Paris, like many cities, has its unique blend of historical and cultural quirks that have given rise to specific regulations and laws. Some might seem peculiar to outsiders, but they often have historical or cultural significance. Here are ten specific laws or regulations from Paris (and occasionally France more broadly) that might seem unusual:
- Love locks: Tourists used to hang padlocks on bridges like the Pont des Arts as a symbol of their love. However, due to the weight and potential damage to the bridge, it’s now illegal, and you can be fined.
- Eiffel Tower at Night: It’s legal to photograph the Eiffel Tower during the day. However, its nighttime light display is copyrighted. So if you plan to publish or sell photos of the tower illuminated at night, you’d need permission.
- No Ash Scattering: You can’t scatter human ashes in public places in Paris, including gardens or the Seine River.
- Wine Labels: French law prohibits wine labels from encouraging consumers to drink wine. For example, showing a group of friends laughing and holding wine glasses would be against the law.
- Mannequins: If a shop in Paris wants to use mannequins for display, they need to first obtain a permit.
- No Flying Over Paris: Paris is a no-fly zone for unauthorized aircraft, including drones. The restriction is mainly for security reasons, especially concerning landmarks like the Eiffel Tower.
- Pig Naming: An old law, dating back to the aftermath of the French Revolution, stipulates that Parisians cannot name pigs “Napoleon”. This was to prevent people from making fun of Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Horse Hours: Historically, there was a law that said horse-drawn carriages could not be on the streets of Paris before 9:30 a.m. This was to ensure the streets were free for pedestrians during the morning rush.
- Pant-wearing Women: Until it was officially discarded in 2013, there was a law from 1800 that forbade Parisian women from wearing pants unless they were “holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.” While not enforced for many years, it remained on the books as a vestige of old gender norms.
- Singing Off-key: Believe it or not, it used to be against the law to sing off-key in Paris! This regulation was in effect to protect the city’s musical reputation.
Some of these laws, especially the older ones, are more quirky remnants of history than actively enforced mandates. However, they provide a unique lens through which one can view the cultural evolution and priorities of Paris and France.