Thanks to its special location at the top of the Champs-Elysées, with La Défense on one side, and the place de la Concorde, Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre on the other, the Arc de Triomphe is endlessly impressive and a perfect place to see Paris spread out before you without braving the crowds at the Eiffel Tower.
We went down there recently just as the monument was opening, and it was an amazing experience, especially with the super zoom on our camera and the sunny weather that day…
It’s really something special to visit the Arc de Triomphe. First you have to go down an underground tunnel leading to the ticket office, and from there a few steps lead you up to the middle of place Charles de Gaulle where the Arc de Triomphe sits… and the adventure begins.
We visited at 10am, just as the monument was opening (it closes at 10.30pm or 11pm, depending on when you visit – check times here), meaning you can see Paris either by day or by night.
It has to be said, at 10am the place is almost deserted! It’s not often you can enjoy something so well known in such a calm atmosphere.
First of all, we took the staircase up to the top of the monument. 284 marches await you (or the lift, if you are in a wheelchair)…
After having reached the mezzanine (202 steps) there are still 82 left before arriving at the ‘attic room’, with information about the construction of the arche. On one of the walls are bronze palms received as a homage to the unknown soldier buried under the monument.
This is also where you will find the inevitable gift shop 😕
After the physical effort of getting this far, we really wanted to get up to the roof as soon as possible, and it was surprising how quiet it was up there. It was almost like having the place to ourselves!
What an incredible view! You can see right down all the streets than part from the place de l’Étoile, lined with trees. With the zoom, you can see buildings and places that seem so close, but aren’t (the Courts of Justice, the Vuitton Foundation, La Défense, Porte Maillot, place de la Concorde, Montmartre…)
The rooftops of Paris look beautiful from here too, a collage of colours and forms that become almost abstract…
The star, of course, when you’re looking from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is the Eiffel Tower. It surges out of the city skyline. No other city in the worlds has anything like it.
And once back down at street level, you should take the time to look at the Arc from close up – its sculptures, its crafted stonework, the tomb of the unknown soldier. It really is superb…
Everyone knows of the Arc de Triomphe of course, but there are lots of good reasons to go visit:
— Its view over Paris is unique,
— You can avoid the crowds if you go early,
— The top room of the monument explains its history, and virtual reality kiosks let you relive key moments like the return of Napoleon’s ashes, and see certain areas of the city in augmented reality,
— Following modifications made last year (the addition of a lift to the roof), the monument is now completely accessible for wheelchair users,
— There are free guided visits in French at 10.30am every day, and guided visits in English for groups can be booked here,
— The Arc doesn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account, but their Twitter feed isn’t half bad…
And if you’re coming to Paris in 2020 (book your room here!), you might like to know that from 19th September – 4th October 2020, the Arc de Triomphe will be wrapped by Christo using 25,000m² of recyclable fabric and 7,000 metres of red rope! #wow