1. Governance
February 4, 2023

A map of Paris superimposed on London

Placing a map of Paris over London will likely lead to arguments about boundaries, city 'proper' and the very meaning of 'greater'.

By Jonn Elledge

Paris, as we may have mentioned before, is surprisingly small. It has a population of only 2.1 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 cities websites from making any statistical comparisons.

Anyway, we decided to superimpose an old map of Paris onto London, to give you some sense of exactly how small Paris really is.

Paris London map
A map of Paris superimposed on London. (Author created)

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. Montmartre sits above Camden Town.

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? Any sensible definition would include the suburbs lying beyond the Périphérique.

The French government realised this, and the Metropole du Grand Paris came into existence on 1 January 2016, and covers the whole urban region and 20 arrondissements of Paris. (Though many at the time thought it would be a much weaker insitution.) The exact boundaries are still a bit hazy to us – and we aren’t the only ones historically taking on this challenge.

That looks much more like it – suddenly, Paris suffers much less by compaison when you get the ‘Greater’ involved. Greater or ‘Grand’ Paris may actually be bigger than Greater London, depending on who you ask.

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Though Google still puts London out ahead in terms of surface area – 1,569km² compared with Grand Paris’ 814km².

[Read more: Just a map of Manhattan dropped onto one of London]

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