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Must-see Paris: the Arc de Triomphe

For the best views over Paris, France, you can do far better than go up the Eiffel Tower.

Not only will it cost you a lot of time and effort, particularly during the summer in Paris when the queues are at their worst – but the view is rather disappointing for one reason and one reason alone: the tower will not be in it.

Instead, you’re far better off climbing the Arc de Triomphe, that other world-famous monument in Paris.

It’s my favourite Parisian icon.

Me in front of the Arc de Triomphe, summer 2008

What is the Arc de Triomphe?

The Arc de Triomphe is a giant archway in Paris that was erected in honour of those who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary War and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars.

Inscribed on the Arc are the names of French military victories (there is more than you might expect!) as well as the names of French generals.

Beneath it lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – and this is a major point of interest.

This poor chap was interred at this spot on Armistice Day in 1920, with an eternal flame lit in memory of him and all the other soldiers who died and were never identified in both world wars.

Apparently, the flame has only been extinguished once, by a drunken Mexican football supporter on the night that France beat Brazil at the 1998 Football World Cup final. Typical bloody hooligans, eh?

The view from the Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Why the Arc de Triomphe?

To say the panoramic views over Paris from the Arc de Triomphe are spectacular would be something of an understatement.

You know the stereotypical view over Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the picture? Well, you can take a very similar photograph from the top of the Arc.

Best of all, if you time it just right after the sun goes down you might be lucky enough to see the Eiffel Tower’s famous lightshow from this spot.

The tower sparkles for ten minutes every hour on the hour through to midnight; the Arc de Triomphe is open until 11pm from April to September and until 10:30pm from October to March.

Nic stands in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Naturally, it’s quite a hike to the top – and you can only get there by taking the stairs (all 40 of them!). But at only 8 euros it’s cheaper than the Eiffel Tower, which costs 14 euros, and it shouldn’t take nearly as long.

It’s a spot where I was seriously considering to asking my girlfriend to marry me (slightly less clichéd than the Eifel Tower but no less romantic) – but I opted to get engaged in Bali instead.

The view over the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe

Where is the Arc de Triomphe?

You can’t miss it and nor should you miss an opportunity to climb it when you travel to Paris.

The Arc de Triomphe stands tall at the western end of the Champs-Elysees, at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle – that ridiculously massive roundabout where seemingly dozens of roads meet in one circle of chaos.

Don’t be stupid and try to run across the road (I’ll admit I considered it); instead, safely use one of the two pedestrian underpasses located at the Champs Elysees and the Avenue de la Grande Amee.

The nearest Metro train station is Charles de Gaulle – Etoile station.

Have you ever climbed the magnificent Arc de Triomphe and what did you think? For more fun things to see and do in Paris read my guide to Disneyland Paris.

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  1. Sarah

    Wow, I didn’t even know you could climb this! I will definitely have to try it when I’m next in Paris, the views are stunning!

  2. Wends of Journeys and Travels

    this is indeed the best in France side by side the Eiffel. Very romantic this is when at night :)

    1. It sure is, mate! And both offer wonderful views over the city.

  3. The Guy

    The Arc is indeed a magnificent monument and landmark in the fabulous city of Paris.

    You’ve provided a good history lesson and I certainly didn’t know about the Mexican football fan!

    Your views and pictures are spectacular. I’m also a massive fan of the amazing view from the Sacre Coeur. Have you been there and seen the views? They are amazing in both the day and night.

    1. I sure have! I’ve been up the Sacre Coeur at night (during a storm!) and day – and both times I just loved it. It’s amazing up there! Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Jo

    Yep – you and me both stupid – I tried jaywalking too, the gendarme nearly got me. I agree at sunset it was an outstandingly beautiful view of Paree and miles better than the Tower.

    1. Haha, it’s awfully tempting – especially if you don’t notice the pedestrian underpass!

  1. The Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane, Laos | Man vs World

    […] Vientiane has its own large arching war memorial called Patuxai – meaning “Victory Gate” or “Gate of Triumph” if Wikipedia is to be believed – and it’s strikingly similar to the iconic Arc de Triomphe in Paris. […]

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