Arc de Triomphe ☆☆

The Arc de Triomphe at night (Photo by Mr. Jason Hayes)
The Arc de Triomphe at night

This iconic triumphal arch sits in the grandest traffic circle in Europe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of the world's greatest triumphal arches, a monument to all those who fought and died for France, originally in the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars but now in all wars.

The tomb of an unkonwn World War I soldier, along with an eternal flame, lies in honor underneath the main vault.

Panoramic Parisian views from the top

In addition to being a monument to France's unknown soldier, the arch is also something of a monument to the gods of car insurance premiums. Surrounding the Arc is a five-lane traffic circle called L'Étoile where, it seems, anything goes.

Luckily, an underground passage will lead you safely from the edge of the the traffic circle to the arch at the center, which you can then climb for spiffy panoramic views that really show off Paris' grand layout of boulevards.

Just how big is the Arc de Triomphe?

Its hard to get a handle on just how massive the Arc de Triomphe actually is. It reigned as the largest such arch in the world until the 1980s (when North Korea built a bigger one just to prove it could).

By the numbers: The Arc de Triomphe is 50m (156 ft) high, 45m (148 ft) wide, and 22m (72 ft) deep. The tunnel-like vault at the center is 29.19m (96 feet) high and 14.62m (48 feet) wide.

Put another way: During the celebrations of the end of World War I, a pilot named Charles Godefroy flew his biplane right through the middle of the arch.

Napoléon's phyrric triumph

Ironically, the Arc de Triomphe was begun at the behest of Napoleon in 1806 but not finished until 1836 by King Louis-Philippe following the Bourbon Restoration.

That said, Napoleon did actually get to use his arch—twice, in fact.

The first time was in 1810 upon his triumphal entry into Paris—though only the foundations and lower bits were actually done in stone; the rest was a hasty wooden mock-up.

In 1840, when Napoleon's remains were brought back to Paris from his exile in St. Helena, the erstwhile emperor finally got to pass beneath his triumphal arch as his funeral procession made its way across the city to his tomb in the Invalides.

Photo gallery
  • The Arc de Triomphe at night, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Mr. Jason Hayes)
  • L'Etoile with the Arc de Triomphe in the middle, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Juanedc)
  • The Arc de Triomphe, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Michael Meinecke)
  • The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), at the center of the place Charles de Gaulle, Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Benh LIEU SONG)
  • The Departure of the volunteers of 1792" (a.k.a. La Marseillaise), sculpture by François Rude, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Jebulon)
  • Under the Arc de Triomphe, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Joshua Kritzer)
  • The eternal flame at France's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Jebulon)
  • The spiral staircase, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Cesar I. Martins)
  • Avenue des Champs-Élysées, viewed from the Arc de Triomphe, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Josh Hallett)
  • The Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Moyan Brenn)
  • The Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by ros k @ getfunky_paris)
  • 180 degree Panorama from Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Photo by Ed Ogle)
Arc De Triomphe Tours
More tours


Free admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Arc de Triomphe for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

» more on discounts & passes
How long should I spend at the Arc de Triomphe?

You can just see the Arc de Triomphe in about 30 seconds—though some people spend 10 minutes simply scurrying back and forth across the Champs-Elysées each time there's a green light in order to pause in the middle and try to snap the classic postcard picture of the arch from the center of the road.

If you plan to go to the top for the view, budget 20–30 minutes.

Useful French phrases

Useful French for sightseeing

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Où est? ou eh
...the museum le musee luh moo-ZAY
...the church l'eglise leh-GLEEZ
...the cathedral le cathédrale luh ka-teh-DRAHL
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert?  coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? ah kell eur es kuh suhla fair-MAY
ticket billet d'entrée bee-YAY dahn-TRAY
two adults deux adultes dooz ah-DOOLT
one child un enfant ehn ahn-FAHN
one student un étudiant uh-NETOO-dee-YON

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel

* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by " un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.