There are so many things to see in ‘the city of lights’ and a visit to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe is definitely one of them. Located in the 8th arrondissement and on the western side of the Champs-Élysées; you can spend as little or as much time as you like and not be bored.
About the Arc de Triomphe
So why is the Arc de Triomphe special? Here is your little dose of history for the day 🙂
Napoleon Bonaparte was on a mission to make Paris the most beautiful city in the world. At that point in time, the French Army (aka the Grande Armee) was seen as indestructible and had taken over most of Europe. So in 1806, he decided he wanted to have an arc constructed in the Army’s honor. He told the soldiers “You will return home through arcs of triumph.” and thus the name!
The arc completed construction in 1836, more than a decade after Napoleon’s death, and had a price tag of about 9 million Francs at that point in time.
My Mom and I road the metro (Line 1) to the very beginning of the Champs-Élysées, at the Champs-Élysées- Clemenceau stop right near the huge ferris wheel. There are a few more metro stops along the Champs-Élysées (Franklin D. Roosevelt & George V) and one right in front of the Arc de Triomphe (Charles de Gaulle Etoile), but we wanted to have a leisurely stroll and window shop! (more on that in a later post).
You will see the Arc de Triomphe from a distance, but believe me it gets even better. The Arc de Triomphe is located smack dab in the middle of a huge traffic circle- what my nightmares are made of -and is super dangerous to cross. Just don’t even try.
But no worries, there is an underground tunnel that will take you under the street and right to the Arc. Truth be told, my Mom and I had some issues finding the steps and kept going down steps for the metro, but finally found the wide, white staircases right in front of our face. In our defense, a ton of people were standing right in front of that area taking selfies when we initially passed them. If you are looking at the Arc de Triomphe (with the Champs-Élysées shops and big Ferris Wheel behind you) the staircase down is located to the front right, almost directly parallel to the street.
Once you come back up to street level, you will be near the back right column of the Arc. Walk around the back to the back left column (inner side of column) and you should see the entrance .
This is where your handy dandy Paris Museum Pass comes in. With your pass you will be able to get in a priority security and access line.
Access and Cost
The hours the Arc de Triomphe is open to the public varies depending on the time of year you are visiting:
FROM 2 JANUARY TO 31 MARCH
Open every day 10.00-22.30
FROM 1ST APRIL TO 30 SEPTEMBER
Open every day 10.00-23.00
FROM 1ST OCTOBER TO 31 DECEMBER
Open every day 10.00-22.30
What I thought
Was the Arc de Triomphe my favorite monument to climb? No. Do I think it is worth it? Definitely yes! The Arc seemed less crowded and more laid back compared to the Eiffel Tower (see what I thought of that in an upcoming post) and the Notre Dome Towers and allowed for spectacular views of the city. We did this visit fairly early in our trip, so it was wonderful to see a panoramic view of the city.
The climb to the top of the Arc wasn’t a walk in the park, but easier than climbing the Notre Dame tower and A LOT easier than climbing the bell tower in Florence. (for reference) If there is not a line you can sneak 3/4 of the way back down in the elevator located right across from the gift shop.
The GIFT SHOP! Ah. I am kicking myself about this one folks. The gift shop was the best store for nice quality mementos that we saw at the major sites. (Sorry Eiffel tower- not a fan of your shops) My Mom and I both purchases silver charms (Mom- an Arc charm, Me- Eiffel tower charm, that I wear almost every day now!) and some other cute knick knacks. I would have bought more but figured the other major sites would have nice things and held off. Nope- just your normal touristy stuff.
The detail of the Arc is beautiful and I was surprised to see the tomb of the unknown solider directly in the center of the Arc. Every night at 6:30Pm a torch is lit and veterans place flowers and wreaths near the flame. This is to memorialize an unknown French solider who sacrificed his life during WWI. My Mother and I came down the Arc right after they lit the torch for the evening and saw men bringing the beautiful red, white and blue wreathes to the memorial spot.
I would definitely recommend coming to visit the Arc de Triomphe towards the end of the day when all of the shops are open and the lines are shorter.
Want more France?
Looking for more on our trip to France? Check out our hotel here, our tour of the Louvre with Walks of France – here, some Post Cards from Paris- here and the beautiful Cathedral in Reims- here and some fine dining at Le Foch in Reims- here.