The brains, heart and soul of the country.
The most populous of all French regions, with some 10.9 million inhabitants, the Ile-de-France surrounds Paris on all its sides, envelopping it in a kind of suburban blanket. The name first appeared in 1387, replacing the older "Pays de France" when the word pays began to mean 'nation' rather than 'region'. Literally, the name means "Isle of France": meaning the inland peninsula delimited by the Seine, Oise, Ourcq and Marne rivers. It has been the center of French power for most of the country's history, and it is the main point of attraction for foreign tourists, dwarfing all other regions in the number of monuments, hotel rooms, restaurants, museums, attractions, activities and services available to them.
All roads lead to it.
Due to France's strict centralized administration, and because Paris lies at its heart, the region is inescapable when traveling to the coutry or to the countryside. All the major airports, train stations, highways are located near Paris or go through it. It is the country's main transportation hub, its cultural center, and the site of its government.
France's royal heartland.
The Ile-de-France comprises the region ruled over by Hugues Capet when he was declared king of France in the year 987. Populated since the Roman times, it ihas been the royal heartland of France and the remains of its long past makes it an area exceptionally rich in art and architecture. Some of the country's most sumptuous chateaux are reachable by a short drive from Paris. To the west lie Versailles, (the grandest of them all), Saint-Germain-en-Laye (not to be confused with Saint-Germaind des Pres, a neighborhood of Paris), which was the home to the French kings from Francois I to Louis XIV, Malmaison, Napoleon's residence in the latter years of his reign, and Rambouillet. In the East one can visit Fontainbleau where Napoleon bid adieu to his teary-eyed soldiers, and Vaux-le-Vicomte, site of one of French history's most unusual court dramas. In the North Saint-Denis is the site of the first French cathedral and a royal burial site.
If Romanticism had a capital…
All the superlatives have been used to describe Paris, undoubtedly one of the world's most beautiful, romantic and culturally-rich cities. Hundreds of museums are just a short distance away from any point in the city. The Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d'Orsay are the most famous, but museums of all sizes cater to all areas of interests and to the many artists, writers, thinkers who have made the City of Dreams their home at some point in their lives, including Picasso, Rodin, Victor Hugo. It is a testament to the unrivaled beauty of Paris that the collective works of those that have tried to describe it falls short of the experience felt by strolling down its cobbled streets, its grand avenues, or its river banks.
A day in the Park
Paris is surrounded by vast forests.