Île-de-France

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Travel Guide Europe France Île-de-France

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Introduction

Île-de-France is the compact region immediately surrounding Paris. As such, the region includes all of the metropolis, from the great French capital itself through the gritty banlieue right out to now far-flung suburbs and exurbs, together with several large surrounding towns that form part of the greater conurbation. All is not urban sprawl, however: the region is also known for its natural beauty, in the form of parks, forests and river lands, and also contains some of the most fertile agricultural soil in France.

The name "Île-de-France" translates as "island of France", and though this etymology is unclear, it is thought to refer to the land between the rivers Seine, Marne and Oise, a sort of pseudo-"island" at the heart of France in a historical and cultural, if not geographic, sense. The north-east of the region is equally known as the Pays de France, which is essentially an agricultural terroir known for its cereal crops, though much of it has been overtaken by suburban sprawl and Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Île-de-France is easily the richest part of France, and is also one of Europe's most economically active regions. The majority of the region's inhabitants (who are known as Franciliens and Franciliennes), live and work somewhere in the dense Paris conurbation, leaving much of the rest of the territory rural and sparsely-populated.

From the traveller's perspective, most of the region's interest will of course lie in Paris's mere 105 km², and it is true that the City of Lights is a shining beacon among the world's great metropolises. Paris's icons are French icons, and many will struggle to even bring France to mind without thinking of the Eiffel Tower, of mimes working the streets of Montmartre, of Gothic Métropolitain signs, or of Haussmannian boulevards lined with chic cafés and fashion stores. So this guide won't try to persuade you to skip Paris; you absolutely must go there! But if you do decide to venture beyond the Boulevard Périphérique, you will be richly rewarded.

Île-de-France's countryside is prosperous and agricultural. Dominated by its three major rivers, well-heeled market towns-cum-dormitory communities, and great châteaux from times gone by, it is a beautiful slice of rural France without having to stray far from the big city. The east of the region, the department of Seine-et-Marne, is especially lovely and forms part of the Champagne-growing area.

And who could forget Disneyland Paris, Europe's most popular visitor attraction? For anyone who knows Disney's American parks, paying a visit to "Chez Mickey" - as the place is blithely known by the locals - will be at once familiar and bizarrely different. Seeing the pink château de Cendrillon against a moody northern French sky, rather than say Californian azure, is enough to make anyone think to herself "Ah, le monde est petit !" (It's a small world after all).

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Geography

The river Seine runs through the region. The Seine has many tributaries, including the rivers Oise and Aube. It is France's second largest river after the Loire. The region is in an area of lowland called the Paris Basin. South of this region lies the Massif Central, an area of highlands that are higher than the surrounding countryside but far lower than the Alps.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

Out of Paris

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Weather

The climate of the region is quite similar to much of Western Europe, except that it has warmer summers and milder winters and receives less rain.

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Getting There

By Plane

By Train

Seven main stations are located in Paris, and most of them welcome trains from bordering countries. They are connected through the métro and RER system only (no special shuttle).

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Getting Around

By Train

A network of regional trains (RER) takes you in and out of Paris. The RER has 256 stops in and around Paris, and runs on over 587 km (365 mi) of track. There are 5 lines, (A, B, C, D and E) that cross Paris, connecting suburbs on opposite sides. The stations are marked with blue signs with a white RER. The rest of the regional network, called "Transilien", departs from the main train stations (Lyon for line R, Est for line P, Nord for lines H and K, St-Lazare for lines J and L, Montparnasse for line N) and La Défense (line U). Trains can run up to every 5 minutes during rush hour, and you will never have to wait for more than 1 hour between two trains, even on the least served lines in the evening or on the weekend.

Tickets are only valid for the trip purchased, while passes use a 5-zone system. It may be cheaper for long trips on the regional network to purchase a daily ticket than a return ticket: a round-trip ticket from Paris to Provins costs €22.70, while a day pass (Mobilis) valid for zones 1-5 only costs €16.60. Check when purchasing, timetables, fare information, and maps for both systems can be found in on the English version of the Transilien website.

Trains run from 04:45 to 01:30. Smoking is not allowed in the stations or on the trains.

By Car

There are several free autoroutes and 4 lane roads for getting round Île-de-France, however on weekdays there is a lot of congestion between the hours 08:00-09:30 and 17:30-19:30, and it is really not advisable to travel then. This congestion becomes a lot less worse the further away from Paris you are.

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Quick Facts

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Capital
Paris
Land Area
12,012 km²
Population
11,694,000 (2008)

Contributors

as well as Alain13 (14%), Sam I Am (7%)

Île-de-France Travel Helpers

This is version 16. Last edited at 15:27 on Mar 5, 19 by Utrecht. 11 articles link to this page.

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