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Visiting the Arc de Triomphe: Paris, France

Updated on March 12, 2017
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Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe | Source

Sitting triumphantly at the west end of the Champs-Elysees is one of the most celebrated and iconic monuments in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe. Having stood watch over Paris for almost two hundred years the Arc has seen its share of French history, including its most celebrated and tragic events. Today, the Arc de Triomphe is an easy destination to visit in Paris and should not be missed. It’s really much more than just a monument. It’s also a museum that just happens to offer great views over all of Paris from the viewing deck on top of the structure. And it’s a fitting memorial to France’s military past and also the site of its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Arc de Triomphe from the top of the Eiffel Tower
Arc de Triomphe from the top of the Eiffel Tower | Source

A Little History

Construction on the Arc de Triomphe was begun in 1806 under the orders of Napoléon Bonaparte. It was not completed until 1836 and unfortunately Emperor Napoleon never saw its completion. His body did pass under the completed Arc during his funeral procession upon returning to Paris from St. Helena in 1840.

The Arc was originally built to honor the Grande Armee, which was the name given to the French Army under Napoleon’s rule. The Grand Armee was considered an invincible fighting force in Europe and following their victory at Austerlitz in 1805 Napoleon vowed to construct a victorious arch to honor his army. The idea for the Arc de Triomphe was of course his and was inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome, although the French version now towers over its Italian counterpart in terms of size.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe | Source

Did you know?

  • Height: 50 meters/164 feet
  • Width: 45 meters/148 feet
  • Depth: 22 meters/72 feet
  • Designed by Jean Chalgrin
  • Style: Neoclassicism
  • 284 steps to the top

The inside walls of the Arc de Triomphe contain the names of more than 600 French generals and other prominent figures from the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. Also inscribed is a list of the major French Military victories (128) in battle during Napoleons rule.

The outside walls of the Arc contain four large sculptures: Le Triomphe de 1810 - The Triumph of 1810, La Resistance de 1814 - Resistance of 1814, La Paix de 1815 - Peace of 1815, and Le Depart de 1792 - Departure of the Volunteers of 1792.

One of the Arc's four sculptures, La Paix or Peace
One of the Arc's four sculptures, La Paix or Peace | Source

Located below the Arc facing down the Champs-Elysees is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which now burns in honor of those killed in World War I and World War II who were never identified.

An interesting story to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is that in 1961 then United States President John F. Kennedy visited the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Following his assassination in 1963, Jackie requested an eternal flame be place next to JFK's grave having remembered her visit to Paris. French President Charles de Gaulle attended the funeral of JFK and witnessed Jackie lighting the eternal flame, certainly a tragic and historic moment in time.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier | Source

Metro and Bus Lines

Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile Station: Metro Lines 1, 2 and 6.

Also RER Line A

Bus Lines: 22, 30, 31, 52, 73, 92

Getting There

For those of you who envision dashing across the round-a-bout dogging traffic to get to the Arc rest assured that there is a better way. Simply take the stairs that lead visitors to the tunnel that goes under the round-a-bout and delivers you to the base of the monument. It’s all very easy and much safer than risking your life. Please do not attempt to cross the street here. There are twelve roads that lead into this round-a-bout and the traffic here can be crazy and dangerous.

If arriving by the metro simply get off at station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile and follow the signs and crowds to the tunnel. The Arc is located at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the top or west end of the Champs-Ellysees, you can’t miss it.

If you happen to have a rental car and want to brave Paris traffic perhaps you may want to drive around the Arc, which seems like a fun thing to do, in a weird sort of way. Just make sure you know where you are going and where you are going to exit the round-a-bout.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe | Source

Visiting

Visiting the Arc de Triomphe can be as simple as wandering under its massive arches and gazing down the Champs-Elysees. To call it a day now would be missing out on a great opportunity. Pay the 9.50 euro fee and climb the 284 steps to the top. There is an elevator available for those with disabilities and strollers if needed. Along the way you will pass through the small museum and of course a gift shop. You will also pass by the small room with a camera pointing down to the base of the Arc. It’s a fun way to take a peek at what’s going on down below.

The spiral staircase to the observation deck
The spiral staircase to the observation deck | Source

Keep on climbing and eventually you’ll arrive at the roof top terrace. Here you will realize why you paid the entry fee to climb those darn stairs. The view of Paris is 360 degrees and you have a marvelous look straight down the Champs-Elysees. Look to the south and the Eiffel Tower is looking down upon you. Gaze to the northeast and you have a clear view of Sacre-Coeur in all its glory. Follow the Champs-Elysees all the way down and just to the right are the twin towers of Notre Dame. Look to the west and the skyscrapers of the business district known as La Défense rise before you. The view from here really is one of the most spectacular in all of Paris so do not miss it.

Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur from the Arc de Triomphe
Sacre-Coeur from the Arc de Triomphe | Source

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe
The Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe | Source

Champs-Elysees

Looking down the Champs-Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe
Looking down the Champs-Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe | Source

La Defense

The view toward La Defense from the Arc de Triomphe
The view toward La Defense from the Arc de Triomphe | Source

Hours:

  • April 1st – September 30th: 10 am – 11 pm
  • October 1st – March 31st: 10 am – 10:30 am
  • The last admission is 45 minutes prior to closing
  • Closed: January 1, May 1, May 8 (morning only), July 14 (morning only), November 11 (morning only), December 25

Rates:

  • Adult: 9.50 euro
  • Reduced rate: 7.50 euro
  • Group (min 20): 7.50 euro

Free Admission:

  • Minors under 18
  • EU citizen under age 26
  • Disabled visitors with their escorts
  • Unemployed

Charles de Gaulle marching under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysees following the liberation of Paris in WWII
Charles de Gaulle marching under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysees following the liberation of Paris in WWII | Source

Timeline in history of the Arc de Triomphe

August 15, 1806: Corner stone for the Arc de Triomphe is laid on Napoleon’s Birthday.

1814 – 1826: Construction halted on the Arc following the abdication of Napoleon.

May 5, 1821: Napoleon dies while in exile on the island of Saint Helena.

July 29, 1836: Arc de Triomphe is completed and inaugurated.

December 15, 1840: Napoleon’s coffin passes under the Arc enroute to his final resting place at Les Invalides.

May 22, 1885: The body of Victor Hugo lies in state under the Arc.

August 7, 1919: Charles Godefroy flies his biplane through the Arc without incident.

January 28, 1921: Coffin containing the Unknown Soldier is placed in its final resting place beneath the Arc.

Victory Parades under the Arc:

  • 1871: Germany during the Franco-Prussian War.
  • 1919: French Victory World War I.
  • 1940: Adolf Hitler upon German occupation of Paris.
  • August 25, 1944: The Germans surrender Paris.
  • August 26, 1944: Charles de Gaulle marches under the Arc into a liberated Paris.
  • August 29, 1944: United States troops march under the Arc and down the Champs-Élysées after liberating Paris.

Every July since 1975 the final stage of the Tour de France has finished on the Champs-Elysees after riding 8 laps around the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysees to the Louvre.

July 14th Bastille Day Parade starts at the Arc

September 30, 2014: Bill DeGiulio visits the Arc de Triomphe for the first time.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to the Arc de Triomphe, one of the great monuments of Paris.

Au Revoir

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe | Source
A markerArc de Triomphe, Paris, France -
Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
get directions

A markerArc de Triomphe, Paris, France -
Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
get directions

© 2015 Bill De Giulio

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    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 16 months ago from Essex, UK

      Thanks for that reply Bill. When I went to Paris last time I took photos from a viewing platform on a building called the Montparnasse Tower, which at 689ft is the third tallest building in Paris. It's a much cheaper option than climbing the Eiffel Tower, with much shorter queues to access it. But of course, like the Eiffel Tower, the other buildings are all very far down below. The view from the Arc de Triomphe shows much more detail in the surrounding streets, which may make for better pictures. Ill do that next time.

      Thanks for enquiring - I'm keeping busy and not missing work! In fact it's giving me a chance to take some short trips exploring my own country these summer months. So expect some hubs about English attractions!!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 16 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alun. Thank you. The first photo at the top was lucky timing. We were crossing the Champs Ellysees at a cross walk and as I was crossing the avenue I stopped in the middle and managed to get off a picture with very little traffic coming toward us. It was pure luck.

      The photo with the Arc illuminated at night was taken from the side walk across from the round-a-bout. Again, I tried to wait for an opportunity with very little traffic, which can be difficult. I took that photo with flash off, a very slow shutter speed which requires a tripod or a very steady hand, and waited for no other tourists to be in the frame. Also my camera has a 28mm wide angle which helped get the whole thing while being fairly close. Again much luck involved.

      Next time you are there definitely go to the top, it's worth the climb. You get a great view straight down the Champs Elysees, of the Eiffel Tower, La Defense, and also of Sacre-Coeur.

      On a different topic are you enjoying retirement?

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 16 months ago from Essex, UK

      Thanks Bill. A well laid out article with really good photos. A couple in particular interest me - the very first one, and the great photo later on showing the Arc illuminated at night. Both show the Arc in its entirety. I know when I went there a few years ago I found it extremely difficult to get an unobstructed view - trees and traffic were always in the way. Can you remember how you got those?

      Speaking of the traffic - I love the little video. In the UK we're well used to roundabouts, perhaps more so than in America, but I don't think any of ours have more than 3 lanes. The vast majority only have 2, making it easy to switch from the inside to the outside. That roundabout in Paris is indeed 'crazy'. I'm sure they should be able to control it better than that. At one point a little white car which has missed its turnoff, actually turns around and goes in the opposite direction to the traffic!!

      Finally, the Arc doesn't give the impression of being that high, and I didn't realise such good views of Paris were possible from the top. I shall have to make the ascent next time I visit!

