Arc de Triomphe


When in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe is hard to miss. Standing 160ft high and 148ft wide at the end of the Champs-Elysees boulevard, in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc towers over every other structure nearby.

Upon commission from Napoleon, this beautiful structure was designed in 1806 by Jean Chalgrin, who’s design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. Chalgrin passed in 1811, and all architectural work was taken over by Jean-Nicholas Huyot. Work on the Arc was halted during the Bourbon Restoration, however finally in 1836 the third architect, Hericart de Thury, completed its construction.

The monument honors the soldiers who fought and died for France during the Napoleonic Wars, however the Arc also features the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame kept burning. This addition was added after the first World War on Armistice Day, and is a tribute and remembrance for all unknown soldiers who fought and died for their country. Since the addition of the tomb, it has been customary for all troops to march around the tomb instead of underneath it as a sign of respect for the tomb. Even Hitler ordered his troops to march around the Arc instead of underneath.

The Arc is quite a significant landmark for Parisians and Quite a few notable events have taken place at the Arc de Triomphe since its construction:

  • Napoleon’s body was carried underneath it after his passing, as well as the body of Victor Hugo being displayed there before burial.
  • In 1919, Charles Godefroy actually flew his plane under the Arc.
  • The annual Bastille Day parade takes place using the Arc as a center point
  • Successful troops home from war have rallied here in past years
  • German troops have marched through the Arc

After the Arc de Triomphe was built, 3 more Arc’s were actually built in an attempt to prolong the Avenue des Champs-Elysees: Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, and the Grand Arche. These monuments all form Paris’s Axe Historique.

Champs-Elysèes

Orientation

This impressive promenade stretches from the Place the la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle, the site of the Arc de Triomphe. At its western end the Champs-Elysées is bordered by cinemas, theaters, cafés and luxury shops. Near the Place de la Concorde, the street is bordered by the Jardins des Champs-Elysées, beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and some grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern side and the Elysée at its northern side. The latter has been the residence of the French Presidents since 1873.
Celebrations
The Champs-Elysées is used for all the major celebrations. This is where Parisians celebrate New Year’s Eve and where the military parades are held on the 14th of July. Historic national events, like the Liberation at the end of the second World War or the victory in

Champs-Elysees street name sign
17th century – The Elysian Fields
In the 16th century this area was nothing but fields outside the center of Paris. In 1616 Marie de Medicis decided to create a long tree-lined path going east from the Tuileries. The route was redesigned in 1667 by renowned landscape designer André Le Nôtre as an extension of the Jardins des Tuileries. The promenade, now called ‘Grande Allée du Roule’ or ‘Grand-Cours’ had become a fashionable place but was still isolated from the city with few buildings surrounding the area. 27 Years later the promenade was renamed to ‘Champs-Elysées’, or Elysian Fields in English. The name was derived from Greek mythology where ‘Elusia’ is a

Champs Elysees seen towards Arc de Triomphe
place where heroes come to relax.
18th & 19th century – Further Development
In 1724 the Champs-Elysées was extended all the way to the Chaillot hill (now known as l’Etoile, the site of the Arc de Triomphe). Its current form took shape in 1838 when French architect Ignaz Hittorf – who was redesigning the Place de la Concorde – created the Jardins des Champs-Elysées. He also installed sidewalks, gas lamps and fountains. The Champs-Elysées started to attract more and more restaurants and hotels, especially after 1900 when the Paris métro line nr 1 reached the Etoile station.
Current Design
The lastest redesign of the prestigious avenue was done in 1994 by Bernard Huet. The side lanes were converted into pedestrian zones, an underground parking lot was created and new trees were planted. Cars now only occupy half the width of this grand avenue.