The Ultimate Guide to Arc de Triomphe History, Architecture, and More


When in Paris, you do not want to miss visiting the Arc de Triomphe. Considered one of the finest works of architecture across the globe, it is one of France’s most-visited monuments. Napoleon I wanted Paris to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world; hence, in 1806, he commissioned the design and construction of the triumphal arch. The task was given to architect Jean Chalgrin, who conceptualized the Astylar design in the Neoclassical style of ancient Roman architecture. The design plan and the architectural ideas went through several changes throughout the next two decades. Finally, in 1836, under French King Louis-Phillipe, architect Guillaume-Abel Blouet ensured the completion of the Arc de Triomphe, which stood as the tallest arch in the world for the next 100 years.

Arc de Triomphe at a Quick Glance

arc de triomphe history

Location: Place Charles-de-Gaulle, 75008, Paris, France. Get directions here.

Year of completion: 1836

Designed by: Jean Chalgrin

Height: 162 feet

Width: 150 feet

Number of visitors per year: 1.5 million. Plan your visit to Arc de Triomphe.

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Arc de Triomphe History

Standing at the right bank of river Seine, the triumphal arch has been part of France’s rich history and heritage for years. One of the most popular monuments in Europe, and one of the most visited in the world, Arc de Triomphe is the central feature of the Axe Historique, the famous sequence of monuments and thoroughfares on a route from the Louvre to La Grande Arche de la Defense. Originally commissioned by Napoleon I, the famous arch was completed under the watch of the French King, Louis-Philippe, who dedicated the monument to the armies of the revolution and the Empire. For more than 100 years, the arch saw the Paris skies as the tallest arch in the world.

In 1921, inspired by the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in the United Kingdom, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed beneath the arch after World War I. The Eternal Flame is rekindled every day at 6:30 PM, a tradition followed over the last 100 years. 

The iconic monument has been through World Wars, revolutions, urbanization, and peace. It has seen French armies march for the war, German armies leading the victory marches, and the end of World War II when the French army and its allies marched past the monument. The Arc de Triomphe history has been nothing short of a testament to how the city of Paris evolved over the years and how the arch still stands tall in all its glory.

Arc de Triomphe Architecture

Conceptualized by architect Jean Chalgrin, and inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus, the Arc de Triomphe Paris features Neoclassical elements of Roman architecture. The 162 feet tall and 150 feet wide arch saw its first stone laid in 1806 after Napoleon I agreed to build the arch at Place de l’Etoile. A team of experts and architects joined hands with Jean Chalgrin to prepare the construction plan for the monument. In 1811, Jean Chalgrin passed away, and Louis-Robert Goust, a former student of Chalgrin, took over. In the following years, construction was halted due to the imperial defeat and invasion but resumed in 1824 under the watch of architect Jean-Nicolas Huyot. He proposed huge changes to the original design, which were deemed risky, and in 1832 he was replaced by architect Guillaume-Abel Blouet, who saw the completion of the monument in 1836 under French King Louis-Phillipe.

The splendour of the monument is enhanced by the sculptures on its pillars. The four main sculptural groups on each pillar of the arch are:

  • Le Départ de 1792 by François Rude. The sculpture celebrates the cause of the First French Republic during the 10 August Uprising of 1792.
  • Le Triomphe de 1810 by Jean-Pierre Cortot. It celebrates the Treaty of Schonbrunn.
  • La Résistance de 1814 by Antoine Étex. It remembers the French Resistance to the allied armies during the War of the Sixth Coalition.
  • La Paix de 1815 by Antoine Étex, which commemorates the Treaty of Paris.

Among others, there are six reliefs sculpted on the facades of the arch representing important moments from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era.

The Arc de Triomphe is a delight for visitors, as one can get a panoramic view of the city of Paris from its rooftop. The awe-striking view includes popular monuments and structures in the city of Paris like Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame, and Grand Palais, among others.

Visitor Tips

Free Entry
General Tips
history of arc de triomphe
  • Entry to the monument is free for children under 18 years of age, with a valid photo ID.
  • EU residents under the age of 25 can enter the Arc de Triomphe free of cost, with a valid photo ID.
  • Paris Museum Pass holders can enter free of cost, carrying the valid document along with a valid photo ID.
  • Guests with disabilities can enter free of cost, along with one companion.
  • Students with a valid Education Pass can enter for free of cost. 
arc de triomphe height
  • It is best to book tickets online and in advance.
  • Wear/Carry warm clothes if you are visiting the rooftop of the arch on a windy day. 
  • Don’t miss the rooftop as it has spectacular views of Paris; especially at night.
  • The 248 stairs to the top of the monument are quite steep, so climb carefully, or avail the elevator.
  • Do not cross the roundabout when visiting the arch, use the underground walkway.

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Arc de Triomphe History FAQs

How long did the Arc de Triomphe spend under construction?

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 and completed in 1836 - it spent 30 years under construction.

When is the flame at the Tomb of Unknown soldier rekindled?

The flame is rekindled every day at 6:30 PM.

Is the monument wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the monument is wheelchair accessible. It has lift and ramps for access to the museum and the rooftop.

Is there a lift at the monument?

Yes, the monument has lift access to all the levels. It is primarily reserved for visitors with reduced mobility, visitors with young children and pregnant women.

How long will it take to visit the landmark?

Most visitors spend 45 minutes to an hour here.