Travels with Bob

‘X’ Marks Point Zero


Point Zero in Paris is Notre Dame Cathedral marked by stone in the ground.

Have you ever wondered how distance is measured to your destination from a sign along your route? Is it to the city limits or some other designated point?

In the United States, highway mileage signs typically indicate the distance to a designated Point Zero, in or near the mid-point of the city or town. This mid-point is usually city hall or the main post office in center city. But that’s not always the case, especially in Europe.

When riding back to Paris from Versailles, for example, you will probably pass a sign that says “Paris 15”. That’s 15 kilometers rather than miles and it means you are 15 kilometers from Notre Dame Cathedral, designated as Point Zero of Paris, if not for all of France.

Now there are many reasons to visit Notre Dame Cathedral when you are in Paris.  Yet, most people who do visit fail to notice the stone embedded in the ground just outside the cathedral. A compass rose is affixed to the stone engraved with the words “Point Zero Des Routes De France” – marking the center of The City of Light.