Standing 49.5m (162 ft) tall at the heart of the Place Charles de Gaulle (Place de l’Étoile), the Arc de Triomphe is one of France’s most iconic monuments worldwide and part of Paris’ enchanting historic axis (Axe historique).
The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon to honor those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars. The 660 names you’ll find carved into its massive walls belong to people who fought for France during Napoleon’s time, as well as the battle names of the most important victories.
However, after placing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of World War I, the arc broadened its purpose to honor all those who ever fought for France.
Its design – inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus – features four main sculptural groups found at the base of the arch, all created by important French sculptors. The Triumph of 1810 was sculpted by Jean-Pierre Cortot, Resistance and Peace by Antoine Étex and Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 by François Rude. This last sculpture, also known as La Marseillaise, is by far its most famous one.
Today, more than 600,000 people visit the arch yearly to marvel over what is now France’s most important patriotic monument. The small museum inside the Arc de Triomphe will guide you through its fascinating history, neoclassical architectural design and slow construction with the aid of interactive touch screens.
And whether you climb the 284 steps to the roof or decide to take the elevator, brace yourself for some of the best views of Paris: the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, de Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and La Grande Arche de la Défense are all visible from the Arc de Triomph’s top terrace.
Just one word of caution: do not attempt to reach the Arc de Triomphe by simply crossing the roundabout and getting to the Place. The colossal monument sits atop the hill from which 12 different major avenues meet and traffic is always heavy. In order to reach the Arc de Triomphe, find the pedestrian underpass built at the north side of the Champs Elysées to ensure easy access to visitors.
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