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.)
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!
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.
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!
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…
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!)
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!
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