The Champs-Elysées and the gardens

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Arc de Triomphe

Avenue des Champs-Elysées is the main route to west-end Paris. It stretches practically 1.2 miles from Place de la Concorde to Place Charles de Gaulle.

 

From Place de la Concorde to Rond-Point des Champs Elysées

The Regent Queen of France Marie de Medicis initially decided to build the gardens in 1616, starting from Place de la Concorde’s current location. Later in 1666, Louis XIV had the entire park enlarged and commissioned André Le Nôtre to redesign the garden sections (as they were not attracting enough city-dwellers) and to create a pathway through the new extension to link up with Versailles. The route became known as the Champs Elysées (the Elysian Fields) in reference to the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology. When architect Jacques-Ignace Hittorf redesigned Place de la Concorde around 1836, the work included adding four fountains to the avenue’s gardens: the Circus fountain representing the four seasons, the Grille du Coq fountain, the Ambassadors’ fountain decorated with a statue of Venus and the Diane fountain representing the Hunting Goddess on the left side of the avenue. Finally, for the 1855 World Fair a section of the park was rearranged to accommodate the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. Tour the very same gardens beside the Champs-Elysées today, from Place de la Concorde up to Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées (roundabout). They are made up of 6 sections of English-style gardens: Marigny, L’Elyséee and Ambassadeur are northwards and Rond-Point, Battoir and Ledoyen are southwards.

 

From Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe

‘The most beautiful avenue in the world’ has not always been quite so beautiful. The original, marshy land was unfit for construction and although turned into gardens by André Lenôtre in 1667, no-one was interested in living there until after Jacques-Ignace Hittorf’s redesign. Even then, the avenue only really started to smarten up in 1828 with the addition of pavements, street lamps, show halls, theatres, cafés and restaurants and luxury boutiques towards the end of the century.

Tourists have been flooding here ever since to indulge in high-end shopping and to see all the brands ranging from off-the-rack to major luxury designers and their outlets, such as the most famous Louis Vitton store in the world, or Guerlain’s historical 1913 boutique.

The avenue ends at the Arc de Triomphe in the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle. Napoleon I commissioned its construction to celebrate the victory of the French armies at the Battle of Austerlitz (the Napoleonic wars); work started in 1806 and finished 30 years later when Louis-Philippe was on the throne. The monumental 164 ft high and 147 ft wide arch overlooks the avenue and lines up impeccably with the obelisk at Place de la Concorde. The tomb of the unknown soldier from WWI was placed beneath the vault in 1921 and the flame is lit daily at 6.30.pm in perpetual memory of all the soldiers who have died for France.