Arc de Triomphe

Pl Charles-de-Gaulle (access via underpass) 8th. (Open Map)


The Étoile roundabout, where swirling cars can be seen from the top of the magnificent 1836 monument to Napoléon's victory at Austerlitz (1805), is arguably one of Europe's most chaotic traffic spots. This intricately sculpted triumphal arch, which the French leader commissioned the year following his victory, is a symbol of Paris that rivals the Eiffel Tower. Visible from the viewing platform, 164ft/50m up via 284 steps, are the dozen avenues that stretch out from the arch, including the renowned Champs-Élysées. To the right of the arch lies Av de la Grande Armée, which leads northwest to the skyscraper district of La Défense and the western end of the axe historique. At the base of the arch is the eponymous panel, Départ des Volontaires de 1792 ("Departure of the Volunteers of 1792"), also known as La Marseillaise (France's national anthem). Higher up, a frieze running around the whole monument depicts hundreds of figures, each one 6.6ft (2m) high. Below the arch at ground level is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, laid to rest in 1921 in honor of the 1.3 million French soldiers who lost their lives in WWI. An eternal flame is relit daily at 6:30pm.