Like beautiful, headstrong sisters in a potboiler novel–one a rosy-cheeked English aristocrat, the other a purring Gallic seductress–London and Paris have vied for centuries to be crowned queen of the European capitals. Each has soaring cathedrals and treasure filled museums, a great river, and an iconic tower, and enough shopping and dining to occupy fashionistas and foodies alike for months.
Real hissing matches occur occasionally, and the hairsplitting could go on for years. Think of “The Tale of Two Cities”. During all the years since Dickens wrote his masterpiece, nothing has been settled. The statistics are notoriously confusing especially in the hands of tour guides who extol their chosen city with their iconic attractions. Their main arguments seems to be over who has the most visitors. Personally I wouldn’t visit a city just because or in spite of its number of visitors.
These cities have absolutely distinct personalities. I may be wrong, but my take has always been that London is a man’s town, with its solid stability, its mighty Thames river flowing majestically as a grand avenue to the sea, along with the solemnity of Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the imposing fortress of the Tower of London with its history of incarceration and stash of royal jewels.
In Paris, the Seine River is more intimate, lined with waterside walkers and strolling lovers past the gargoyles of Notre Dame, it’s Eiffel Tower seemingly woven of gossamer, and sparkling at night like champagne bubbles, could not be more feminine. As Rick Steves observes, “The is something enduring about London and endearing about Paris.”