The Arc de Triomphe (L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile) is an instantly recognisable symbol of the French Capital.
Commissioned by Napoleon following victory at the battle of Austerlitz, it took nearly 30 years to complete, construction began in 1806 before finally being inaugurated in 1836. As a monument to honour all those who fought for France, especially in the Napoleonic wars, it is an impressive, if not imposing symbol of the enduring strength of the French people.
Over the years various governments made alterations and adjustments to the design. However, it was not until 1923, that the project to incorporate the tomb of the unknown soldier and memorial flame was added. Aside from the more sombre elements of this incredible landmark, is the amazing view of the city of Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
The L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile also acts as the centre point of the L’Axe historique (historic axis) from which main monuments and main roads flow from the Louvre Palace to the edge of Paris.
Sitting in the centre of a roundabout with 12 avenues branching off and no lines painted between the ‘lanes’ going around, it is a dizzying spectacle to watch the chaos of cars and buses racing around the Arc! The only rules? You must drive at the same speed as everyone else, and priority goes to those entering the roundabout (not those inside).
Don’t worry though – to get to the entrance of the Arc you go under the road through an underground walkway. So, no need to run through traffic!
The first time I ever saw the Arc was on a tour bus, and it was absolutely terrifying being inside the bus as it sped round the Arc several times before we had an opening to our exit.
Even the view from street level is incredible – from both the under the Arc de Triomphe and from the streets approaching.
Interestingly enough, it is not the only Arc de Triomphe in France, there is a second smaller version called the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which is opposite the Louvre. And the original Arc de Triomphe is actually located in Orange, Provence.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time of day to visit this site is at 18.30 (6.30pm) the flame of remembrance is rekindled, and you should be just in time to see the sunset from the top as well (depending what time your ticket is for).
However, if you want to see the Arc de Triomphe at its very best, then the following dates are something to keep in mind:
8th May – Victory Day (celebrates the formal acceptance of the Allies of Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945 – effectively the end of World War II in Europe)
14th July – Bastille Day (France’s National Day, celebrating the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the unity of the French people)
11th November – Armistice Day (commemorates the end of the first World War and honours veterans of both world wars)
How to visit
Booking in advance for your ticket is now mandatory and considering how insane the crowds used to be I am a little happy to not stand in a massive line for hours.
Tickets are free if you are under 26 and an EU/EEA national.
For everyone else the ticket is normally 13€ which is for full access
Click here to visit the official site and book your spot.
Otherwise on the first Sunday of every month most monuments and museums are free entry during peak tourist seasons. But you need to get in early because the lines are incredible!
Now just fair warning, while there is an elevator it only takes you up one level to the museum and is supposed to be for mobility impaired visitors only. For everyone else, there are two spiral staircases (it is only 50m high so definitely not as bad as some of the sites!)
Once you are inside though there is a small museum and gift store, once you have wandered through here you can continue up to the rooftop, and yes, it is another set of stairs to the actual roof. From here you will find an incredible 360 degree of Paris.
There is a benefit to Paris’s strict building height rules. It means that everyone has the same view limits, but also when you are at the top of these incredible historic monuments, you can see everything from the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Les Invalides and even the Louvre.
To get down again you will need to take the stairs, but bonus you can take a well-deserved break at the gift shop for some Ladurée macaroons!
Side note –
If you are planning on spending some time in Paris/France and have several monuments you wish to visit, it is worth having a look at the ‘Passion Monuments’ ticket.
For 45€ you get a full year to access 80 monuments which are management by the Center des monuments nationaux.
This includes the Domaine de Chantilly, the Army Museum of the Hôtel National des Invalides, the 14 museums of the City of Paris, Montmartre Museum, Stock Exchange – Pinault Collection and several castles and gardens around France.
When you consider that most places charge an entrance fee of between 8€-15 €, the prices can add up quickly. Even if you will only be visiting for a week or so, this could be a cost effective way to get the most value.