Among all the beautiful historical monuments of Paris, there is, without a doubt, the Arc de Triomphe. It’s an iconic symbol of the city, and the country as a whole. We highly recommend you to take a tour of it! Here are some information and advice to perfectly organize your visit, and ensure you keep the best memory of your time at the Arc de Triomphe.
Our Opinion on Visiting the Arc De Triomphe
What we loved
- The Arc’s impressive architecture
- The mesmerizing view from the top of the Arc, by day and by night.
- The monument’s historical value
- How easy it is to get there
What we didn’t quite like
- Waiting in line to enter
- How dense the traffic is around the Arc
In short, we really recommend you take a tour of the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a “must-see” of Paris’ tourism spots, and its fame is well deserved! Just visiting the Arc on its own will teach you a lot about French History, and the pictures you’ll take during the visit will surely be part of the best ones from your trip.
Quick History Lesson
You might have heard of the Arc de Triomphe before, yet do you know about its historical meaning?
Why was the “Arc de Triomphe” built ?
Do you know, for instance, that we owe the existence of the Arc to French Emperor Napoléon 1er? Indeed, the Arc de Triomphe was originally created to celebrate Napoleon’s troops’ victory in the Battle of Austerlitz.
The first cut stone of the structure was laid on August 15, 1806, for the Emperor’s birthday. The stone was covered with a bronze plaque, to commemorate the event. The construction lasted for a good 30 years until it became the monument which stands till this day in the center of the Place de l’Etoile (the “star square”).
In Roman times, arcs of triumph were erected to honor victorious military generals. Napoleon was inspired by these Arcs but demanded that his Arc have the most gigantic dimensions, which is why the Arc de Triomphe is so imposing.
The Arc stands 164 ft high and is 148 ft large, dimensions that are way over the usual measurements of Roman Arcs. For scale, the Arch of Titus, in Rome, measures only 50 ft in height and 44 ft in width.
New symbols incorporated after the First World War
As centuries went by, the Arc de Triomphe was given more historical meanings, through various symbolic actions. In 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been added to the site of the Arc, in which lies the body of a World War I French soldier.
Two years later, an eternal flame was lit at the same spot, as a symbolic gesture to mourn and remember the soldiers who died on the battlefield, to free their country. This flame is rekindled through a small ceremony every day at 6:30 pm, by various non-profit associations.
How to Get to the Arc De Triomphe?
You’ll have no issue in getting to the Arc, as long as you favor public transportation! We said it earlier, but traffic is really, really dense around the Arc.
No less than 12 major avenues lead to the Arc, among which you’ll find the Champs Elysées, the Avenue Foch or the Avenue de la Grande Armée. Therefore, there are plenty of ways to get there.
The easiest way is by subway, which will take you straight to the bottom of the structure.
- By metro: take line 1, 2 or 6 and get off at the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station. (Exit 1 : Arc de Triomphe)
- With the RER: take line A and get off at the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station (Exit 1)
- By bus: lines 1, 2, 22, 30, 31, 73, 92 (bus stops whose name begins with “Charles de Gaulle – Etoile”)
How to Visit the Arc?
What time is best to visit the Arc de Triomphe?
Due to its fame, the Arc draws an important flow of tourists, daily. Consequently, a good moment to visit the Arc would be when the flow of visitors dries out a little.
- Monday to Friday, from 11 am to 12pm
- Monday to Friday, from 8pm to 10:30 pm
The Arc de Triomphe is open from 10am to 10:30pm, which leaves you enough time to plan a visit during the day which will fit in your schedule.
If you wish to see the rekindling ceremony, try to arrive on-site around 6:20pm. In winter, this will be the perfect time to visit the Arc and watch the sunset from the top!
We also recommend you to visit the Arc later in the evening: Not only will you manage to avoid big crowds, but you’ll also be able to enjoy a beautiful panoramic night view of the city.
Once the avenues surrounding the Place de l’Etoile light up in the night, you’ll really feel like you’re in the heart of a star!
Moreover, from up there you will be able to spot some iconic elements of the Parisian landscape, such as the Tour Montparnasse, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, and of course, the Eiffel tower.
How Long Does It Take to Visit the Arc?
