A bird's-eye view of chaos at the Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris
Phone: 01 55 37 73 77
Métro: Charles de Gaulle — Étoile
Like most of the items I've listed under The Big Stuff, the good ol' Arc de Triomphe is so well-known and well-documented that there's no point in my giving you the history of the place and all of the normal details of what to expect when you visit. So here are just a few of my personal observations and bits of advice.
For god's sake, don't try to cross the traffic circle!!!
Holy shit, I've seen people do this, and it practically gives me a heart attack every time! The Arc de Triomphe is located in the middle of a famously treacherous, multi-lane traffic circle, which is fed into by a dozen big boulevards radiating out from it (hence the name Étoile; star). It's absolutely insane; nerve-wracking enough if you're in a car, and outright deadly if you're not! There are heavy concrete and chain barriers that surround the island that the Arc is on and also block the edge of the sidewalk on the other side of the traffic circle. To get over to the Arc, you have to take a tunnel under the circle, but some tourists don't realize this and think you're... I guess, supposed to hop the barrier and run across a half-dozen lanes of crazy Parisian traffic? It's unbelievable. Although I'll admit, if you don't know about the tunnel ahead of time you may not notice it easily. Look for signs and you'll find it! It's better than getting flattened.
Enjoy the traffic from above!
Warnings aside, once you take the tunnel, arrive beneath the Arc de Triomphe, and climb the spiral staircase to the top, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view of (well, sure, the Eiffel Tower and Paris and everthing, but more importantly) all that crazy traffic! The first time I went up there, my best friend from back home was in town, and we watched the traffic in the circle for ages; it's fantastic to see it all from above, like in an old video game or something. There were so many near accidents, aggressive passes, spiteful honks, and panicked slammings of brakes. It was glorious. If going up inside the Arc were free I'd go watch the show all the time.
That's just about all I have to say about the Arc de Triomphe. The small museum inside is nice, but nothing to write home about. That view is really where it's at!