Arc de triomphe and the Unknown soldier
Napoleon I ordered the construction of the Arc de Triomphe in honour of the Great Army. In 1806, the day after the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon declared to his soldiers, "You will return home through arches of triumph". The monument was to dominate Paris and reflect the Emperor's taste for Roman antiquity. Napoleon wanted the arch to be erected at la Bastille, in the east of Paris, where the armies would return from war. However, the more suitable Place de l'Etoile on the Champs-Elysées was finally selected, a grand avenue built by Colbert in the 18th century. The architects Chalgrin and Raymond were inspired by the arch of Titus in Rome.
During its construction, between 1806 and 1836, the Arc de Triomphe was subject to the hazards of political change on several occasions. But on its inauguration in 1836, it was restored to its original purpose to glorify the armies of the Republic and the Empire. The monument then witnessed several great national events, such as the return of the ashes of Napoleon I in 1840 and the victory parade on the liberation of Paris in 1944. Inspired by the arches of antiquity, this symbolic monument bears the names of illustrious figures of the nation.
It is also home to the tomb of the Unknown soldier. The idea of honouring one soldier, to symbolise all those who died for their country, arose in 1916 during the First World War. The day after the Armistice on 11th November 1918 which ended the conflict, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate unanimously decided to bury the remains of an unidentified soldier in the Pantheon. However, associations preferred this symbolic death to be honoured under the Arc de Triomphe. The unknown soldier was buried under the arch on 11th November 1921 and awarded the Légion d'Honneur. The eternal flame was lit on 11th November 1923, and has never gone out. It is rekindled every day at 6.30 pm by one of the 900 French associations for former soldiers.
From the top of the monument, you can enjoy a unique view over the Champs-Elysées, by day or by night.
How to get there
Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile (lines 1 - 2 - 6)
RER A: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile
Arc de Triomphe
Tel.: +33(0)1 55 37 73 77