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Paris from the top... of the Arc de Triomphe

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Paris from the top... of the Arc de Triomphe

This is the first post in a coming series of 'Paris from the top'. The first thing that comes to mind about seeing Paris 'from the top' is the Eiffel Tower, for obvious reasons. However, even though this is the most famous view, there are many other interesting vantage points to enjoy a bird's eye view over the capital. Today we are climbing the Arc de Triomphe, inaugurated in 1836 to commemorate the victory of soldiers in their great battles.

Climbing is the right word since visitors need to take more than 280 steps through a steep and narrow spiral staircase to get to the top. Visitors with physical disabilities can take the elevator, but there are still a few steps to climb at the end. The line up to go to the top of the arc is much shorter than the Eiffel tower and some say the view from atop the Arc is even better than from the tower.

From the top there is a great view over the Champs Elysées on one side, the business district of La Défense on the other, the Eiffel Tower on the south side and the Sacré Coeur of Montmartre to the north. It is also possible to see how the twelve avenues converging to the Arc de Triomphe make the shape of a star, hence its name 'place de l'Etoile' (star = étoile) in French.

This high vantage point provides ample opportunities to take pictures of:
  • Parisian roof tops and details of the typical architecture;
  • the Eiffel Tower and the ever-changing sky over the capital;
  • the modern buildings of La Défense;
  • and the great perspectives of the Champs Elysées leading to the Concorde and the Louvre.

Photographers should be aware that tripods are not allowed at the top of the Arc (or at its base for that matter). It can get rather windy on the outdoor platform of the monument, so a steady hand and a fast enough shutter speed will ensure sharp images. You can also lean against some of the posts to gain some stability, keep your arms close to your body and hold your breath for a few seconds to minimize any unwanted shaking.

The best way to enjoy the experience and get great images is to take a few minutes in one spot simply to observe the view and study the various photo options. Only then get the camera out to take pictures. This way you are sure to leave with the images you are looking for. Be sure to take a wide angle lens to get the large vistas along with a long zoom lens for close ups and details. And enjoy!

Getting there: Métro Charles de Gaulle/Etoile Line 1, 2 and 6.
Open from April 1 to September 30, from 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and from October 1 to March 31, 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Tickets must be bought 30 minutes before closing. Closed January 1, May 1, May 8 (morning), July 14 (morning), November 11 (morning) and December 25.
Entrance fee: 9.50€

  • Paris from the top... of the Arc de Triomphe

About the Author

Sophie Pasquet

Sophie Pasquet

Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.