The Eiffel Tower is definitely the most famous landmark in Paris, but the Arc de Triomphe comes a close second. But did you know that you can actually go inside the Arc de Triomphe? You just need to work out how to get to the middle of the roundabout… Over or under?
From the observation deck, you can admire the "axe historique", a virtually straight route through Paris that passes by most of the important monuments, including the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and La Défense. The view of the whole city is pretty spectacular.
You need to be pretty fit to tackle all the narrow steps ;). And the inside of the arch isn’t all that exciting.
You’ll end up queuing for ages in the summer. So make sure you buy your ticket online before you go!
Last Modified: 10.05.2022 | Céline & Jacqueline
Arc de Triomphe Tickets
Arc + Seine Ticket
Admission to the Arc de Triomphe + 1 hour Boat trip on the Seine + Audio guide
The Arc de Triomphe in Paris stands at the heart of a roundabout, an axis and maybe even a nation. You could say it is the king of all triumphal arches constructed in the modern era. There is no better symbol of the greatness and grandeur of France throughout history. Viewed from above, it stands proud at the heart of the Place de l’Étoile, with its 12 radiating avenues making it look like a star or shining sun.
As you approach the Arc de Triomphe, you will soon see that it is surrounded by a big and busy roundabout. All the cars make it tricky to get a good look at the monument and you may want to prepare yourself for all the road rage that goes on here! They don’t call this the worst roundabout in Europe – or even the world – for nothing!
You’re probably asking yourself how on earth you cross this beast of a roundabout. The only option is to go via the underpass, which just so happens to be very well signposted. It stretches from the Champs-Elysées to the Avenue de la Grande-Armée opposite. And you can exit in the middle to visit the Arc de Triomphe.
Once you’ve made it to the centre of the roundabout in one piece, it’s up to you if you want to have a wander underneath the arch or head straight up to the observation deck.
When you’re up on the observation deck, the view of all 12 avenues extending away from the roundabout is absolutely incredible. There’s no better way to admire the city’s unique layout. In one direction, you can look down the Champs-Elysées all the way to the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre. On the other side, you can admire La Grande Arche, a more modern arch located in the La Défense district. And, of course, you get a good view of the Eiffel Tower from here too. Make sure you take a moment to look at the crazy busy traffic below you. It’s all-out chaos that somehow works!
The ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ honouring a hero who was killed during the First World War is buried beneath the Arc de Triomphe. The ‘eternal flame’ of remembrance has amazingly been burning here since 1923 and there is a ceremony at 18:30 every day to rekindle it. This serves as a reminder that the Arc de Triomphe was originally built to honour the French army and it lives on as a memorial to all fallen soldiers to this day.
Make sure you admire the beautifully decorated ceilings and arches inside (hello stiff neck!) and walk all the way around the outside so you can see all four of the huge sculptured groups.
It’s free to just look up at the Arc de Triomphe from the roundabout, but you’ll need to purchase a ticket from the underpass if you want to head up to the observation deck.
You can also buy your ticket online and make your way straight to the security and ticket checks in one of the pillars as soon as you come out of the underpass.
Visitors who cannot use the stairs should head to the lift in the pillar diagonally opposite the main entrance.
arc de triomphe facts & figures
Height: 49.54 meters Width: 44.82 meters Depth: 22 meters Arch height: 29.19 meters Width of the arch: 14.62 meters Number of names that can be found on the triumphal arch: 558 Number of battles commemorated here: 136
Roundabout diameter: 100 meters Number of star-shaped landscaped streets: 12 Number of lanes in the roundabout: indefinable
Arc de Triomphe A bit of history
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, to give it its full name in French, was constructed between 1806 and 1836 on what would later be called the Place Charles de Gaulle.
It was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted to mark his victories with a triumphal arch – just like the Roman Emperors would have done. Work on the Arc de Triomphe began relatively quickly in 1806 but faltered before grinding to a complete halt when Napoleon abdicated in 1814. But work picked up again in line with Napoleon’s plans in 1824 under Louis XVIII and continued when Louis Philippe I became the ‘citizen king’ in 1830.
The Arc de Triomphe also honours the soldiers who fought in the First World War. It is home to the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’, which honours a hero who was killed during the Battle of Verdun and transported to Paris in 1920. The ‘eternal flame’ also burns here in memory of the many unknown soldiers who died during World War I. A ceremony is held every year on 11 November to mark the anniversary of the armistice between France and Germany in 1918.