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The world's most famous strolling, shopping and café-sitting boulevard was once a swamp....






 

 

It's difficult to imagine Paris's most famous and elegant boulevard, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (map), as marsh and meadowland, but so it was in the early 1600s before the first road was laid out northwest from the Tuileries.

Trees were planted along the main meadow in this district, earning the quiet, cool, serene area the name "Elysian Fields" in 1667. A century later the road was extended, but by 1800 this was still a wildish forest with only a few houses.

British, Prussian and Russian soldiers camped beneath its trees after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo (1812).

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, a century ago...

With the invention of gas lighting, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was transformed: fountains and footpaths made it a favorite place to go, see and be seen, whether on foot, on horseback, or in a horse-drawn carriage.

  Avenue des Champs-Élysées at Christmastime, Paris, France
  Champs-Élysées at Christmastime, Paris

By the mid-1800s the first cafés-dansants had been opened, restaurants followed, then grand Second Empire houses and shops.

Finally came the or horseless carriage, and the avenue's present function as a major motor vehicle route was realized—for good or ill.

You must see the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but perhaps not all of it at once, as it is nearly 4 km (2.5 miles) from Place de la Concorde, near the Musée du Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries, northwest to Place Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, with the huge Arc de Triomphe (map).

As you can see from the photo, the Champs-Élysées is busy with traffic. What you can't see is that the sidewalks are equally crowded. Most days, the avenue is a throng-scene of Parisian life in every possible way.

Café-sitting is an active experience along the avenue, not a particularly restful or serene experience. (For a quiet sit-and-sip, seek out one of Paris's marvelous parks or gardens.)

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, today...


Place de la Concorde

Place Charles de Gaulle-Étoile

Arc de Triomphe

Musée du Louvre

What to See & Do in Paris

Planning Your Time in Paris

Finding Your Way Around Paris

Paris Transport

 

 

Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Paris, France

Paris's Avenue des Champs-Élysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde and Palais du Louvre.




 

   
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