small streets with traffic congestion and poverty. In the middle of the XIXth century, Napoleon III re-established the French Empire (40 years after the first empire of Napoleon Ist), and decided to radically change Paris with ambitious plans.
Prefet (equivalent to a governor in french administration) Haussmann had his very own vision of the new Paris that should be built. He succeed to convince the emperor by his ideas and projects. Most of the streets were totally reorgnized with very large avenues, containing trees, and buildings with more the 6 floors. Paris was now organized around monuments, fountains and train stations. The original concept of the parisian building as known today is easy to catch: high society families used the first and second floors and will have the most confortable part of the buidling. Families with smaller revenues will use the upper levels. Domestics finally used the very last floor which was actually small and unconvenient as no elevators were available at that time. These rooms are still called today “chambres de bonnes” which means “Rooms of maids” and are nowadays mainly used by students.
Paris was radically changed: buidlings were more expensive, the city cleaner, the streets widers and very long avenues with beautiful perspectives were opened. However, another reason of these changes was to pull all the low revenues populations out of the capital, in order to use Paris as a central city dedicated to the elite. In fact, with the industrial revolution, high quantity of workers coming from the countryside and foreign countries immigrated to Paris.
As the XIXth century was also a century full of revolutions and regimes change in France, it was capital to build large streets and massive crossroads to send soldiers in a very short time all around the city in case of rebelion. Placing one battery on a crossroad was enough to control several streets, and cavalery charges in the avenues were very easy to perform once the city reorganized.
The above picture shows however Paris as it seems to be imagine all over the world: small pedestrian street with luxurious buildings and a very close view over the Eiffel Tower. I personally think this little street is perfect for discovering the Eiffel Tower as only a very few tourists seem to know this area.