Paris is divided into roughly equal sections by the Seine. On the right (northern) bank are the Bois de Boulogne and the adjoining Stade Roland Garros (site of tennis's French Open), Arc de Triomphe, the old Bibliothèque nationale, Élysée Palace, Grand Palais, Georges Pompidou National Center for Art and Culture (see Beaubourg), Place de la Concorde, Opéra, Comédie Française, Louvre, Palais de Chaillot, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Grande Arche de la Défense, Champs Élysées, and other great streets, sites, and boulevards. In the eastern part of the right bank is the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism, the Place de la Bastille and the Bastille Opera; to the north is Montmartre, the highest area in Paris, topped by the Church of Sacré-Cœur. Much of the right bank, which has many of the most fashionable streets and shops, has a stately air. At night many monuments and boulevards are floodlit. In the city's northeastern outskirts is the Parc de la Villette, home of the large Cité de la Musique, opened in the early 1990s, and the planned site of a number of performance and exhibition spaces.
The left bank, with the Sorbonne, the French Academy, the Panthéon (see under pantheon), the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens, the Jardin des Plantes (site of the National Natural History Museum), the Chamber of Deputies, the Quai d'Orsay, and the Hotel des Invalides, is the governmental and to a large extent the intellectual section. The Latin Quarter, for nearly a thousand years the preserve of university students and faculty; the Faubourg Saint-Germain section, at once aristocratic and a haven for students and artists (the celebrated Café des Deux Magots and Café de Flore are there); and Montparnasse are the most celebrated left-bank districts. The Eiffel Tower stands by the Seine on the Champ-de-Mars. In SE Paris, also on the left bank, is Paris Rive Gauche, a former industrial area redeveloped with a variety of newer buildings and renovations, many by prominent architects; the new Bibliothèque nationale (opened 1998) is there.
The historical nucleus of Paris is the Île de la Cité, a small boat-shaped island largely occupied by the huge Palais de Justice and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. It is connected with the smaller Île Saint-Louis, occupied by elegant houses of the 17th and 18th cent. Characteristic of Paris are the tree-lined quays along the Seine (famed, on the left bank, for their open-air bookstalls), the historic bridges that span the Seine, and the vast tree-lined boulevards that replaced the city walls. Skyscrapers, apartment complexes, and highways have been added to the Paris scene in recent years.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.