France’s capital, Paris, is known for its historic architecture and romantic ambiance. Cobbled lanes have been trodden for centuries. The terraces of cafes spread onto the sidewalks in an orderly fashion, enticing passersby with their white tablecloths, vases of flowers and the scents of fresh coffee and baked goods. Every corner of Paris feels familiar from romantic films and novels.
Anyone with an interest in architecture will adore Paris. Visitors marvel at the imposing Roman-style Arc de Triomphe, the Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral, the Neo-Baroque charm of the Opera House, the Renaissance and Neo-classical opulence of Versailles and the Modernist lines of the Eiffel Tower.
During the ancient Roman Empire, victory arches were built to honor the glorious deeds of emperors. On Champs Élysées Boulevard in the heart of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe de L’Étoile is one of the city’s best-known landmarks. Paris actually has two victory arches: the Carrousel Arc de Triomphe, erected in 1806 and designed by the architects Charles Percier and Fontaine; and the Arc de Triomphe de L’Etoile, built at the behest of Emperor Napoleon I at the Place de L’Étoile, now the Place de Charles de Gaulle, in 1806 in memory of the victory of French troops at Austerlitz. It took 30 years to build this huge arch, which was inaugurated in 1836. Napoleon wished to transform his imperial city into the finest city in the world. Hence, he ordered a great monument to celebrate his army’s triumphs.
This iconic monument is a white stone arch that stands nearly 50m high and measures 45m long and 22m wide. It overlooks the Champs-Élysées. Both the front and back sides are covered with four bas-reliefs depicting glorious moments in the history of France. The monument was designed by the architect Jean-Francois-Thérèse Chalgrin (1739 – 1811) and modeled after the victory arches of ancient Rome. The four largest reliefs on the Arc de Triomphe are titled “Marching 1792” and “Triumph 1810” (facing the Champs-Élysées), and “Resistance 1814” and “Peace 1815” (facing the Grande-Armée). “Marching 1792” is the most famous work and is also known as “La Marseillaise”. The inner sides of the four feet of the Arc de Triomphe are decorated with reliefs portraying famous battles and quotes from 558 victorious French generals.
The Arc de Triomphe is imposing and grandiose, with an elaborately decorated domed roof. Visitors may climb 40 steps to reach the top, which lies 50m above the street. At ground level, a gigantic gate studded with beautiful sculptures lies at the heart of the Place de Charles de Gaulle, where 12 boulevards meet to form “the star of the city”.
Under the arch flies the proud tricolor flag of blue, white and red, which symbolizes the ideals of Liberté – Egalité – Fraternité that inspired the French Revolution. Beneath the Arc de Triomphe lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Behind the arch stand bronze plaques that list historic events such as the storming of the Bastille and the declaration of the republic. During celebratory rituals, processions march along the Champs-Élysées and a giant flag flies from the top of the arch, creating an impressive scene.
As well as being home to many grand historic sites and architectural treasures, Paris offers plenty of quiet corners to explore. Unlike other major cities, the city center has no skyscrapers and feels welcoming for pedestrians. The joys of visiting Paris include strolling along its historic boulevards, trying French cuisine in quaint cafes and restaurants, and exploring some of the world’s top art museums.
The Champs-Élysées is vibrant year round. In the late spring, morning showers are often followed by sunny afternoons, enabling visitors to walk along the most famous avenue in the world. Famous fashion houses stand proudly along this street, behind rows of lush trees. At night, the entire city is drenched in the radiant, glittering lights of old street lamps. Dubbed the City of Lights, Paris never fails to enchant visitors with its glamor, rich history and elegance.
Vietnam Airlines offers direct daily flights from Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City to Paris