The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by the Emperor Napoléon I in 1806 to celebrate the triumph of his armies over the rest of Europe in the early nineteenth century, particularly his triumph over the Russian and Austrian Empires at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.
In recent decades, however, the Arch has merely served to demonstrate the triumph of cars over people. Cars have unlimited rights to careen around the circle that surrounds the Arch, where twelve major streets come together. People, if they want to visit the Arch, can only reach it by going through an underground tunnel like rats or moles.
When you emerge from the tunnel, the first thing you see is (you guessed it) traffic, this time from inside the circle instead of outside.
To get to the top you have to walk up the usual winding staircase, but it’s easier than most because there are two staircases, one for going up and one for going down, so the ascenders and the descenders don’t keep blocking each other’s way.
There is an elevator, aka lift, which was out of order when I was there. I’m told it is usually out of order except when they do special tours for disabled people, in which case it miraculously starts working again. (Perhaps someone who has had experience with this can say more?) In any case, the elevator only goes up to the next-to-highest level, where the souvenir shop is, not directly up to the top.
When you do get to the top, you have views of the twelve avenues that radiate out from the arch in all directions. The best known of these is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with — for many decades — its disgusting ten lanes of cars. The outer two lanes have recently been changed into bicycle lanes, and further changes are in the works, much to the chagrin of car fetishists and conservative politicians.
My photos in this post are from 2011 and 2012. I revised the text in 2017 and 2022.