Paris is not a location — it’s a feeling: a feeling of beauty, a feeling of leisure, a feeling of greatness, a feeling of artistic expression, progressive thoughts and liberal outlook; a feeling of bonhomie and oneness; it is a love for coffee and wine and cheese; a love for all things chic and nouveau. It is a way of life.
Which is why though Paris, France will always be the Paris, there are numerous other cities across the world that have the sobriquet of being the Paris of the North, the Paris of the East, and Paris of the West. Here, we bring to you a compact list of the very few cities that have the privilege of being called the Paris of the South.
Cities that are known as the Paris of the South
1. Asheville, North Carolina
Located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has been called the Paris of the South since the 1900s!
The reasons are numerous: the gorgeous art deco buildings in the downtown area that embellish the landscape resemble the structures in Paris; the bustling yet walkable streets; restaurants spilling onto sidewalks, and cafe culture that invites walkers to sip caffeine and contemplate nature and life in general. It has a lively art scene — in fact, it has a designated art district that is called River Arts District, located along the French Broad River. It is home to several art studios. The culture of live street performances and its location in the Southern USA, also reflect its monicker.
Don’t miss: Biltmore Estate, the largest American home; art galleries; museums; French Broad River Park; Pisgah National Forest; Thomas Wolfe Memorial; Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.
2. New Orleans, Louisiana
This city, in the southern part of the United States, has always had undercurrents of French culture, since it was founded by the French. The French Quarter in New Orleans retains much of its European heritage. Today, it is still called the Paris of the South because of its romantic ambience and architectural designs. With a history of artistry and expressiveness, it is little surprise that New Orleans was once called Little Paris. An article in the French Quarterly Magazine also compares Jackson Square to Montmartre! Jackson Square is where one can witness painters creating magic on their canvasses, using their brushes as magic wands. The Faubourg St. John neighborhood also hosts Annual Bastille Day fete.
New Orleans also has a slice of Paris — quite literally. The de La Tour Eiffel, the restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower was eventually taken down because it was said to be adding pressure to the structure. Guess where the deconstructed structure was exported to? You guessed it — New Orleans! While initially it had opened as a restaurant in New Orleans, financial pressures forced the enterprise to fold. Subsequent attempts at reviving the structure as a hotel or nightclub yielded no positive results either. Today, it is an event space and also houses a museum called Eiffel Society.
Don’t miss: Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, Frenchmen Street, Mardi Gras World, Louis Armstrong Park, the National WWII Museum, St Louis Cathedral, New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum (don’t @ me, I like weird stuff).
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
It’s probably surprising, but Buenos Aires is called the Paris of South America.
One interesting reason is the architecture. After gaining independence from Spain, Argentinians invited architects from Italy and France to design their capital. Today, it is also home to immigrants from Spain and Italy. Thus, the beautiful amalgamation of Latin American and European atmospheres. Add to this the Portenos’ love for fashion, presence of cozy cafes, wide boulevards and cobblestoned streets, you can see why Buenos Aires is called the Paris of South America. San Telmo, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, is famous for its Parisian style architecture, vibrancy and culturally distinct communities, and mansions.
Don’t miss: The National Museum of Fine Art, MALBA, Plaza De Mayo, Recoleta Cemetery, Caminito, Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires.
4. Montpellier, France
Albeit in the same country, Montpellier is also referred to as the Paris of the South.
The city, located in the south of France, houses architectural designs by Haussmann, the man primarily responsible for Paris’ street plan (read: appearance) today, with wide streets ensuring enough ventilation and sunlight. This similarity gives it the monicker of the Paris of the South. With its youthful, chic-vibes, museums, art exhibitions, and an abundance of cafes and bars and restaurants, landscaped gardens, it is not hard to see why it is given the sobriquet. It even has its own Arc de Triomphe, called Porte du Peyrou!
Don’t miss: The exquisite Musee Fabre (where Picasso’s collections are displayed), Place de la Comédie, Montpellier Cathedral, Porte du Peyrou, Promenade du Peyrou, and Castle of Flaugergues.
Another city in the South of France that is sometimes referred to as Paris of the South is Nice. Situated along the gorgeous coastline of the French Riviera, Nice has stunning views of the Côte d’Azur.
5. Barcelona, Spain
The last city, located in the European South that has the monicker of Paris of the South is Barcelona.
Though not very widely-compared to the City of Love, an academic paper writes that Barcelona’s planning strategy is comparable to that of Paris’. Barcelona always aspired to be a monumental city in the world, and took its inspiration from several European cities, but especially from Paris. The similarities can be found in the streets that are so meticulously structured.
Another reason Barcelona was called Paris of the South was when, much like Montmartre in Paris, Barcelona too had the ‘Parallel’ that provided entertainment for all classes of the city. During an exposition, when the Parallel was lighted, people started referring to it as the Paris of the South, for the City of Lights references.
Don’t miss: La Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum, Picasso Museum, Tibidabo, Palau de la Música Catalana, Ciutadella Park.
There are a number of cities and capital that vie for the title of ‘Paris of the South’. But very few actually live up to the sobriquet. Paris is not a place; It’s a way of life. Have you visited any of the cities mentioned above? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!