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The Arc de Triomphe

The Arc du Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world. Standing at one end of the Champs Elysee, in the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly Place de l’etoile), the Arc de Triomphe is one of the most visited attractions in Paris.

The monument was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 and took almost 30 years to construct. During this time, several famous architects were involved in the construction including Jean-Nicolas Huyot, Louis-Robert Goust and Louis-Etienne Hericart de Thury.  The Arc de Triophe was inaugurated on 29th July 1836.

The impressive structure stands 50 metres tall and is 45 metres wide. It is ornately decorated with eye-catching sculptures, friezes and engravings. The four main sculptures on the Arc, one on each of the pillars, commemorate major events in French history, with arguably the most significant of these being La Marseillaise, whose image was used as part of the French recruitment campaign during the First World War.

There are also six impressive friezes featuring several great battles and the funeral of General Marceau, while the insides of the pillars list many battles of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Also detailed are the names of the military leaders of the French Revolution and Empire.

When visiting the Arc de Triomphe, you will be overwhelmed not only by its size, but also its magnificence. The significance of the monument was illustrated during the funeral of the writer Victor Hugo. His coffin paused beneath its great arches on the way to the Pantheon. The funeral was of such importance, contemporary newspaper accounts detail that over 2 million people lined the route from the Arc de Triomphe to his final resting place.

The Arc du Triomphe at Night

The Arc du Triomphe at Night - Benh Lieu Song

The position of the Arc de Triomphe, at the centre of one of the busiest road junctions in the city, means that visitors are advised to approach via one of the two specially designed underpasses. There are 284 stairs to reach the top of the monument, which offers fabulous views across the city.  However, for those who are less mobile there is also a lift, which while it does not quite take you to the top, does leave you with only 45 stairs to climb.

One of the advantages offered by the Arc de Triomphe is that it is one of the few tourist attractions which remains open into the late evening. Paris is often referred to as the city of light, and taking a trip to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in the dark provides a spectacular photo opportunity, with the beautifully illuminated Eiffel Tower as your backdrop.

At the top of the tower, you will find the almost obligatory souvenir shop and bookstore. There is also a model of the Arc itself and short films detailing the history of the monument and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Unknown Soldier was an anonymous French fighter who represents all those who gave their lives for France during the course of the two World Wars. The tomb sits at the base of the Arc de Triomphe, and each evening at 6.30pm the torch on the tomb is rekindled by veterans adorned in the red, white and blue colours of France, who pay their respects to those who died for their country.

Quieter than the Eiffel Tower, and with similar spectacular views across the city, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the finest attractions in Paris. If you are fortunate enough to visit on Bastille Day (July 14th), you will experience the spectacular military parade which has commenced at the Arc virtually every year since 1880.

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