Last Updated on 9th October 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Picture the Louvre in your mind’s eye. What do you imagine? I expect you’re seeing the semi-smile of the Mona Lisa, the marvellous Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the glittering central glass dome of the Louvre Pyramid. What I’m sure you’re certainly not imagining is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which lies somewhere between the expansive museum and the Jardin des Tuileries. Here’s a quick history and how to visit!
First things first, when you imagine the term ‘carousel,’ you’re probably imagining the kind of merry go rounds which are popular among children and can be found dotted around Paris. However, ‘carrousel’ in this spelling actually derives from the word for ‘little war’ and refers to military parades and shows which were staged for the entertainment of the nobility.
In times gone by, the ‘carrousel’ close to the Louvre would have been used to demonstrate such military prowess. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find tourists as opposed to anything else, but the name ‘Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel’ has nevertheless stuck!
Best seen at sunrise or during the sunset so as to make the most of the golden lighting, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is Paris’ other triumphal arch (in actual fact, there are a handful but this is an article for another day!).
Situated on the ‘Triumphal Route’, the carrousel arch can be found at one end, with the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (often just abbreviated to the Arc de Triomphe) in the middle and the Grand Arche de la Défense at the other end, right in the heart of the skyscraper financial district of the city.
Much like the central Arc de Triomphe (that which offers fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower and is often featured on postcards of the city), the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon to commemorate his military victories, and specifically those in Austria.
Constructed between 1806 and 1808, where the arch now stands was once home to the Palais des Tuileries, a royal residence which was quite literally knocked down in 1871 to provide unobstructed views towards Place de la Concorde (i.e. where Cleopatra’s Needle stands to this day).
The arc is based on the arch of Constantine in Rome (built in the 4th century CE) and stands at 19 metres in height. Like many other artworks in Paris, the four bronze horses originally in situ were taken by Napoleon from St Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. However, these gold gilt horses were returned to Venice in 1815 and following the battle of Waterloo. François Joseph Bosio created four replica horses, which were installed in 1828.
One of the more interesting perspectives of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (which I’ve only discovered recently) is that you can actually see both arches simultaneously if you stand on the side of the road closest to the Louvre museum. The two arches are best seen at sunset when candy colours dance across the sky and set behind the arch which is furthest away.
Things to see and do nearby to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
Explore Jardin des Tuileries
So-called because it’s on the site of former tile factories which once stood on site, today the Jardin des Tuileries are Paris’ answer to New York’s Central Park. Sprawling and home to countless water fountains, perfectly manicured lawns, and surrounded by quintessentially Parisian architecture, this is where all the locals come to hang out during the summer months.
Thanks to its plane trees and leafy foliage, the Jardin des Tuileries also happens to be one of the best places to enjoy Paris in the autumn. During the summer, a yearly funfair is held, while the winter months sees the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market, which is typically held from the end of November through to the beginning of January.
Visit the Louvre Museum
As the largest museum in the world, it’s clear to see that there’s no shortage of things to see or do when it comes to the Louvre Museum. Best explored over the course of half a day so as to soak up as many of the exhibits and artefacts as possible, be sure to book your Louvre timed entrance ticket well in advance here. Otherwise, if it’s your first time visiting the cultural institution, here are my very top Louvre travel tips.
Colonnes de Buren
Just across rue de Rivoli from the Louvre Museum, the Palais-Royal complex was once a royal residence and is today a branch of the government, meaning that the buildings are sadly closed to the public. However, the expansive inner courtyard is pleasant to explore during the summer months and comprises of a park, as well as an art installation known as the ‘Colonnes de Buren‘. Comprising of dozens of candy striped columns of different heights, this once controversial artwork is now particularly popular among photographers!