Standing at the heart of Paris, the iconic Arc de Triomphe is a monument of immense historical significance. The 50-meter structure was commissioned by French Emperor Napoleon I to commemorate the victories of his armies during the Napoleonic wars, and serves as a reminder of the days of the French Empire. Built for a period of 15 years and completed in 1836, the Arc de Triomphe stands resplendent among the hustle and bustle of the busy city, attracting a steady stream of visitors from every corner of the world. This article will explore some interesting facts, while enumerating the different things one can do while visiting the Arc de Triomphe.
Apart from being a significant feature of the Parisian skyline, the Arc de Triomphe is also one of the most visited monuments in the world. According to official statistics, it receives an average of 6.2 million visitors every year, with a record-breaking crowd of 13.5 million gathering in 2018 alone. Those who visit the Arc de Triomphe have the opportunity to experience several unique activities.
Observation of the Arc de Triomphe
The first thing that people do when they come to the Arc de Triomphe is to observe and appreciate its exquisite beauty. From the depths of the Champs Elysees leading up to the marvellous arch, one can indulge in the grandeur that the structure offers. Additionally, the arcs at its vaults and the sculptures of historical figures can be truly appreciated from a distance.
Visit to the roof terrace
The roof terrace at the Arc de Triomphe is lauded for hosting some of the best views of the city. Standing 28 meters above the ground, it offers an unrivalled panoramic view of the City of Light. By ascinding the stairs or using the automated lifts, visitors can enjoy the sight of iconic landmarks, such as the Élysée Palace, the Louvre, the Sacré-Cœur and the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Light show at night
The Arc de Triomphe light show is one of the largest spectacles in the world, displaying an incredible array of colours and patterns on its walls. Every night for 15 minutes, the arch is lit up to create an electrifying experience for all viewers. Access to the show is free with no tickets required.
Since 1921, France has been observing an annual ceremony to commemorate the deaths of its soldiers who served during the World Wars. The wreath-laying event, held on the 11th of November each year, is attended by visitors from all over the world who come to show their respects and pay homage to the valiant dead.
The Unknown Soldier
The Arc de Triomphe is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, an ode to the fallen warriors in all wars. The tomb rests beneath the arch and has become a sacred site for many. Every evening, a flame is lit at the site and remains burning until morning, symbolizing the immortal spirit of the fallen.
L’Hexagone, the restaurant located at the ground floor of the Arc de Triomphe, is a great place to savour some traditional French cuisine. It also offers great views of the arch and the Champs-Élysées. Similarly, Café de l’Arche─situated on the first floor of the arch─is a great spot for coffee and drinks.
Visit to the museum
The Arc de Triomphe museum located in the central vault offers an insight into the monument’s fascinating backstory. Through interactive displays, visitors can gain knowledge about the events and figures associated with the structure and learn about the broader history of France during the Napoleonic era. Moreover, the museum features a museum shop for souvenirs and an information centre to answer any queries that visitors may have.
Carriage ride around the Arc de Triomphe
For a truly royal experience, carriage rides can be taken around the Arc de Triomphe. Taking a ride in one of the traditional horse-drawn carriages gives you the opportunity to admire the beauty of the Paris skyline in all its glory. The tours usually include multilingual speaking drivers, music and a variety of refreshment options.
Walkthroughs and tours
Guided tours of the Arc de Triomphe are conducted by the Paris Monument Association almost every day. The walkthroughs allow visitors to explore the structure more deeply, as the local guides provide engaging interpretations of its history and captivating anecdotes about its construction. Additionally, live performances and laser shows further enrich the experience for all participants.
Facts and Legends
Although the Arc de Triomphe has been standing for centuries, many mysterious facts and legends have survived the test of time. Interested visitors can look out for hidden signs under the arch, as well as certain map codes that date back to the time of Napoleon. Furthermore, it is believed that the site where the arch stands today was used for public executions centuries before the monument was even built.
Mount Montparnasse Skydeck
One of the best ways to appreciate the grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe is through the observation decks at the Mount Montparnasse Tower. Soaring at a height of 210 meters, it offers a clearer and more comprehensive view of the monument from the top. The Skydeck also contains works of art, revealing intriguing facts about the City of Paris.
Moreover, visitors can also take away with them several beautiful souvenirs from the Arc de Triomphe. From t-shirts and coffee mugs, to magnets and keychains, visitors can purchase keepsakes emblazoned with various images related to the arch, as well as autographed pictures of the monument itself.
The Arc de Triomphe is often used as a venue for various cultural events, such as concerts, movie screenings and festivals. Many of these activities can be enjoyed for free, while some require special passes, which can be purchased online or at the monument itself. Although these events are usually seasonal, they provide visitors a chance to experience the real charm of the Parisian culture.