The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l’Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
The Arc de Triomphe is the linchpin of the historic axis (Axe historique) – a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which goes from the courtyard of the Louvre, to the Grande Arche de la Défense. The monument was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, and its iconographic program pitted heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments, with triumphant patriotic messages.
The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle—Étoile station.
Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée.
A lift will take visitors almost to the top – to the attic, where there is a small museum which contains large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. 46 steps remain to climb in order to reach the top, the terrasse, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.