Arc de TriompheApprox. Time: 1 hours
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate

Commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, shortly after his victory at Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe was not finished until 1836. There are four huge relief sculptures at the bases of the four pillars. 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).

La Marseillaise by François Rude; One of four reliefs on the pillars of the Arch. The day the Battle of Verdun started in 1916, the sword carried by the figure representing the Republic broke off. The relief was immediately hidden to conceal the accident and avoid any undesired associations or interpretations as a bad omen.

Engraved around the top of the Arch are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. The names of less important victories, as well as those of 558 generals, are to found on the inside walls. Generals whose names are underlined died in action. Beneath the Arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and eternal flame commemorating the dead of the two world wars.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Here every Armistice Day (11 November) the President of the Republic lays a wreath. On 14 July - the French National Day (refered to as Bastille Day everywhere except in France) - a military parade down the Champs Elysées 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. Inside the Arch there is a small museum documenting its history and construction. From the roof of the Arch there are spectacular views of Paris. Looking eastwards, down the Champs Elysées, toward the Louvre, there is the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. In the opposite direction - westwards - in the distance is its larger and newer cousin, La Grande Arche de la Défense.