1. Government
April 24, 2015updated 16 Nov 2021 10:21am

A map of Paris superimposed on London

By Jonn Elledge

Paris, as we may have mentioned before, is surprisingly small. It has a population of only 2.3 million, which isn’t that many for one of the great cities of the world. It’s also only six miles across. This is a case of “underbounding”: a situation in which the formal limits of a city are far smaller than its functional area, which a) creates a whole load of problems for the people who govern a metropolitan area, and b) stops lovely family cities websites from make any sensible statistical comparisons.

Anyway, we decided to kick back, relax, and super-impose a map of Paris onto London, to give you some sense of exactly how small Paris really is.

We’ve placed the Île de la Cité, the historic heart of Paris, on London’s Trafalgar Square, in an attempt to align the centres of the two cities.

Imposed on London, the Périphérique ring road, which forms the border of Paris proper in most places, crosses the Thames roughly at the Battersea Bridge and the Rotherhithe tunnel. The city stretches south to the borders of Brixton, and north to those of Holloway. Its westernmost outpost is around Wormwood scrubs; its east is at Greenwich. Montmatre sits above Camden Town.

So, yes, Paris is small – smaller than inner London, and not much bigger than its old rival’s central business district.

Except, this isn’t really the whole of Paris, is it? It’s the official city limits, yes. But any sensible definition would include the suburbs lying beyond the Périphérique, that are economically dependent on the city itself.

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The French government has, belatedly, realised this, and from next year there will be a whole new body: the Metropole du Grand Paris, which will cover the whole urban region. At the time of writing, the exact boundaries that will have are a bit hazy – so, we’ve used this map to superimpose the city’s entire urban area on the London region too. (The red patch at the centre is the city proper.)

That looks much more like it – suddenly, London is all but invisible. Greater Paris will actually be bigger than Greater London, once the deed is done.

That will help to reintegrate the banlieues and, hopefully, make the city work better.

So there we have it. Join us next week on CityMetric when we’ll be firing up our trusty copy of Microsoft Paint once again and asking: Who would win in a fight – the Incredible Hulk or Superman?

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