Arc de Triomphe - the most important information
One of the symbols of France has stood proudly since 1836 at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Its full name is The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, today it serves as an important part of the national holiday celebration and can be toured. One of the best viewpoints in Paris is at its top, but be prepared for more than 280 stairs. From there a walk through the iconic Champs-Élysées is a must.
History of the Arc de Triomphe
Works on the construction began on August 15th 1806, believed to have been commissioned by Napoleon himself. It was made as an homage to the fallen French soldiers of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. It’s made by design of Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin. He envisioned it as an ancient Roman monument with a Neoclassical twist, and it took 2 years just for the foundation to be built. A wooden mock-up was made on the site in 1810 as part of Austrian archduchess and Napoleon’s wife Marie-Louise's ceremonial entrance to Paris. It was finally finished during the rule of King Louis-Philippe and he officially opened it in July of 1836. It’s still an important part of the culture, tradition and tourism of France. March on Bastille Day starts at this arch, the Tour de France sets its finish line close to it and many celebrations and protests go to and around it.
What to see?
Visiting the Arc de Triomphe is more than just admiring it from the far. You can access it following the underground passageway on the Champs-Elysées all the way to the base of the Arc de Triomphe. Once you get there check out:
- Tomb of the unknown soldier and Eternal flame: Beneath the Arc is set a tomb of the unknown soldier from WWI that was laid there in the 1920s. Every day at 6:30pm a flame is rekindled, it has been burning since 1923 and wasn’t even interrupted by the Nazi occupation. If you wish to see the rekindling ceremony you should grab the nearest possible spot no later than 6:20.
- Arc de Triomphe pillars: 4 pillars of the Arc all showcase different artists, their styles and historical moments. They are designed by François Rude ( Le Départ de 1792), Jean-Pierre Cortot ( Le Triomphe de 1810 ) and Antoine Étex (Résistance de 1814, Paix de 1815).
- Base of the Arc: Inner and outer facade is inscribed with names of 660 generals and soldiers, their victories and deaths.
- Reliefs: There are 6 sculptured relief on the facade that depict the French revolution and era of the Napoleon.
- Exhibition: In its interior you can find a permanent exhibition that shows the designing process of the Arch, alongside a monument of a soldier.
- Plaque of the Proclamation of the Republic: At the top of the Arc de Triomphe you’ll be greeted with the most stunning view of Paris, away from the overcrowded and loud streets. The views from the viewing platform extend all the way to the Champs-Elysées and the Sacré-Coeur. You have to climb over 280 steps to reach it, but we don’t recommend it if you aren’t in good shape. There is an elevator for people with limited mobility, but they still have to walk another 46 floors.
Tickets and opening hours
- Visitation: Arc the Triomphe is open to the public throughout the week from 10am to 10:30am. Best times to visit are between 11am to 12pm or 8pm to 10:30pm during working days. Guided tour is organized every day at 10:30am, it lasts about 45 minutes and comes with no additional charges.
- Ticket prices vary: Adults - 13 euros; Group tickets for minimum 20 people - 11 euros; Audio guided tours - 23 euros + 30 euros deposit for the material. Free tickets are provided to everyone on the first Sunday of every month; handicapped people and their companions; to people between the ages of 18 and 25 that come from EU nations or are domestic citizens and minors that come with family.
How to get to the Arc de Triomphe?
Accessing the Arc won’t be a problem, as 12 avenues lead to it. You can walk through the Champs-Elysées to it, or take any means of public transportation.
- By bus: Lines 1, 2, 22, 30, 31, 73, 92 all have stations at the immediate vicinity of the Arc de Triomphe.
- By metro: Lines 1, 2, 6 take to the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station from where you take Exit 1 - Arc de Triomphe.
- By RER: Line A will take you to the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station where you take the same exit.
Arc de Triomphe trivia
- Can you imagine a huge elephant standing in this place instead of the Arc? It almost happened, architect Charles Ribart designed a three storey structure in the shape of an elephant that was supposed to be hollow and climbable. This idea even got a green light, but the decision to build an arch instead was made last minute.
- Three arrondissements, 8th, 16th and 17th, all have a piece of the location on which the Arc is situated.
- It is a place of not one, but two assassination attempts. The first one was on the Monsieur Charles De Gaulle, and in 2002 Jacques Chirac dodged a bullet.
- Neither Napoleon or Chalgrin lived long enough to see the full scope of the Arc, but their caskets passed through it on their way to the final resting place. That was also the case with Ferdinand Foch and Victor Hugo.
- French aviator Charles Godefroy flew his plane through the Arc in 1919 to honor the end of World War I and its many lost souls.