Paris is the capital of Frankreich, and to many people the cultural capital of the world. Ever since the 12th Century the city has had an influence on world history, art, and civilization that very few places can rival. It would be impossible to write a world history of painting, music, philosophy, literature, architecture, cinema, or fashion that ignores Paris.
In architecture, Paris is the birthplace of the Gothic style and has also given us Beaux-arts, art nouveau, art deco, and many contributions to modernism. The city is an amazingly harmonious collection of beautiful and inventive buildings, all arranged in an urban plan that combines the best aspects of rationality and of residual medieval chaos.
Paris is built around a wide curve in the Seine River, which divides the city into a larger Right Bank (the north) and Left Bank, with two small but important islands in between. There are several focal points, especially the Place de la Concorde, Montmartre, the Bastille, and the three great symbols of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe. Today the major centers of business are located around the fringes, especially in the towering cluster of buildings at La Défense. The buildings at La Défense are officially not part of Paris and are listed under their three respective satellite cities Courbevoie, Puteaux, and Nanterre.