One of the world’s wonderful avenues in one of its great cities
One of the world’s most stunning cities, it welcomes over 17 million foreign visitors every year – during normal times.
There are the city’s museums, monuments and cathedrals, with the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower among the globally known and most visited.
Happily spared the WWII bombing, that devastated some other European cities, the avenues and boulevards of Paris offers an almost endless architectural attraction.
Paris is also very green with trees lining the same avenues and boulevards and a number of grand parks and open spaces.
At the heart of this great city is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, known as La plus belle avenue du monde – the most beautiful avenue in the world.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, was created in the 17th century as a garden promenade, and has been a lure for Parisians and visitors alike ever since.
As to whether it is, indeed, the most beautiful avenue in the world must be open to debate.
Beauty, after all, is in the eyes of the beholder. But what is without doubt is that Champs-Élysées is as exciting, and enticing, and enthralling and exhilarating a place as you will find anywhere.
The heart and soul of Paris
The Champs-Élysées is also the heart and the soul of the city and a magnet for people of all ages, nationalities and walks of life – day and night.
As its heart the Champs-Élysées is constantly pulsating, pushing people and traffic in, through and out.
From one grand Place to another
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées runs for just over a mile from the Place Charles de Gaulle, site of Arc de Triomphe, to the Place de la Concorde, the one-time location of infamous Madame Guillotine.
The Place Charles de Gaulle
The Place Charles de Gaulle, historically the Place de l’Étoile, or Square of the Star, is the meeting point for twelve avenues including the Champs-Élysée.
Renamed after the death of General and President Charles de Gaulle in 1970, it is often referred to by its original name.
Dominating the Place Charles de Gaulle, and indeed the length of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe.
It was built on the orders of Napoleon I to celebrate his soldiers victories. The eternal flame and tomb of the un-known soldier lies beneath the Arc.
The Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries
The Place de la Concorde at the other end of the Champs-Élysées, leads onto the Jardin des Tuileries (the Tuileries Garden) and beyond that to Le Louvre.
The gardens, created in 1564, it became a public park after the French Revolution and has since been the place where Parisians came to meet, and greet.
Recent restoration of the area has seen it return its former glory.
An avenue of huge historic relevance
And linking the two is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées , and walking it from the one to the other it is easy to appreciate why this avenue has long been the focus for grand spectacle.
There is, of course, the dramatic June 1940, black and white, footage of Hitler gloating at the head of German troops parading along the Champs-Élysées following the fall of France.
In joyous contrast, were the many thousands thronging the Avenue to cheer Free French and Allied forces, after the city’s liberation in 1944.
Celebrating in style
Every year on Bastille Day, the largest military parade in Europe passes down the Champs-Élysées, reviewed by the President of the Republic.
The Tour de France also ends here with riders making six to eight circuits of the Avenue.
And finally, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées will be where Parisians stream on New Year’s Eve or for occasions of national celebration.
Everyday life on the Avenue
But visit the Avenue des Champs-Élysées at any time of the day, at any time of the year, and you will find it bustling.
There are dozens of pavement cafes, pastry shops, brasseries and fine dining restaurants.
These are the places from which to embrace the traffic streaming by on one side and the people on the other.
A trip to Ladurée, the famous Parisian pastry shop is also recommended.
For more than 100 years, the Avenue des Champs-Elysées has also attracted the world’s most prestigious luxury goods stores.
In the evening the one place to check out is the Lido de Paris, whose dinner cabaret revue shows have been delighting with their colour and extravagance since 1946.
While fads and fashions may change, and economic and political crises come and go, Le Lido offers an irresistible and ageless evening of glitz, glamour – and just a little tasteful nudity.
The three course champagne dinner is excellent and the cabaret during it first rate.
The revue itself is 100 minutes of dazzling musical tableau featuring the Bluebell Girls and Lido Boys interspersed with speciality acts.
Get to a tourist information centre
Tourist information centres are located throughout the city.
Paris has so many wonderful museums and these are free to those under 26 and everyone on the first Sunday of every month.
For others, and at other times, the two, four or six day Paris Museum Pass is an excellent buy, providing free access to more than 60 museums and monuments in and around the city.