You will need about 45 minutes to 1h30 to visit the whole monument and take a few pictures.
Is a Guided Tour Better?
As you get closer to the building, you will notice the numerous carvings with low reliefs adorning the structure. These refer to specific historical events, which you’ll understand a lot better through a guided tour!
You can join a guided tour any day of the week at 10:30 am, without any reservation or additional cost. The tour takes about 45 minutes. However, if the crowd of visitors is too big, you might prefer to visit the Arc on your own.
In that case, or if you can’t make it for 10:30 am, you can always find other ways to get information on the monument :
- With a brochure, available in various languages (English, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Dutch, and Japanese).
- By downloading the app of the Arc de Triomphe (Free, but only available in French). The app offers a guided tour in a more interactive way, with a video introduction to the Arc, and a 4 step commentary.
- With an audio guide device (service offered by ParisCityVision), through a one hour-and-a-half-long recorded commentary, also available in multiple languages (English, German, Spanish and Portuguese). Side note, audio guides are not available for children.
Is There an Elevator to Reach the Top of the Arc?
Witnessing one of the best views of Paris has a price! There are 284 steps in the spiral staircase you need to climb to reach the coveted viewpoint. We advise you to wear comfortable shoes!
The Arc is actually equipped with an elevator but reserved for people with reduced mobility. Slight warning, the elevator doesn’t go up all the way to the top.
Restrictions on Luggage
Large bags are prohibited within the Arc. If you’re traveling and you have nowhere to leave your luggage, you can go to the luggage locker shop, less than half a mile away from the Arc (for more information on this service, click here).
The Museum of The Arc de Triomphe
Most people don’t know it, but the Arc de Triomphe hides a small museum within its walls. History aficionados won’t want to miss it!
Through various original documents and photographs, as well as other artistic creations, this museum goes back on the whole history of the Arc.
There, you will find all kinds of engravings, paintings, and drawings, models of the Arc… All testifying of the past events that led the Arc de Triomphe to become the symbol it is today.
Where to Eat Near the Arc?
The Arc is located in one of the most expensive areas of Paris, however, you can still find good restaurants for a reasonable price. Here are some of our favorites :
2 rue Brunel (à 550 mètres de l’Arc)
At Papi Henri’s, you can enjoy authentic French cuisine, perfect for a family lunch. The restaurant offers a large selection of traditional dishes, which will give you a taste of what French people eat when they go to their grandparents’ house. You’ll be able to have a good meal without paying more than 15 to 20€ per person.
28 rue de Duret (à 750 mètres de l’Arc)
La Gazette is the place to go if you want to try innovative dishes, while appreciating a warm and well-detailed interior design. The restaurant offers a wide variety of foods, from their homemade cheeseburger to their truffled rigatoni. Their cuisine draws inspiration from various other countries’ cuisines, so everyone can find something they’ll like. Vegetarians are not forgotten, as the chef also offers a plant-based version of the house’s homemade burger. Budget: about 22 € for a two courses meal (main dish + dessert).
7 rue de l’Etoile (à 350m de l’Arc)
Opened in 1908, this family-owned restaurant honors French traditional cuisine. The chef Philippe Lesouef cooks various dishes inspired by Southwestern French cuisine, with only fresh products (which is why the menu changes regularly). You can also order a full 3-course meal for approximately 42€.
Where and How to Buy Your Tickets?
Single ticket: 13€
Group ticket (20 persons minimum): 11€ per person
Free guided tour: every morning at 10h30
Audio guided tour: 23€, + a security deposit of 30€ for the material, which will be handed back to you at the end of the tour. Click here for further information.
Free entry (if you fill one of these requirements):
- For everyone, every first Sunday of the month
- For people in a situation of handicap and the person accompanying them
- For EU residents age 18 to 25
- For minors (under 18) visiting with their family.
You can book your tickets online or at the Arc de Triomphe ticket office. Free tickets must be booked from the ticket office, directly on site.
Our advice: If you’re not eligible for a free entrance, take your tickets online. You’ll escape the inevitable queue in front of the ticket booth!
Last but not least, here are a few video clips shot at the Arc de Triomphe by the French Center for National Monuments (Centre des Monuments Nationaux).
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