Arc de Triomphe

When in Paris, you absolutely have to make time to see the Arc de Triomphe. As one of the most famous monuments in the city, it follows close behind the Eiffel Tower as one of the most iconic symbols of Paris. Marvel at its ancient Roman architecture and get up close to each of its four main sculptural groups depicted on its massive pillars. The monument holds a special place in the heart of Paris and offers a glimpse into the history of France. It’s well worth a visit. If you aren’t much of a history buff, you’ll still appreciate the intricate work and craftsmanship that went into the creation of this stunning monument.

You’ll find it over on the western side of the Champs-Elysées, right in the middle of the Étoile roundabout. It’s convenient location makes it easy to access from the surrounding roads, but if you still can’t find it, start looking towards the sky as it stands at 50m high and is officially the world’s biggest arch. Standing from the top of its terrace, you’ll enjoy panoramic views overlooking the entire city.

How to reach the Arc de Triomphe

Although you might be tempted to make your way to the roundabout and attempt to cross the traffic blocked road, don’t; it’s far too busy and quite frankly, a little dangerous. Instead, head to the north side of the Champ-Elysées to access the pedestrian tunnels. This way, you’ll avoid all the traffic, and it’s just a short walk until you reach the end of the tunnel. There you’ll step out beneath the arch, and you can buy your viewing tickets inside the tunnel.

History of the triumphal arches

The monument was built over 30 years between 1806 and 1836 to honour those who perished in the Napoleonic and French Revolutionary Wars. Although it’s gone through many modifications through the centuries, the original concept of the structure remains intact. Napoleon commissioned the giant arch to be built, which took an astonishing two years just to lay the foundation.

French troops often joined together at the Arc de Triomphe to partake in a victory march following the success of military campaigns. Nowadays, it’s a place for visitors to admire its stunning architecture, while locals look upon its intricate carvings and recall the stories that they divulge. If you look closely, you’ll spot the names of French generals and victories inscribed on the surface of the sculpture. Engraved in the stone are images of soldiers, shields, chariots, horses and other symbols representing both war and peace.

The Memorial Flame

One of the most interesting Arc de Triomphe facts you’ll uncover is the eternal Memorial Flame to honour the 1.3 million French soldiers who died in WWI. The flame is rekindled every single day and has been since 1923 when it was lit for the very first time. Unbelievably, the blaze has burned ever since and has never been extinguished. If you want to witness the rekindling of the Memorial Flame, make sure you get there by 6.30pm to catch the daily ritual. It’s definitely a must-see event, plus it’s nice to be able to witness a piece of history in such a way.

The Unknown Soldier

Lying beneath the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nobody knows the identity of the perished soldier. All that anyone really knows for sure is that he fought bravely for France and was laid to rest in 1921. The mysterious soldier has come to represent the thousands of other soldiers who died in the wars. On his tomb reads the inscription, “A Soldier” along with the date, “1914 -191?”

Views from the observation deck

Once you’ve got your tickets, you can head up to the viewing platform. From the top of the Arc de Triomphe Paris, you’ll look out over a 50m high panoramic view of the city, but to reach the top, you’ll first have to tackle the 234 steps that lead to the viewing platform. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not as strenuous as it may seem; plus, the views at the top are more than worth the trouble.

Enjoy remarkable views of the Champs Elysées and the Sacré Coeur. One of the best times to climb the steps is to catch the sunset. Watch as the last golden rays of the sun dance over the building tops and soak up the romantic ambience of the scene. The views, paired with the rich history of the monument, make the Arc de Triomphe one of the most iconic of all French monuments.