Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, stands in the centre of the Place de l'Etoile, at the western end of the Champs Elysees. The arch is surrounded by a large, very busy roundabout, but there is no need to risk life and limb to get to this world famous tourist attraction, as there is an underground pedestrian walkway on the northern side of the Champs Elysees that provides a safe access to the monument.
The monument sits atop the hill of Chaillot where 12 radiating avenues converge in a star shaped configuration. It is the climax of a vista seen the length of the Champs Elysees from the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries gardens, and from the Obelisque de Luxor in the Place de la Concorde.
The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon Bonaparte after the victory at Austerlitz . The monument, was left unfinished for many years, but building resumed in 1823, and was finally completed in 1836, during the reign of King Louis Philippe I, who dedicated it to the glory of the armed forces of France.
Since 1920, the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier has been located underneath the arch, and includes an eternal flame to help commemorate the dead of both world wars. The flame is rekindled every evening at 6:30. On Armistice Day, November 11th, and on the French National Day, July 14th, also known as Bastille Day, the President of France pays homage on behalf of the nation by laying a ceremonial wreath on the tomb.
Inside the Arch, is a small museum that documents the monuments construction and history. Included in the admission price, is access to the top of the Arch. The roof is reached by climbing nearly three hundred steps, which results in some of the most spectacular views in Paris, with eastward views down the Champs Elysees, towards the Louvre, there is the Place de la Concorde,, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. In the westward direction in the far distance is the Arc's newer cousin, La Grande Arche de la Defense.
Situated at the base of each of the the Arc's pillars are four huge relief sculptures, one commemorating The Triumph of 1810, by Cortot, two more, Resistance, and Peace, both by Etex. and a forth, The Departure of the Volunteers, more commonly known as La Marseillaise, by François Rude. Engraved around the top of the Arch are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. To be found on the inside walls are the names of less important victories, as well as those of 558 generals. Those Generals who died in action, have their names underlined.