There are many attractions tourists must visit in Paris, France, including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and, of course, the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe is on the bucket list for every traveler in Paris. Like the Eiffel Tower, it’s an iconic symbol of the city, but when was it built? Why was it built? The attraction has always been there, for as long as we know, but what do we really know about the monument?

About the construction

Construction of the Arc de Triomphe’s arch began on August 15, 1806, on Napoleon Bonaparte’s 37th birthday. It was a slow construction process and only a little more than the foundation had been completed by the time of Bonaparte’s 1810 marriage to the Austrian archduchess, Marie-Louise. Bonaparte wanted to celebrate his new bride’s entry into Paris and what’s better than a new monument?

Workers began constructing a full-scale depiction of the completed design, created from wood and painted canvas. This basic construction gave designer Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin a full idea of what his design would look like on the site at the center of the future Place Charles de Gaulle. During that first year, Chalgrin made small adjustments to the work completed by the construction workers. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the completion of the monument. At the time of his death in 1811, only a small portion of the monument had been completed.

Work had been halted on the construction, especially after Bonaparte was abdicated as emperor. Little more had been added to the construction site until 1823 when King Louis XVIII ordered workers to resume their work. His urgent request was motivated by the French invasion of Spain that restored King Ferdinand VII’s power as an absolute monarch. Workers continued constructing the monument, finishing the project in 1836. The Arc de Triomphe officially opened on July 29, 1836, during the reign of King Louis-Philippe.

A significant design

One of the reasons why the Arc de Triomphe is a popular tourist attraction in Paris is because of its iconic, significant design. Once completed in 1836, there was nothing like it in the world. We must credit Chalgrin for the original design. Now referred to as Neoclassical, the monument was inspired by the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum. Chalgrin wanted decorative high-relief sculptures, a stairway of 284 steps from the ground level to the top of the monument, and an observation deck. Nowadays, the monument also includes an elevator that goes partway up the structure. However, visitors must climb the rest of the way to reach the observation deck. Do you think you can climb up the Arc de Triomphe? Are you up for the challenge?

The Arc de Triomphe has changed drastically over the years. One level below the observation deck now hosts a small museum with interactive exhibits on the history of the monument. Added in 1921, beneath the arch lies France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Every night since 1923, a flame of remembrance for France’s fallen heroes is rekindled. In addition, an annual ceremony on November 11 is held at the arch to commemorate the anniversary of the 1918 armistice that ended World War I.

An important symbol of France

While the Notre-Dame Cathedral might be a religious symbol in Paris and the Louvre celebrates art, the Arc de Triomphe is an iconic symbol to the entire country of France. Important French figures have been celebrated at the monument, including famed literary icon Victor Hugo and French general Ferdinand Foch. Both figures had their coffins presented at the monument before their interment elsewhere.

Victory parades have marched past the arch after the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II. Whenever an important political event, or even a ceremony of any kind, is held, the Arc de Triomphe is always the first place everyone thinks of to host the event.

Inspiring replicas

The Arc de Triomphe became an important monument in France and quickly attracted the attention of people across the globe. It inspired replicas in Las Vegas, Nevada; Zhengzhou, China; Bucharest, Romania; Pattaya, Thailand; New York City; Nikko, Japan; and other locations. While these replicas are stunning monuments in their own right, nothing can replace the original French monument dating back to the era of Napoleon Bonaparte. You can’t beat perfection.

Visiting the monument

Visitors must experience the Arc de Triomphe in person to understand its true beauty. Yes, you can admire the monument in photographs, but it’s not the same experience as visiting the structure in person. After all, you often have to see things to believe them, and you can only believe the beauty of the Arc de Triomphe once you see it.

To visit the Arc de Triomphe, you can find it in the Place de Charles de Gaulle, formerly known as the Place de l’Étoile. The name was changed to commemorate the president [Charles de Gaulle] in 1970. The Arc de Triomphe can be found at the end of the Champs Elysees, a famous strip of cafes, luxury shops, theatres, the annual Bastille Day military parade, and the finish line for the Tour de France cycling race. It’s fitting that the Arc de Triomphe, a place for people to meet and celebrate France’s unique history, is at the point where 12 major roads in Paris join together.

You can visit the Arc de Triomphe from any angle, taking in the breath-taking views. If you choose to climb up the monument, you can take the elevator or walk up the steps to the observation deck. Once at the top, the view overlooking the Parisian skyline is one of the most gorgeous views an individual can have the opportunity to witness.