Arc de Triomphe
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to one of the most famous Parisian monuments, the Arc de Triomphe, which sits at the top of the long and illustrious Champs-Elysées. The Champs-Elysées stretches 1.9km long and is known for its shopping, theatres, and cafés. The Arc de Triomphe holds a great national importance as it was constructed in honour for those who had fought in the French Revolution and most notably the Napoleonic Wars.
The Arch sits within the large center called the Place Charles de Gaulle, with the monument smack dab in the middle. There are quite a few significantly important tributes within the design. The first is that the monument is inscribed with the all wars fought and all the names of the generals who lead them. The second being the tribute to the Unknown Soldier who is placed in the ground underneath the vault- with inscriptions on the ground.
The size of the monument is awe inspiring just on its own, as it stands 50 meters tall (164ft) and 45 meters wide (148ft) and 22 meters deep (72ft). It was designed by Jean Chagrin in 1806, commissioned by Napoleon and is the second largest Arc in the world.
Place to Visit around the Arc de Triomphe
- Champs Elysees
- Place de la Concorde
- Tuileries Garden
- The Louvre
- Eiffel Tower (Across the river)
Unique Things to See and Do at the Arc de Triomphe
- View Paris from the top of the Arc
- Watch the lighting of the Memorial Flame
- Witness the busiest roundabout!
The Memorial Flame
Every night at 6:30pm, in tribute to the Great Dead, there is a procession of French soldiers down the Champs-Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe. Playing drums and trumpets, the soldiers make their way to the eternal flame which lies at the bottom of the main vault. Each night the flame is re-lit and burns in memory of those soldiers who died and were never identified- originally for the soldiers in WWI, but now it also represents those who died in both World Wars.
The Unknown Soldier
There are many sites around the world the honour the soldiers who have died for their country. The Arc de Triomphe is also a commemorative monument to those soldiers who were lost in the battles of WWI. At the bottom of the main vault, there is a grave site of the “unknown soldier.” The inscription on the burial site reads, “A Soldier died for his country” and the date, “1914-1918.” The soldier was added to this monument in 1921, well after the Arc was constructed. This reason this particular burial spot holds so much value and honour is because it represents all those countries who came together and fought in WWI. On Armistice Day, or known as Remembrance Day- November 11th, following the WWI- the movement to commemorate those soldiers who were lost was originally going to be located at the Parthenon in Greece.
Getting to the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is located in the middle of a huge roundabout, which is typically congested with traffic and slow moving. This means you can get a pretty good look at the monument by car/taxi while travelling around the traffic circle.
Most people travelling to Paris make a point of walking down the Champs Elysees, so traveling down to the Arc de Triomphe can be done in same venture. Take note if you are walking: do NOT try to walk across the roundabout, it is very dangerous. There is an underground walkway/tunnel located on Avenue de la Grande Armee. If you are coming off the Metro take the Wagram exit.
If travelling by Metro you can take the lines 1, 2, and 6 and the stop is called Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile.
Did you know…?
The Unknown Soldier was chosen by Auguste Thien who selected the 6th of 8 unmarked coffins. Each contained the remains of French soldiers who had died in honour of France.
Did you ALSO know…?
Since 1923, it is the duty of the Committee of the Flame to relight the flame each night!
Ready to plan your visit to Paris? Check out these popular guides and trips.