The Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre are probably two of Paris' most visited attractions, after the Eiffel Tower, and both for very good reason. However it is what links the two attractions that I find fascinating and that makes for a very enjoyable walk in the city.
Begin your walk at the Arc de Triomphe, a grand arch that crowns the famous Avenue Champs Elysees and offers fabulous views of the city's other attractions as well as the fantastic 'Voie Triomphale', which is the nine kilometre axis of 12 roads which spreads out from the arch in a perfectly planned star shape. Underneath the arch is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is marked with an eternal flame.
The roundabout that the Arc de Triomphe sits on is probably one of the busiest places in the world and is a logistical nightmare to navigate. In fact, it is so bad that no car insurance policy is valid here! So, when you cross from the centre of the roundabout to the Champs Elysees, do it with extreme care. Alternatively, use the underground tunnel that takes you, via the entrance to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, safely across to the other side of the road.
Now you are at the top of the impressive avenue, you will see before you a glittering array of designer shops, restaurants and the world famous Lido cabaret club, considered by many to be even better than the Moulin Rouge. The avenue is a shoppers’ paradise as well as being a motorists paradise – there are many shops dedicated to the major car brands here and each of them houses a fascinating selection of concept cars and even Formula One cars. It isn’t so much a foodie’s dream here though – there are mostly chain burger joints and mediocre restaurants that sell average food and very inflated prices.
Continuing down past the shops you’ll wander along the tree lined avenue that in winter plays host to a spectacular Christmas market that is presented in true Parisian style, with little boutique stalls offering an array of mouth-watering foods, hand-crafted gifts and Christmas souvenirs. There are also rides and attractions for the children and Santa himself flies overhead every hour after darkness falls.
At the end of this avenue is the Place de la Concorde, which was where over 1300 people (including Marie-Antoinette) were beheaded during the Revolution. It’s a much more pleasant place to visit now as it is the home of the fantastic Obelisk (which comes from the temple of Ramses in Luxor) and the popular big wheel which seems to be an addition to most cities in Europe now. It is also where the entrance to the Jardin des Tuileries can be found.
The Jardin des Tuileries is the formal gardens that lead you straight up to the Louvre. The gardens are pretty, although very regimental, with straight avenues surrounded on both sides by rows of perfectly manicured bushes intertwined with copies of statues by Rodin and the like. There is a lovely pond with fountains in the middle that, in summer, is surrounded by children playing with boats and their families bathing on the many chairs that surround it. It is a lovely piece of tranquillity in a busy city and is a perfect place for you to stop and rest before taking on the almighty Louvre museum.
As you leave the park, you’ll walk under another arch that is exactly in line with the Arc de Triomphe in the distance and with the Grande Arche de la Defense behind that in the far distance. This arch marks the entrance into the grounds of the Louvre. The Louvre is possibly one of the most famous museums in the world and depending how much its contents interest you, you could devote an afternoon or your whole trip to its millions of exhibits.
Stop first outside to really appreciate the size and grandeur of the place and have a look at I. M. Pei's controversial Pyramide, a colossal glass structure which offers a complete contrast to the intricate features of the rest of the building. Inside, you'll find most people making a bee-line to the Mona Lisa which is housed behind thick bullet proof glass. Even if you fight your way through the masses to the front, you'll find museum personnel preventing you from taking pictures. It's not to be missed though. You can also find works by Bottecelli, Rembrandt and Goya to name a few. Price-wise, it's about 8E to get in, with same day readmission allowed or about 5E after 3pm and on Sundays. It's free entry on the first Sunday of each month and is closed on Tuesdays.
This is one of my favourite walks around Paris as it offers something for everyone and it showcases a little of everything that Paris has to offer, so I would strongly recommend that first time visitors give it a go!