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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 worldwide, 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 architects Jean-François Thérèse Chalgrin and Jean-Arnaud Raymond, who conceptualized the Astylar design in the Neoclassical style of ancient Roman architecture. The design plan and the architectural ideas underwent several changes in 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

Arc de Triomphe history

Standing on the right bank of the 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, the 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. 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 6:30pm, a tradition followed even today. 

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's history has been nothing short of a testament to how Paris evolved over the years and how the arch still stands tall in all its glory.




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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-foot tall and 150-foot 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 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 changes to the original design that were deemed risky. In 1832, he was replaced by architect Guillaume-Abel Blouet, who saw the monument's completion in 1836 under French King Louis-Phillipe.

The splendor 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.

There are six reliefs, among others, sculpted on the facades of the arch, representing 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 Paris from its rooftop. The awe-striking view includes monuments and structures in Paris like the Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame, and Grand Palais.

Arc de Triomphe today

Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch until the completion of the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City in 1938. Following its construction, the Arc also became the rallying point of French troops parading after successful military campaigns. The Arc de Triomphe is also the venue for the annual Bastille Day military parades and the last point on the annual Tour de France. Today, it remains one of the most famous Paris attractions, with over 1.7 million visitors every year.

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 a 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. 
  • The Arc de Triomphe is free for all on the Saturday and Sunday of the European Heritage Days (3rd week of September) and the first Sunday of every month.
arc de triomphe height
  • It is best to book tickets online and in advance.
  • Wear/Carry warm clothes if you are visiting the Arc de Triomphe rooftop on a windy day. 
  • Don’t miss the Arc de Triomphe rooftop as it has spectacular views of Paris, especially at night.
  • The 284 stairs to the top of the monument are quite steep, so climb carefully or take the elevator.
  • Do not cross the roundabout when visiting the arch; use the underground walkway.

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 6:30pm.

Is the monument wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the monument is wheelchair accessible. It has a 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 1.5 hours here.

What is the historical significance of the Arc de Triomphe?

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon to honor the fallen soldiers who lost their lives during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Today, it is one of the most famous Paris attractions, the venue for the annual Bastille Day parades, and the end point for the annual Tour de France.

How old is the Arc de Triomphe?

The Arc de Triomphe is 188 years old, since its inauguration on 29 July 1836.

How many years did it take to build the Arc de Triomphe?

The construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years, after several delays due to political reasons.

Who designed the Arc de Triomphe?

Commissioned by Emperor Napoleon, the Arc de Triomphe was designed by architects Jean Chalgrin and Jean Raymond. After Chalgrin died in 1811, the project was taken over by his student, Louis-Robert Goust. After the fall of Napoleon, construction was suspended until 1814 and Jean-Nicolas Huyot was brought in. In addition, the four sculpted groups on the pillars were made by François Rude, Jean-Pierre Cortot, and Antoine Etex.

What is the architectural style of the Arc de Triomphe?

The Arc de Triomphe is designed in a Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture. The astylar design is by architect Jean Chalgrin.

Are there guided tours explaining the Arc de Triomphe's history?

Yes, you can book a guided tour of the Arc de Triomphe online.