Topography of Paris

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The topography, or physical lay of the land, of Paris, the capital of France, is relatively flat but contains a number of hills.

The highest elevation in the urban area of Paris is in the Forest of Montmorency (Val-d'Oise département), 19.5 km. (12 miles) north-northwest of the center of Paris as the crow flies, at 195 metres (640 ft) above sea level.

The lowest point is 35 m (115 ft) above sea level.

Paris lies in the so-called "Paris Basin," a low-lying continental shelf region that is occasionally submerged by ocean waters over geologic time, which leaves marine sedimentary deposits behind (e.g., limestone, which was used to construct many of the buildings of the city; this was excavated from an underground quarry called the "Quarries of Paris"). When the region is above sea-level, as at the present time, rivers draining water from the land form, and these cut channels into the landscape. The rivers therefore strongly influence the topography of Paris. The Seine river cuts through Paris, but has apparently meandered in the past within a larger valley whose edges lie on the outskirts of the metropolitan area (the edges of this larger valley are visible from tall buildings in Paris). Many of the "hills" in Paris, appear to be formed as the result of cutoffs from previous meanders in the Seine river, which is now largely channelized to maintain its stability.

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