Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Standing at the center of the busy Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’ most distinctive historic landmarks. This triumphal arch was envisioned as a dedication by Napoleon to his troops for their hard won victory at the battle of Austerlitz in 1809. While the idea and design refer back to the ancient Roman ceremonial arches, the massive scale of the Arc de Triomphe is purely Napoleonic in its grandeur. Measuring 164 feet tall, it towers over the 50 foot tall Arch of Titus in Rome that inspired the design for the Parisian landmark. With this grand scale, it’s no surprise the Arc de Triomphe wasn’t completed during Napoleon’s lifetime. Although the funeral procession when his remains were brought back to Paris from St. Helena did pass under the completed monument in 1840. The Arc de Triomphe is now dedicated to glory of the French army and honors important battles, generals and victories in France’s military history.

Where's Triumphal Arch located?

The Triumphal Arch is located on the Charles de Gaulle city square, a very large square connected to no less than 12 avenues. This is the reason why many people still call it Etoile square (Star square) due to its shape, where the square and 12 avenues look like a 12-pointed star.

How to Get

The Arc de Triomphe is located in the 16th arrondissement on Paris’s Right Bank. The 16th is located in the northwest sector of the city.
RER: line A, station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile
Metro: lines 1, 2 and 6, station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile

Open hours

From April 1 to September 30: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
From October 1 to March 31: 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
The cash desk close 1/2 hour before
Closed on January 1, May 1,May 8 (morning) July 14 (morning), November 11 (morning) and December 25


As a strong supporter of public works, Napoleon ordered numerous construction projects throughout the French Empire. After his victory over the Third Coalition at Austerlitz in 1805, to commemorate his victories he commissioned three public works: the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Vendôme Column, and the Arc de Triomphe. The largest of these structures, the Arc de Triomphe, was intended to honor the military leaders and victories of the French Revolution, Consulate, and Empire.

In 1806, the architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin was hired to analyze the best possible location and based on this study Napoleon selected the Place de l’Étoile. The first stone was symbolically laid that year on Napoleon’s birthday, August 15th. In 1808 Chalgrin became the sole architect and in 1810 he finished revising the plans which became the framework for completing the structure over the next 26 years. That same year the people of Paris received a preliminary view of the monument as a full-sized wooden replica was built on site for the marriage between Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. Chalgrin died the next year and his pupil Louis-Robert Goust became the new architect, continuing the work.

With Napoleon’s abdication in 1814, all work on the Arc de Triomphe was halted even though more than a third had already been constructed. Almost ten years passed without any further work and then the French army, led by the king’s nephew the Duke of Angoulême, successfully intervened militarily in Spain. King Louis XVIII ordered work on the Arc de Triomphe to resume but changed the intent to honor his nephew and his army’s success in Spain. The architect Jean-Nicolas Huyot was selected to lead the work, but controversy plagued the project and little progress was made.

With the July Revolution of 1830 and the ascent of the Citizen King Louis-Philippe, the political atmosphere became friendly towards honoring the Revolution and Empire. Louis-Philippe ordered the Arc de Triomphe to be completed and honor the Revolutionary and Imperial armies, leaders, and victories. Louis-Philippe also fired Huyot as architect in 1832 and replaced him with Guillaume-Abel Blouet. In 1833 the Minister of the Interior Adolphe Thiers led the selection of the sculptors to complete the four major sculptures on the lower exterior of the pillars.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of War was tasked to create a list of names of officers and battles to be engraved on the monument, and Baron General Saint-Cyr Nugues was chosen to determine the names. As the monument neared completion, Saint-Cyr Nugues submitted 384 notable officers, 30 great victories, and 96 lesser battles. The Arc de Triomphe was finally inaugurated in 1836 but not without controversy. When Saint-Cyr Nugues’ lists were released to the public, many families of notable generals of the Revolution or Empire complained to the Ministry of War and Ministry of Public Works that their illustrious family member was not included.

For the next few years, a stalemate ensued between the Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of War over whether or not more names could be added. Finally the Ministry of Public Works informed the Minister of War Marshal Soult that they had found room for 128 more names. Now able to resolve the complaints, Soult formed a commission to add more names to be honored. Marshal Oudinot presided over the commission made up of Generals Reille, Dode de la Brunerie, Petit, Pelet-Clozeau, and Schneider with the secretary being Saint-Mars. Marshal Soult then realized that not all arms were appropriately represented and added to the commission General Exelmans to represent the cavalry, General Neigre to represent the artillery, and Admiral Rosamel to represent the navy.

The commission began its work on December 5th, 1840, and ten days later the Arc de Triomphe witnessed the return of Napoleon’s remains to Paris. Over 400,000 people attended a ceremony where Napoleon’s coffin was placed in a chariot drawn by twelve black horses decorated in gold. The procession stopped directly underneath the arch before eventually laying Napoleon’s remains to rest in Les Invalides.

Over the next few months the commission decided upon a series of names to add to the monument but went beyond the initial limits of 128, instead submitting 233 names. A new battle between the Ministry of War and Ministry of Public Works followed over the number of names that could be added. The Ministry of War eventually won when the architect Blouet found space to add more names while retaining the architectural integrity of the monument. By the end of 1842 there were now 652 names inscribed. Over the next five decades more names were added, with the last being added in 1895, bringing the total to 660. For more information on the 660 names that were engraved, please see the article “Names on the Arc de Triomphe”..


Facts & Figuries

The Arc de Triomphe bore witness to major national events such as the return of Napoleon I’s ashes in 1840, the vigil for the funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885, and the First World War victory parade by the Allies on 14 July 1919

The Arc de Triomphe stands 162 ft tall, 150 ft wide and 72 ft deep. The vault is 95.8 ft high and 48.0 ft wide. The smaller vault is 61.3 ft high and 27.7 ft wide

In 1916, during the First World War, the idea of honoring one soldier to symbolize all those who gave their lives for their country was first put forward

French pilot Charles Godefroy

In 1919, French pilot Charles Godefroy flew his plane beneath the arch and so became very popular.

9.3 million francs

At the time of its construction it cost 9.3 million francs to build the Arc de Triomphe - a massive fortune at the time.

Arc de Triomphe was almost never built

Before it was Arc de Triomphe, this place was dedicated to the construction of an elephant structure.

600 names

Of the 600 names engraved on the inner face of the Arch, 558 are those of French generals of the First French Empire.

Virtual tour

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