Our second day in Paris started early with a visit to the Arc de Triomphe. After grabbing a baguette and espresso coffee at Boulangerie Pátisserie Rosa, we headed to the Metro. In many respects, this is the most efficient way to get around in Paris. Getting to the Arc was easy for us. Just one Metro line from Ménilmontant to Charles de Gaulle Étoile.
Among many, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the more famous monuments in Paris. Napoleon I commenced the building of the monument in 1806 to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. Napoleon wanted it on the site of the Bastille where his armies returned. However, the city planners eventually chose Place de l'Étoile as the location because it fit better with the city improvement plans at that time.
The Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated in 1836 by French king, Louis-Philippe, who dedicated it to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire. The Arc de Triomphe pays tribute to those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The names of all French victories and generals are inscribed on the inner and outer walls. Underlined names identify those who died on the battlefield. Beneath the vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. An eternal flame burns in memory of the dead who were never identified.
Access to the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is in the centre of a very large round-about. The easiest and safest way to get to the base of the monument is by using one of the two tunnels located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée. However, not everyone is sensible. I did see some crazy tourists sprint across the road causing cars to jam on their brakes.
Ticket prices are reasonable at €12. I was surprised to find there was no senior discount. When I asked about a discount, I got strange looks from the young ticket agents. Apparently, senior discounts are very uncommon in Paris. On the other hand, there are reduced rates for group tours, and free admission on the 1st Sunday of the month between November 1 and March 31. It is also free for visitors with disabilities, if you are under 26 and living in the European Union, or if you are under 18 years of age. But no senior discounts.
Getting to the Top
There is a bit of a wait to gain access to the monument. As with the Eiffel Tower, you must pass through a security check before entering.
The usual way to get to the terrace is by stairs. For visitors with reduced mobility, there is a lift available. Some assistance is still required as the lift is preceded by 3 steps. The lift only goes to the first floor museum and not the terrace. Toilets are not well adapted for wheelchair users either. There are ongoing renovations to improve handicap access in the monument.
So off we go. We climbed the 202 spiral steps to the mezzanine or first floor. It is a long way to the top. Luckily there is a bit of a rest spot about ¾ of the way up. Here you will find a small museum collection, washrooms and a gift shop. Here I bought a Paris key chain and some postcards.
There is a hidden camera in one of the rose petals carved into the arch in the centre of the monument. From the mezzanine one can view tourists milling around the base and see the eternal flame for the Unknown Soldier. Back on the ground, see if you can spot the camera.
Another 82 steps to the top terrace. Looking out over the city, 12 avenues radiate from the centre of the monument. On a clear day, one can see for miles. Next to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe's viewing deck offers some of the most spectacular views of Paris.
Sites from the Terrace
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the best places in Paris to see and photograph the Eiffel Tower. If you want to get a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background, you will have to wait your turn for the best spot.
On reaching the terrace, the first sight one typically sees is the hill of Montmartre with the easily recognizable domes of the Sacré-Cœur basilica. You should be able to see Centre Pompidou, the St. Jacques Tower, Notre-Dame cathedral, Grand-Palais, and the Jussieu Tower. On a good day, you may spot the ferris wheel in the Tuileries Garden.
There is a map on the terrace of all the major sights visible in the distance.
All in all, a great choice for our first attraction of the day!