      Good hub as ever, Alun

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 21 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi again Mary. We went during the day and returned at night and you are correct, what a fun and lively place after the sun goes down. Thanks for stopping by and a Happy New Year to you.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 21 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thoroughly enjoyed this visit. I love going to the Arc at night as it is full of people having so much fun.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks RTalloni. We were there just about a year ago and it's hard to imagine what it would be like to be caught up in what is going on in Paris. Just so sad.

      I do love a good challenge but that roundabout is pretty crazy. I would probably wind up just driving around it multiple times for fear of trying to exit it. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Flourish. It's just very sad and unfortunate what is happening over there.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 23 months ago from the short journey

      So glad to see this hub featured as Hub of the Day today as our hearts beat with the pain of France's people over their losses, and also, congratulations to you on the award.

      Enjoyed the great pics, the tips, the info, and the history. Can't tell if the encouragement to brave driving the roundabout is tongue in cheek or a real challenge. :)

      "…for the first time." Good for you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

      Congratulations, Bill! Vive la France!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      I hope so. You're welcome Bill. I know I have ways to go. :-)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Kristen. Just keep on doing what you're doing, they'll come.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Touché, Bill. I believe so. I hope to land an HOTD or an Editor's Choice hub someday.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Kristen. In my first three years here on HP I did not have one HOTD. And now in the last six months I've had a bunch? Not complaining, just feeling very blessed and lucky. You might say I'm on a HOT streak :)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, congrats on HOTD once again, since I've read this hub not too long ago. :-)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nadine. Thank you. The Arc really represents the determination and resiliency that embodies the people of France. They will recover and triumphe from this horrible event just as we have here in the US. Thanks so much for stopping by, have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Patricia. As we follow the tragic events unfolding in France we can't help but reflect back on the wonderful time we had there just one year ago and send our prayers and best wishes to the people of France. The Arc is one of the great monuments of France and the views were incredible. It is so sad that this wonderful city is having to go through such a senseless and barbaric event. Hopefully one day you can get to experience Paris without the fear of terrorism. Have a wonderful day.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 23 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Wow how tilling to have written about this ( the Arc de Triomphe) that means that the people in Paris will recover ( triomphe) from the tragic events that have happened in Paris.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 23 months ago from sunny Florida

      How fitting that your hub has been chosen now...when France is just in the earliest stages of healing after the tragic events that have just occurred.

      The view really is amazing. It was interesting to refresh my mind on all things about the Arc...I minored in French in college and learned much about it then but time does have a way of dimming that knowledge. One day perhaps I will see what you describe so well.

      Angels are on the way to you and yours this morning ps

      Congrats on HOTD

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Mel. A very interesting place indeed. Glad you enjoyed the tour. Keep Paris on your bucket list, we enjoyed it much more than we thought we would. Have a great weekend.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 23 months ago from San Diego California

      Have to put this on the bucket list. Looks like an interesting place. Great hub!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Flourish. We really enjoyed Paris and the Arc de Triomphe was just one of many highlights of our visit. We look forward to returning someday. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 24 months ago from USA

      Fabulous job, Bill. Your photos are stupendous. I visited this in 1995 but skipped it on my most recent trip back because of time. What a marvelous job you've done highlighting this monument.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Linda. I believe this might be close to my last hub on our trip to France. Time to start planning the next adventure. Glad you enjoyed the tour, have a wonderful weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Thank you. I actually found a YouTube video of Godefroy flying through the Arc that I'll add to this hub. It's old and grainy but amazing to watch. It really is much more than a monument with so much history. Have a great weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Katie. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. When we were at the top of the Arc looking down on the traffic I thought the same thing, you have to be either brave or crazy to drive around this. Glad you enjoyed the tour, have a great weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Kristen. Glad you enjoyed the visit to the Arc de Triompe. There is a lot of history to this particular monument that many people are not aware of. We were fortunate to visit twice, the second time at night and it was a great experience. Thanks again and have a nice weekend.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 24 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is yet another interesting and informative travel hub, Bill. As I've said before, I always enjoy the virtual tours that you provide.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 24 months ago from Olympia, WA

      This is, of course, one of those places I've heard about all my life, and seen pictures and old news films, but never visited and really knew very little about its history. You have filled in quite a few gaps in my knowledge with this excellent travel/history hub. Well done, Bill!

    • kbdressman profile image

      kbdressman 24 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Anyone who suggests driving around the arc is brave! It's been a decade since I visited last, but I remember wanting to explain the concept of lanes to several drivers as we watched several near accidents.

      Thanks for sharing about the Arch of Titus and the Eternal Flame at Kennedy's Grave. Neat facts!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 24 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, I always enjoy your travelogues in France and elsewhere in Europe. It's so vivid and visual with your photos. I've studied French in high school and college and would love to visit the Arc someday. Very interesting to know the history of the museum, too. Fantastic hub!