The Iconic Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Our first evening in Paris was spent taking a stroll (that was anything but leisurely) down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. I knew before we came to Paris that this street was popular, but popular is an understatement. It was absolutely packed with people shopping, eating, taking photos, busking, and my favorite – people workin’ it. And by that, I’m referring to those people (both men and women) who were walking along the street with their backs arched, lips in a pout, eyes with vacant stares, ready to burn us with their cigarettes if we got too close. For those people, the Champs-Élysées isn’t a street, it’s a runway.

The Champs-Élysées runs from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle. It’s here, at the Place Charles de Gaulle on the western end of the street, where you’ll find Paris’s iconic Arc de Triomphe, France’s symbol of power and patriotism. Originally commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to commemorate his victories, the Arc de Triomphe also pays homage to soldiers and generals who fought and died for France.

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

We arrived at the Arc de Triomphe just after sunset and couldn’t have asked for a prettier backdrop – wispy pink and purple clouds were painted across the sky behind the Arc. As beautiful as it was, I could have been standing in the Louvre, admiring a piece of art, if not for the blasting of car horns. The Arc de Triomphe sits, quite literally, in the middle of the street.

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

Brave photographers, desperate for that one perfect shot with a slow shutter speed, were setting up their tripods in between lanes on the Champs-Élysées. Unwilling to risk our lives for a photograph, we decided to take some photos up close instead and headed for the tunnel that would take us under the street and over to the Arc.

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

Up close, the Arc de Triomphe is a sight to see. It is both larger and taller than it looks from across the street. The inside walls are engraved with the names of war generals and victorious battles. The names with a small mark underneath are generals who gave their lives in service of their country.

Since its completion in 1836, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris has been the rallying point for victory marches of not only the French, but also Germans and Americans. In 1840, Napoleon’s body was ceremoniously taken through the Arc on its way to interment at Les Invalides.

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

On the front of each pillar is a different sculptural relief depicting important events in French history. The one below is of the Peace of 1815 following the defeat and second abdication of Napoleon.

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

We had so much on our to-do list in Paris that I knew some of the things would have to be done at night, and I’m so glad we made this one of them. After sunset, lights surrounding the Arc de Triomphe cast a golden glow over the monument, and set against the dark blue sky at early evening, it created the perfect contrast of colors for photographs.

Going at evening also allowed us to see the flame lit at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the burial site of a French soldier from WWI. A small ceremony is performed daily at twilight to pay respects to all the unknown French soldiers that have given their lives for their country.

The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

Another thing I noticed about going at evening, particularly around dinner-time, was that the area around the Arc de Triomphe was not completely overrun with tourists. I am sure it’s not nearly as deserted during the day, so that’s something to consider if you’re trying to decide when to visit.

There is no charge to see the Arc de Triomphe, only to go to the small museum at the top and check out the view from the rooftop. We chose to do this, and it was Lexie’s favorite part of the trip! (Click here for photos of Paris at night from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.) I highly recommend enjoying the view from here if you’ve got the time!

Arc de Triomphe: Website
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris

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The Iconic Arc de Triomphe In Paris

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  • Erika
    December 4, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    Beautiful pictures and I loved your description of your experience there. I’ve seen the arc and the madness around it, haha, but I’ve never actually been inside/to the top! One day, one day! :)

  • Tripobox
    December 3, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Great post and photos! I was in Paris last week and all the Christmas lights and displays were kicking into gear. Your comment about the Champs-Élysées being like a runway for some certainly made me laugh!

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts,

  • Natalie
    December 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Wow just wow! I am in total awe!

  • Jenn Bowers
    December 3, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Gorgeous!!! Love seeing Europe through your lens!!!

  • Katrin
    December 3, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    I have seen people risking their life for a picture too! Yours are fantastic! I always love to look at your pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  • Asmaa
    December 3, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    It looks beautiful! These posts of yours are making me want to simply jump on the Eurostar and swan into Paris! :)

  • Jo
    December 2, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    I say this every time, your photos are great! You know, I’ve never been to the top. Going have to make sure I do it one day.

  • Tammy Chrzan
    December 3, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    Oh I was extremely jealous before, but now… Now I’m like super duper jealous!!!
    What an amazing beautiful piece of architecture… would you call that architecture?
    I seriously laughed about the people “working it”, I love your sense of humor, no wonder we get along :)… I would not be happy about being burned with a ciggy though! LOL… Girl you crack me up!
    I love your blog and the way you write!
    Tammy x

  • Claire
    December 2, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    “For those people, the Champs-Élysées isn’t a street, it’s a runway” Brilliantly put – and so true!!

    Though if you found walking around there lively, try driving – a boyfriend’s car – three weeks after you got your license… I couldn’t decide whether I was afraid to die, or wanted to in order to make it all stop…

  • Nicole
    December 2, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    I love it when it’s lit up at night…it looks so powerful to me! Honestly, I’m glad you explained what the purpose of it was, because I never knew…you can be my own international teacher! I’m really learning so much from you as you travel the world!

  • topchelseagirl
    December 2, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Looking forward to hearing and seeing your trip to the roof – where, yes, I hung over the edge taking photos – sorry Sarah! x

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    December 2, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    When I was in primary school I did a project on a big piece of cardboard on The Arc de Triomphe! I saw it from a bus window when I was there in 2007 and I can’t wait to see it properly when I go to Paris in January. Stunning photos Sarah!

  • Miwa
    December 2, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Breathtaking photos!! You really know how to take amazing shots! I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t check out the arch up close when I was in Paris. Sort of walked passed and admired from afar as I hurried to wherever it was I was going. (Can’t even remember where!) I actually didn’t know there was a museum at the top. Looking forward to Wednesday’s post :)

  • Diana Bockus
    December 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Love these photos. Can’t wait to see the view!

  • Emmymom
    December 2, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Oh that first picture! I have seen this arch (pictures and movies) but never really knew the significance of it. You are better than a history book!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    December 2, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    I’m with the others in that I’ve seen it, but we didn’t actually walk out to it! Crazy, huh?! Beautiful photos, as always!!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    December 2, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    I haven’t been under the arch either, we got to it, but got confused at what was going on as there were tons of people. Next time!

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    December 2, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    In all the visits I’ve made to Paris, I’m ashamed to say I’ve not actually been under the Arc de Triomphe! I adore the Parisiens who make the Champ de Elysee their runaway – it’s perfect for people watching which is one of my favourite holiday past times!