Paris — faq
Question: How big is Paris?
Answer: There are about eleven million people living in the Paris metropolitan area, and something over two million living within the city proper (which is confined to the area within the boulevard périphérique, the expressway that completely encircles the city). This means that Paris has roughly the same population as Los Angeles. Paris is the largest city on the Continent and the second largest city in Europe (London is somewhat larger).
Although Paris is similar to Los Angeles in terms of population, it is smaller in terms of area, especially when you look at the city proper, which is only a few kilometres wide. Paris was built before the era of automobiles, so everything had to be within walking distance, and this is why the city itself is so compact today (everything is still within walking distance). The suburbs, however, have expanded in the same sprawling way that one sees in Los Angeles.
Question: When is the best time to visit Paris?
Answer: The best time to visit is in spring or fall. Paris has traditionally had an extremely temperate climate, and it never gets very hot or cold — although global warming has changed this dramatically over the past fifteen years or so. Anyway, the best weather in the city may be enjoyed during the long spring and fall. The spring season runs from roughly April to May; the fall season runs from roughly September to October. The normal weather is the same in both seasons, generally cool and sunny, with occasional clouds and occasional brief showers. Prior to April, the weather is usually a bit chilly, and after October, it tends to become a bit gray and rainy. Winter in Paris is not extremely cold (temperatures rarely drop significantly below freezing), but it can be dreary. Summer in Paris can be uncomfortably warm. If you are interested in the weather at this particular moment, CNN has a nice weather page on the city that is continuously updated.
The spring season is the most popular with tourists. The fall season has many of the same advantages, but without the tourists. Few people visit the city in winter, so if you come then, you‘ll encounter mostly natives. In July and especially August, many Parisians go on summer vacation, and the city is very quiet, with mostly only other tourists walking around in the summer heat.
The above all presumes that the weather will be “normal,” in the sense of being the way it has always been. However, global warming is changing Paris weather so dramatically that you might want to consult the separate question on Paris climate.
Question: What type of climate does Paris have?
A: This is a tricky question, because it has two answers: one concerns the traditional climate of Paris, and the other concerns the increasingly different climate of the past decade and a half, with changes that presumably result from global warming.
Traditionally, Paris has been a very temperate city, with mild winters and mild summers, and long periods of beautiful weather during the spring and fall. Year-round, about every other day involved some measurable rain, on average, although in reality this meant several rainy days, followed by several sunny days, followed by several rainy days, etc. The rain was usually a light, misty rain, not a driving downpour. Thunderstorms were rare. Snow was also rare, but a total of around 15 days a year had measurable snowfall, usually in January and February but sometimes as early as November or as late as April.