Arc de Triomphe
General Info: One of the iconic images of Paris, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. It was completed in 1836.
Location: Place Charles-de-Gaulle Champs Elysées
Adult Cost: Exterior….Free!! Interior / Climb: 12 Euro. 9 Euro for ages 12-25. Admission is covered under the Paris Museum Pass.
Child Cost: Exterior….Free!! Interior / Climb: Free for under 18; however, you have to wait in line to get a specific child ticket (it’s free, just takes time to wait in line…).
Days / Hours: Exterior…Always!! Daily April – Sep 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Oct-Mar 10:00 AM – 10:30 PM. Last admission 45 minutes before closing time. Closed January 1st, May 1st, May 8th (morning), July 14th, December 25th
Tips – Admission/Free Days: Again. it’s always free to look at. You don’t have to go in and go everywhere. You’ll love and appreciate the photos and views and memories even just looking at the exterior. However, there is free admission to the interior with the Paris Museum Pass. Free admission the first sunday of the month (Oct – Mar).
Tips – Line: If you have a Paris Museum Pass (and no kids), you can skip the line. However, if you want to take advantage of free admission for children, you have to wait in line to get their free tickets. The line seems to move really slowly, but starts to die down after 5:30 PM, might be a good Paris at sunset opportunity.
Strollers: 284 steps to go to the top. No strollers.
Food Options: Not on-site, but plenty of restaurants/bistros/creperies nearby.
Is it Worth It? Definitely, this is one of THE images of Paris. You will want your picture with it. You will want to breathe it in.
Is it worth it to climb to the top? Probably, depending on the length of the line, when you go, and if you’ve invested in the Paris Museum Pass. The views from up top are cool. This is the best way to see the Champs Elysées. It’s really fun and almost hypnotic to watch the rat race of the cars moving around the big roundabout of Place Charles-de-Gaulle with its 12 entrances/exits…and be glad that you’re not driving there. Although the views are cool during the day, I think the sunset / nighttime views are awesome. AND if you have the Paris Museum Pass….adults are free! And kids under 18 are always free! But you have to wait in line for free child tickets. Best option is to come later towards sunset when the crowds die down.
What’s Famous: One of Paris’ iconic sites. Napoleon’s funeral procession; Charles Godefroy flew a biplane through it during the WWI Victory Parade in 1919, as I linked to above (SO COOL. Would they ever do anything like this anymore??) Hitler and the Nazis; Charles de Gaulle after the Allied liberation;, the ending of every Tour de France.
How to Get There: It’s in the middle of Place Charles-de-Gaulle. Don’t worry about crossing the scary scary street, as access to the arch is through an underpass.
Metro: Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile, lines 1, 2, and 6.
Foot: At the top of the Champs Elysées. About a 30 minute walk from Place de la Concorde up Paris’ most famous thoroughfare. (See our review of the Champs Elysées).
How to Get Kids Excited: It’s never been too hard for me to get my kids ready to climb a bunch of stairs to go see the top of something but maybe my kids are abnormal. The Arc is a great landmark to get them excited for a trip to Europe in general; you can see it in Madeline, Ratatouille, and other French films. (See our “How to Get Kids Excited for Paris” page for more!)
Things to Know so your spouse thinks you know a lot of things: The official name is the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (Triumphal Arch of the Star). The star refers to the twelve streets that radiate from the Place that the Arc stands on.
Under the arc is France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, first dedicated after World War I. There’s an eternal flame, and often military ceremonies, flowers on the tomb, etc. Kids are usually pretty respectful once you tell them what it is – this might be a good connection if you’ve previously visited the Tombs of the Unknown Center in Arlington, VA.
The Charles Godefroy flight I linked to above; the original pilot slated to perform the feat was Jean Navarre; he died a month before the parade while training for the flight.
The statue of the depicts volunteers from Marseille marching on the capital to join the French Army; these recruits sang the anthem that eventually became “La Marseillaise”, the French National Anthem (remember the movie Casablanca?). The sword carried by the angel depicting the Republic broke off, legend says, on the day that the Battle of Verdun began in 1916 (I’ve seen estimates that almost 1,000,000 casualties during this almost year-long battle). The sculpture was covered to conceal the damage and ward off any talk of bad omens.
The lists names on the inside of the monument list the names of 558 French generals – those that died in battle are underlined.
Disclosures: All information is accurate as of website publication date (12/28/2016)