What cities are known as the Paris of the West, you ask?
With tree-lined boulevards, the Seine flowing languorously through the city, wide city squares, cobblestoned streets, and fashionable and chic population, Paris captures the imagination of travelers of all kinds — lovers of history, art and culture, romance, gorgeous architecture and even just people-watching. It’s more than just a geographical location. It’s a feeling.
Which is why the tags of the ‘Paris of the North’ and ‘Paris of the East’ are so generously bestowed on cities that exude the Parisian sophistication and charm. ‘Paris of the South’ is a sobriquet however, that has been given to only a handful of cities. In the list below are names of around eight cities that are, or were once, called the ‘Paris of the West’.
Read on to find out about the cities known as the Paris of the West.
8 cities that are known as the Paris of the West
1. Abidjan, Ivory Coast
It was during the 1980s and early 1990s that Abidjan was referred to as the Paris of the West, or Paris of West Africa. This was because of towering skylines, and being among the first in fashion, standard of living and culture, when compared to the rest of Africa. Coupled with universities, wide boulevards, parks and museums, the city soon came to be called the Paris of the West.
Don’t miss: Parc National du Banco, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Plateau Mosque, Cécile Fakhoury Gallery, Iles Ehotile National Park and Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Very interestingly, Buenos Aires has also been called the Paris of the South. Well, whether it is the Paris of the West or of the South, the city certainly does deserve to be called the “Paris of…”.
San Telmo is an old district in the city, where the architecture closely resembles structures in Paris. After getting its independence from Spain, Buenos Aires invited architects from Italy and France to design the Argentinian capital. Hence the curious yet seamless incorporation of Latin American and European atmospheres. With wide boulevards, cobblestone streets and culturally distinct communities, this city certainly stands up to its moniker of being called the Paris of the West or South — take a pick.
Don’t miss: Plaza de Mayo, Recoleta Cemetery, Casa Rosada, Caminito, El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Plaza Dorrego and Puente De La Mujer.
3. Cincinnati, United States
Cincinnati in Ohio was called the Paris of the West but long back in history. It is said that in the 1800s, mid- to late, Queen City became one of the most densely populated areas and boasted of saloons, beer gardens, theatre and breweries. It is for this reason that Cincinnati was nicknamed the Paris of the West. Today it is more popularly known as the Queen of the West.
Don’t miss: Smale Riverfront Park, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Newport Aquarium, Krohn Conservatory, John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge and Findlay Market.
4. Detroit, United States
If there’s a consensus on why Detroit is called the Paris of the West, it is because of its architecture, and the Washington Boulevard, which was said to have been wired up by Thomas Edison. The buildings, not just homes but even offices, were designed by architect Louis Kemper, who, for his first assignment, designed a house in the style of a French chateau, in keeping with the French heritage.
Aside from the automobile boom in Detroit, there was also an explosion in the theater and entertainment industry. It had numerous movie halls and opulent theaters. The fact also that it was a cultural hub and a vibrant place in the early 1920s gave it the sobriquet of being the Paris of the West, and Paris of the Midwest.
Don’t miss: The Henry Ford Museum, Belle Isle, Fox Theatre, Campus Martius Park, and Cadillac Place.
5. Merida, Mexico
Because of its affluent European connections, tree lined boulevards and towering mansions built ‘wedding cake’ style, Merida came to be called the Paris of the West. These colonial manors were elaborately ornate. The rich residents of the area liked anything resembling Europe, and asked French architects to design their homes. Steeped in colonial history and Mayan heritage, the city has narrow streets and sweeping plazas.
For these reasons, Merida was called the Paris of the West. Today it is called the White City and is considered one of the safest cities in Mexico.
Don’t miss: Dzibilchaltún, Catedral de Mérida, Plaza Grande, Mayan World Museum of Mérida, Palacio Canton, and Museo Casa Montejo.
6. Montreal, Canada
Montreal has a French past so it is not very surprising that the city has distinctly European undertones. With a lively art scene, fashionable people, stunning museums, a francophone population, cobblestoned streets and historic buildings, it is little surprise that Montreal has been nicknamed the Paris of the West. It has also been called the ‘Edgy Paris of North America’ and the ‘Paris of the New World’. Today, this charming city with its culture is favourite destination among many travellers — especially those just learning French!
Don’t miss: Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, Biodome, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Old Port of Montreal, Mount Royal Park, Place Jacques-Cartier and Square Saint-Louis.
7. San Francisco, United States
The city by the bay, the Golden City, SF, San Fran, the City — San Francisco is known by many nicknames. But did you know that this city was called the Paris of the West and even Paris of the Pacific earlier?
When gold was found in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, some Frenchmen came to the city to strike gold — literally. They settled at Commercial Street, where goods from France and elsewhere unloaded. In a street nicknamed French Street then, one could find Bordeaux wine and the latest Parisian fashion. Today, of course, San Francisco is known for housing the headquarters of some of the biggest companies such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Visa and Twitter among others.
Don’t miss: Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, PIER 39, Lombard Street, Alcatraz Island, Coit Tower and Ferry Building.
8. Denver, United States
Broad streets, wide squares and park are what topographically make Denver the Paris of the West or the ‘Paris of America’. According to The Personality of American Cities, a book published in 1913, the capital of Colorado was called the Paris of America also because of the gayly dressed people with their flamboyant gowns and hats. Of course a rich cultural history also adds to this term. Today, this city is known for a blend of cultural sophistication and activities for all kinds of people — such as numerous cultural attractions, fine dining, a great music scene and craft breweries.
Don’t miss: Denver Art Museum, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Coors Field, Molly Brown House Museum (Titanic heroin’s victorian mansion!), Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Cherry Creek State Park, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Denver Free Walking Tours.
How many Paris of the West cities did you guess? If you’ve visited any of the cities mentioned above, do let us know in the comments below how your experience was!