Paris, the capital of France, is located in northern France on both banks of the Seine River, 145 km (90 mi) from the river's mouth on the English Channel. A total of 2,135,300 (2002) inhabitants live in Paris proper, and almost 11 million persons (1999) live in greater Paris (the Ile-de-France region), which is one of Europe's largest metropolitan areas. A city of world importance and the business, historic, intellectual, diplomatic, religious, educational, artistic, and tourist center of France, Paris owes its prosperity in large part to its favorable position on the Seine, which has been a major commercial artery since the Roman period.
Paris has been one of the major cities of Europe since the Middle Ages, but the development of the city as it exists today occurred in the second half of the 19th century. Its greatest growth came during a 40-year period after 1850, when the population doubled in size to more than 2 million; it reached a peak in 1921 (2,906,500), after which people began migrating away from the city. Since then, as homes have been replaced by offices in Paris proper, most of the growth has occurred in the suburbs, where a large portion of the blue-collar work force lives. Of a total of 2 million commuters, about half travel daily from the outlying areas to the city center, and half travel from central Paris to the suburbs.
The economic activities of Paris overshadow those of any other part of France in importance and complexity. About 65 percent of the nation's bank and corporate headquarters are in the city. Much of the industry in central Paris is of the small-scale craft type, based on skill and most often family owned. Many of these industries make luxury items such as perfumes, furs, gloves, jewelry, toys, clothing, wooden articles, and other high-value goods.
Book printing and publishing are major activities in central Paris. Heavier industries are situated in the suburbs. These include the manufacture of automobiles, machine tools, railroad rolling stock, electric and electronic products, chemicals, and processed foods. Construction and the production of building materials are also important. Tourism, however, is by far the city's largest source of income; it is one of Europe's leading tourist attractions.