Seeing Paris at Night from the Arc de Triomphe

Our first evening in Paris had to be timed just right. I wanted a few photos of the Arc de Triomphe before it got too dark, but I also wanted to be there after nightfall so I could get photos of Paris at night from the top of the Arc after the city lit up for the evening. So we took a short break in between and ate dinner on the Champs-Élysées, and then returned to the Arc de Triomphe around 8pm. There was no line to speak of, so we just went straight to the top. (If you can call climbing a 300-step winding staircase going straight to the top.)

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

At the top of the stairs is a small, indoor museum retracing the history of the Arc de Triomphe. It won’t take you more than a few minutes to see everything in it, but it’s a good place to stop and catch your breath after walking up all those stairs!

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

Just outside of the museum is the rooftop viewing platform on top of the Arc de Triomphe. Normally I’m a big sissy when it comes to heights (see here for proof), but I didn’t feel any fear this time. Large metal bars surround the entire rooftop, and I was so busy admiring the pretty lights that sparkle across Paris at night that I didn’t look down even once.

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

The Eiffel Tower is incredibly close to the Arc de Triomphe, making this one of the most spectacular spots in the city to get a view of Paris at night. Many people recommended we go up into the Eiffel Tower to see the city at night, but I’m so glad we didn’t. The Eiffel Tower is by far the prettiest sight on the Paris landscape at night, and it goes without saying that if you’re in the tower you won’t be able to see it!

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

Besides the Eiffel Tower, we had a clear view of the Champs-Élysées and the city below, but at night it was hard to definitively pick out any major sights. It wasn’t the least bit crowded at the time we went, so I took my time checking out the view from all sides and even set up the tripod for long exposure shots. That lasted all of ten minutes until someone working at the Arc came over and politely pointed to the sign with a big X over a picture of a tripod. After that, all of my pictures turned out like this…

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

This was when having one of those spider tripods that attach to almost anything would have come in handy! Without the tripod, and given the fact that I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking in the cold, taking pictures became pointless, and it wasn’t long before I’d had enough and was ready to go back inside where it was warm.

Just as we were about to leave, everyone suddenly ran across the viewing platform to the same side of the rooftop. The Eiffel Tower had spontaneously begun to glitter and twinkle! The light show went on for about five minutes, and we learned later that this actually occurs every hour on the hour after nightfall until 1 – 2am. So if you’re planning to check out Paris at night from the Arc de Triomphe, it’s worth it to try to plan around the Eiffel Tower’s mini-light show. The sparkling lights really make the tower come alive! Although, you’d probably never believe it from the drab photo below. (New Year’s Resolution #22: Learn how to photograph things at night!)

Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

My only issue with seeing the city from the Arc de Triomphe was the same thing that kept me from being afraid of falling – the large metal bars. They made it extremely difficult to photograph anything at an angle, which you’ll most likely have to do if you want the Eiffel Tower in your shots. Unless you’re willing to risk holding your camera on the outside of the bars or you do some serious cropping and editing after the fact, the bars will be in your pictures. For photos that aren’t taken at an angle, the bars don’t pose as much of a problem.

Seeing Paris at night from the Arc de Triomphe was Lexie’s favorite part of the trip, mostly due to the pretty views and the Eiffel Tower light show, but also because it meant she got to stay up well past her bedtime! The ticket prices to go on the rooftop seemed a little high in my opinion, but since children are free, it made paying the adult ticket prices (€9.50 per person) a bit more bearable!

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

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Seeing Paris At Night From The Arc de Triomphe

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  • Emmymom
    December 10, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Night photography, especially without a tripod is tricky. Often at night i Just put it into auto and let the camera do the work. This weekend I photographed a Living Nativity production and it was dark with just spotlights on the scenes, what worked was metering for the entire scene then shooting two stops underexposed, this made it so my camera speed was 1/100 (no shake and blur), and actually made it so the spotlighted areas were perfectly exposed and the rest looked solid black, so worked out pretty good in the end.

  • Nicole
    December 6, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    What a gorgeous view at night! Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen a bad view of the Eiffel Tower yet! I would love to see the light show someday.
    So I’m curious…where are you planning your next adventure?

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 7, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Besides our visit to Memphis in a couple weeks, we’ve got a trip planned to Austria in February. We’re taking Lexie skiing for three days and then spending a couple days in Innsbruck. Should be a nice low-key holiday!

  • Miwa
    December 5, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Wow!! These photos are gorgeous! The view is definitely worth climbing up hundreds of stairs!

  • Sara Louise
    December 5, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I love it with the Eiffel puts on her sparkly dress! I think you captured it all beautifully :)

  • Shaylynn
    December 4, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    I’m quite certain it would have been my favorite part too. Those photos are beautiful, even the blurred, “shaky hands” “tripod” photo has beauty about it.

  • topchelseagirl
    December 4, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Shame about the tripod ban, but at least you got some fantastic shots before that. I especially like the staircase one.

  • Stacie Stamper
    December 4, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    It looks like a big sparkly Christmas tree. Simply beautiful!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    December 4, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    They still turned out great! I love the first one and the stairs! Beautiful!!

  • Katrin
    December 4, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    The picture of the stairs is sooo beautiful! I love it! It is so much fun to look at the pictures from your travels! Thanks for sharing!

  • Anna
    December 4, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Your night pics are lovely and I giggled at the one where you were shaking. I also have trouble with night pics so I’ve been trying to practice on that one too. I need a tripod but maybe when I get less nomadic (if that ever happens). I’ve loved your Paris series! We’re off to Paris this weekend and staying in the Latin Quarter which I’ve never really spent much time in before. How I’m supposed to get all the things I want to do this time round in again I have no idea! Also the title pic with the stars is very very pretty!

  • Amanda
    December 4, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Seeing the Eiffel Tower dazzling all sparkly was my absolute favorite part about Paris! I too am currently living in London and traveling every chance that I get. Isn’t it great living in a city where access to Europe is so easy?! I look forward to reading more of your posts.. Happy Travels! :)

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    December 4, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    I don’t even have a tripod, so most of my night pictures come out blurry too. When you learn the secret to night pictures, please share! The glittering Eiffel tower was by far my favourite thing to look out for every night.

  • Nicole @ Treasure Tromp
    December 4, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    ah, this is gorgeous. I’m adding it to my list of things I’ll be doing next week!

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    December 4, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Its so nice to know someone else gets a little scared of heights! The London Eye just about sent me over the edge! But, for the amazing views I would do it all again. Your night photos turned out great!