Saskatoon is one of several cities which lays claim to the title, the Paris of the Prairies.

Can’t make it to France for the Olympics? Visit these 10 cities that are the Paris of Somewhere Else

This July, the eyes of the world will be looking at Paris as it hosts the Summer Olympics, but what about all of those other Parises? Not Paris,  Ontario or Paris, Texas, but the cities that were once upon a time crowned as the Paris of somewhere else, like the Paris of the Middle East or the Paris of the Prairies.

Many of these cities earned their Paris nicknames long ago, often because they had a cultural connection to France, were colonized by them or shared some architectural or physical similarities to the city on the Seine. If you’re looking for new places to explore or just curious about why so many cities have been compared to the French capital, here are 10 Parises of somewhere else and the reasons why they were given the title:

Paris of the Prairies: Saskatoon

While Winnipeg, Calgary, Chicago and the tiny Saskatchewan village of Montmartre with its replica of the Eiffel Tower have all laid claim to the title Paris of the Prairies, there’s an argument to be made that Saskatoon lays true claim to the title. Similarities with the City of Light may not be immediately obvious, but the most likely reason for the nickname is because of the South Saskatchewan River that winds through the city and the many bridges that cross it, much like the Seine in Paris. While the river connection may be tenuous, the city’s Remai Modern Museum with its important collection of Picasso linocuts certainly boosts comparisons to the French capital.

Paris of South America: Buenos Aires

The Argentine capital has long been compared to Paris primarily because of its abundant Beaux-Arts. Belle Époque and Art Deco buildings, many of which were designed by architects who came from France. Their influence also extended to landscaping and urban planning which blessed parts of the city with beautiful tree-lined boulevards, drawing instant comparisons to its French counterpart. If you’re looking for other similarities, some of their South American neighbours accuse the residents of Buenos Aires of being stand-offish, an accusation, right or wrong, that visitors have been known to cast towards Parisians.

Paris of the East: Hanoi

While enjoying your coffee and croissant at a café in Hanoi or while savouring the baguette used to make your banh mi sandwich, you’ll experience just a tiny example of the influence that more than 70 years of French colonial rule left on Vietnam. Architectural jewels like the Presidential Palace and Hanoi Opera House which were designed by French architects only add to the Parisian atmosphere of this beautiful city that is a must-visit for anyone venturing to Southeast Asia.

Paris of America: Cincinnati

In the years before the Civil War, Cincinnati was one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and the largest in the Midwest. Its growth was due to its advantageous location on the Ohio River and over time it attracted nicknames like the Queen City, Queen of the West and even Porkopolis as it was one of America’s biggest pork-packing centres. All of that wealth inspired ambitious architecture which rivalled that of the world’s most prestigious cities, including the stunning and still standing Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Music Hall. The Paris of America moniker soon followed.

Paris of the Middle East: Beirut

With its Mediterranean coastal vibe, you might be tempted to label Beirut as the Marseilles of the Middle East, but its strong café culture, fashion-forward style and cosmopolitan attitude make a better case for comparisons with Paris. The French influence on the Lebanese capital mostly stems from between the two world wars during the French Mandate period but is still strongly felt today. Sadly, long years of conflict have erased many heritage buildings from that era, but efforts are underway to preserve what is left.

Paris of Africa: Dakar

Because it was such an important administrative centre for France’s African empire, Dakar was shaped by an influx of French culture, language and architecture that earned it the nickname the Paris of Africa. That modern and cosmopolitan spirit continues to this day and the Senegalese capital still has strong cultural ties to France while maintaining its unique African identity. Famous for its vibrant arts and culture scene, it’s also home to a thriving fashion industry which sets trends across Africa, much like the designers of Paris. 

Paris of the Midwest: Detroit

As far back as 1705, the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac wrote from the tiny trading post that would one day become Detroit that it would eventually be known as the “Paris of New France.” He was close with his prediction. One hundred years later, the city was rebuilt after a massive fire. Urban planners borrowed heavily from the radial boulevards of Paris and a surge of new buildings inspired by the French filled the shiny new city. It was soon  dubbed the “Paris of the Midwest” and the name stuck for a while as Detroit’s wealth and importance grew with the rise of the automotive industry.

Paris of the Baltic: Riga

Also sometimes referred to as the Paris of the North, Riga is a gorgeous city that is compared to its French counterpart mostly because of its many wide, tree-lined boulevards and charming streetscapes, but those aren’t the only similarities. The Latvian capital’s historic centre is also renowned for its stunning architecture, particularly its well-preserved collection of Art Nouveau buildings and, like Paris, it is home to numerous museums, theatres, art galleries and music venues that contribute to its reputation as the cultural hub of the Baltics.

Paris of the South: Ashville, S.C.

Much like Paris, Asheville is celebrated for its numerous art galleries and studios, as well as its thriving music and theatre scenes. The River Arts District, in particular, showcases the work of local artists and craftspeople and is reminiscent of the artistic neighbourhoods found in Paris. Other similarities include the city’s mix of architectural styles, including many fine examples of Art Deco, Beaux-Arts and Art Nouveau buildings, the most notable example being the magnificent Biltmore Estate, a grand mansion built in the late 19th century.

Paris of North America: Montreal

It’s not simply because most Montrealers speak French that the city earns comparisons to Paris. Just like its French doppelganger, the Quebec metropolis is renowned for its arts and cultural scene and is immensely proud of its strong culinary tradition that draws inspiration from around the world. Throughout Old Montreal, you’ll spot buildings erected by the original French settlers and their descendents that borrow styles from France. One prominent example, the twin bell towers of Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica are inspired by those of Notre-Dame in Paris. There’s even a Métropolitain sign outside the Square-Victoria Métro station and, just like Paris’ subway, Montreal’s uses rubber tires.

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