Paris Sights Previously Unseen: L’Arc de Triomphe and Montparnasse

When Nick was here, we took a trip to Paris: my fourth!  If you’ve been keeping up with me since the beginning, you remember that I flew there when I first arrived in Europe (two posts), I went again with my parents, then again right after they left to see my friend Chelsea.  However, this trip was basically a new experience for me because while we went a few places I had been before, we did a TON of stuff I hadn’t done yet!  None of my trips there have been very long so it was nice to have four days to really see the city and go some of the places I hadn’t been yet.  First up: going up in the Arc de Triomphe!

There is a TON of stuff up in the Arc de Triomphe that I had no idea existed.  Full disclosure: the first time or two I was in Paris I didn’t even know you could go up in it.  I guess somehow I missed seeing the people on top when I took my pictures… Anyway, first, a reminder of what the Arc de Triomphe looks like!  It’s the big arch at the beginning of the Champs-Elysees.


To go up in the Arc, you buy tickets in the underground passage that you take to get there (remember my struggle in figuring out how to get to the Arc without crossing the crazy traffic?); we actually ended up getting a discount with our Paris Visite Metro passes and the map we picked up at the Metro station!  Score!  Then you go in from under the arch and walk up a whole buncha stairs to get to the top.

There were quite a few things to look at/do before you actually went outside to the top: a souvenir shop, of course; a camera with a view of the people under the Arc; and these two projectors on screens with a model of the Arc in front of each.  You could spin the Arc and then it would focus on one specific part and give more details about it.


As you rotated the smallest model, the one in front rotated as well, and the speck of light went on different parts of it. Then wherever the speck of light was, was pictured on the screen with a short explanation.

Once we got to the top, it was a really cool view of the city; this intersection/roundabout/thing is called l’Etoile, or the star, because something like 12 different roads go up to it, making it look like a star.  It was awesome to see it from above.

Fun fact: I read somewhere that this area was originally called La Place de l’Etoile (Star Square), but after General Charles de Gaulle died they renamed it Place de Charles de Gaulle.  But you know how hard it is to rename something (The Mark, John O’Donnell Stadium, am I right Quad City people??) so some people kept calling it l’Etoile, so now many people call it “Charles de Gaulle Etoile” because it rhymes.  That’s even the name of the Metro stop by it!  Random info for the day 🙂


It was a kinda foggy morning that we were up in the Arc, but could still see the Eiffel Tower, so that was cool!  Then the tall black skyscraper to the left is Montparnasse, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

We were able to see Paris’ business district, which I had never seen before; it’s called “La Defense.”


We could also see Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, which we would go to later.


Toward the end of our trip, we also went up in another tall structure: Montparnasse!  It’s the only skyscraper in the heart of Paris.  There’s some sort of law prohibiting buildings from being above a certain number of floors or height but somehow Montparnasse got around it.  It was near our hotel so one evening we decided to go up in it, because when we went up in the Eiffel Tower it was still daylight and I wanted Nick to see the city at night.

We were uncertain about if we wanted to pay to go up, since it was FREEZING the whole trip and we knew it would be windy up there, but we crossed our fingers that the top floor would be inside.  We were half right; there was a really nice enclosed floor, and then stairs up to an open platform on top.  We only made it about 3 minutes up there before heading back down to the warmth!

The floor inside had glass windows the whole way around, touch-sensitive screens every so often where you could zoom in and get more details about what you were looking at, chairs to sit and relax, information about the building of the Eiffel Tower, and even a little cafe where you could buy drinks.  Here’s what it looked like:


One little corner was all about the Eiffel Tower: Eiffel Tower carpet and a whole wall with information and pictures!  And I didn’t notice when I took it, but you can even see the Eiffel Tower out the window of this picture.  SUPER COOL!  Ooh you can see the screens I was talking about in the background too.


We were able to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle while we were up there; it was Nick’s first time seeing it.  I love it more every time I see it.


So those were our above-the-city experiences that were new to me as well.  Next up, going DOWN into the Louvre!

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Paris Sights Previously Unseen: L’Arc de Triomphe and Montparnasse

  1. that roundabout is terrifying! i was a passenger in a car going around it once, and i did not feel good about it. apparently car insurance doesn’t typically cover accidents that occur in that roundabout because it’s so dangerous and accidents happen ALL the time. my hotel was off one of the spokes – avenue de Wagram – the first time i went to paris.

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