The Champs Elysees is one of the principal tourist destinations in Paris. The lower part of this grand avenue is bordered by trees and by buildings such as the Grand Palais, which contains the Palais de la Decouverte. The Elysee Palace, despite its name, is a little to the north, and not on the avenue itself. Farther up to the west, the avenue is lined by cinemas, theatres, cafe's, restaurants and luxury shops.
The Champs Elysees is very busy all day with plenty of crowded cafe's and bars to attract the tourists, this continues well into the late evenings, when its many night clubs, restaurants and cinemas become the main attractions. With the Champs Elysees being one of the principal avenues in Paris, it is not surprising that prices here are often much higher than other, less visited areas of the city.
Because of the high rents, very few people live on the Champs Elysees, the upper storeys tend to be occupied by offices. Rents are particularly high on the north side of the avenue, because of better exposure to sunlight. The splendid architecture of the grandiose Champs Elysees is admired by many people. Located right next to it is the Presidential palace with its rounded gate, and the Grand Palais that was constructed in the late 19th century.
The area that is now the Champs Elysees was originally fields and market gardens, then in 1616, the Marie de Medici decided to extend the garden axis of the Palais des Tuileries with an avenue of trees. As late as 1716, Guillaume de L'Isle's map of Paris shows that a short stretch of roads, fields and market garden plots still separated the Tuileries gardens from the planted Avenue des Thuilleries, which was punctuated by a circular basin, where the Rond Point stands today. Even then it was planted with avenues of trees radiating out from it and radiating down to the river through woods and fields. In 1724, the Tuileries garden axis and the avenue were connected and extended, beyond the Place de l'Etoile. The Elysian Fields were open parkland flanking it, which soon became filled with trees formally planted in straight ranks. To the east the then neglected Vieux Louvre, as it is referred to on the maps, was still hemmed in by buildings, and was not part of the axis. In a map of 1724, the Grande Avenue des Champs Elysees stretched west from a newly cleared Place du Pont Tournant later renamed the Place de la Concorde.
By the late 1700's, the Champs Elysees had become very fashionable. The trees that had been planed earlier, had now thickened up to form formal glades. In 1828, the avenue became the property of the city, and additions such as footpaths and fountains were built, also during this period, gas lighting was added. Since then, the Champs Elysees has had many improvements made, with a major upgrade in 1993 when the pavements were widened.
The Champs Elysees has become the focal point for many major celebrations. It is here where Parisians gather to celebrate New Years Eve, and acts as the route for many of the cities military parades, both past and present.