All About Paris

About the Arc de Triomphe

History of the Arc De Triomphe

Shortly after his victory at Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe’s construction; it was completed in 1836. There are four huge relief sculptures at the bases of the four pillars that make up the structure. These commemorate The Triumph of 1810 (Cortot); Resistance, and Peace (both by Etex); and The Departure of the Volunteers, more commonly known by the name La Marseillaise (Rude).

An image of the Arc de Triomphe with cars in the foreground.
An image of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris with cars in the foreground.

Engraved around the top of the Arc de Triomphe are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. The names of lesser victories, as well as those of 558 French generals, are found on the inside walls of the arc. The names of generals killed in battle are underlined.

Beneath the Arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and an eternal flame commemorating the dead of both world wars.

Every Armistice Day (November, 11) the President of France lays a wreath at the tomb. On 14 July – the French National Day (referred to as Bastille Day everywhere except in France) – a military parade down the Champs Elysees begins here. For important occasions of state, and national holidays, a huge French tricolor is unfurled and hung from the vaulted ceiling inside of the Arch.

The Arch is most easily (and safely) reached by tunnel from the north side of the Champs Elysees. 

Arc de Triomphe Notes

From the roof of the Arch there are spectacular views of Paris. Looking east, down the Champs Elysees, toward the Louvre, is the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. In the opposite direction to the west stands the Arc de Triomphe’s larger and newer cousin, the modern La Grande Arche de la Defense.

Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris 

Lines 1, 2, and 6 – Charles de Gaulle-Etoile 
Line A – Charles de Gaulle-Etoile 
22, 30, 31, 52, 73, and 92

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