This intricately sculpted triumphal arch stands sentinel in the center of the Étoile roundabout - arguably one of Europe’s most chaotic traffic spots.
The swirling cars can be seen from the viewing platform on top of the arch (164ft/50m up via 284 steps and well worth the climb). You can see the dozen avenues that street out from this spot, including the famed Champs-Élysées.
Av de la Grande Armée heads northwest to the skyscraper district of La Défense, where the Grande Arche marks the western end of the axe historique.
The most famous of the four high-relief panels at the base is to the right, facing the arch from the av des Champs-Élysées side. It’s entitled Départ des Volontaires de 1792 (Departure of the Volunteers of 1792) and is also known as La Marseillaise (France’s national anthem). Higher up, a frieze running around the whole monument depicts hundreds of figures, each one 6.6ft (2m) high.
Beneath the arch at ground level lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Unknown Soldier was laid to rest in 1921, in honor of the 1.3 million French soldiers who lost their lives in WWI. An eternal flame is rekindled daily at 6:30pm.
Tickets and other practicalities
To access the arch, don’t cross the traffic-choked roundabout above ground. Stairs lead from the northern side of the Champs-Élysées to pedestrian tunnels (not linked to the metro) that bring you out safely beneath the arch. Tickets (€13 for a general adult ticket) to the viewing platform are sold in the tunnel.