History, art and culture

The Arc de Triomphe and Armistice Day in Paris

If you’re in Paris around 11th November, then you’ll appreciate the solemn date. Armistice Day is a day of commemorating the fallen soldiers of World War I and other wars. Typically in Paris, this day is marked with a military parade along the Champs Elysees and past the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.

As it’s a national time of remembrance, we wanted to look into the history of the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and explore what these monuments represents to the people of Paris, and indeed France. The Arc de Triomphe is the nation’s largest war memorial and arguably the most important. Commissioned by Napoleon, who built it for his grande armée to march under the arches of victory, this monumental arch was built between 1806 and 1836 and is engraved with the names of all the names of the generals and wars in which they fought. Based on the Roman Arch of Titus, from which France’s patriotic arc took much of its inspiration, its neoclassical style is a breath-taking feat of sculpture and architecture and is as revered to this day as it was at its conception. The arch offers an excellent look out point to observe Paris from up above and if you're wondering whether to choose the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower for your view then consider that you will be immersed in more war history inside the Arc. Be aware that it won't be open on November 11th.

On Armistice Day in 1920, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was interred to commemorate the fallen men of WWI to add to the remembrance of the fallen men of the Napoleonic wars. On the ground underneath the arch, the tomb is lit with an eternal flame which burns all day and all night in memory of the lost soldiers. A visit to the Arc de Triomphe and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Armistice Day – or any day at that – is a humbling experience but especially on the 11th November.

Don't forget to catch the military parades, an occasion in which public figures, including the French President, come to pay their respects. Or if you need something a little more reserved and pensive, there are plenty of special church services held around Paris which all pay tribute to the fallen men, too.

Note: 11th November in France is a public holiday so make sure you check with the top Paris attractions in advance for any planned closures.

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