The Grande Arche monument in Paris

With a full name of La Grande Arche de la Fraternite, the Grande Arche is one of the more modern monuments in Paris that is located within the Defense area, which is the business district of the city and there are some unusual discoveries to be made when you visit this unusual building including the computer museum, the video games museum and a restaurant called O110.

But let start with a bit of history on the Grande Arche

It was in 1982 that the French President Francois Mitterrand launched an international competition to design an arch for the Defense area, which would be a modern take on the famous Arc de Triomphe.
The Grande Arche Paris
The idea was to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution, but not as a monument to military victories, but as a modern monument in Paris that would celebrate humanity and humanitarian ideals.

Out of a total of 424 different projects submitted, it was an unknown Danish architect by the name of Johann Otto von Spreckelsen that was chosen for his winning design and vision and construction of the Grande Arche started in 1982.

The place chosen for its colossal structure was at the end of the historical axis of Paris, which starts at the Cour Carree of The Louvre museum in Paris, then goes through the Pyramide de Pai, which is the new pyramid at the Louvre.  The axis travels on to the Arc du Carrousel, which is another triumphal arch in Paris, then it travels through the Jardin des Tulleries to the Place de la Concorde.  This historical axis then continues up the Champs Elysees to the famous Arc de Triomphe, then on to Pont de Neuilly and the historical axis finishes at the Grande Arche.
However, there is also a secondary axis, which incorporates the two highest landmarks in Paris, the first being the famous Eiffel Tower and the second, being the Tour Montparnasse Tower in Paris.

And although the Grande Arche was originally meant to be directly in line with this historical axis, unfortunately it had to be build 6 degrees off of this angle due to the fact that the required foundations were not possible any other way.

Construction of the Grande Arche in Paris

The construction of the Grande Arche was a truly remarkable technological achievement as it classed as anti-seismic, in other words, resistant to earthquakes and tremors and the arch itself rests on twelve pillars.  In addition to this, the horizontal pre-constrained concrete techno-structures connecting the two sides of the arch allow the roof platform to be maintained at a height of 110 metres.
The Grande Arche roof top
The Grande Arche art exhibition
The Grande Arche is actually a hollow cube with the width being 108 metres and the depth being 112 metres and incredibly the Notre Dame Cathedral could fit in its empty central space!  Anyway, the sides are covered in Carrara white marble and three hectares of this were needed, plus there is an enormous amount of glass, with glass lifts on the outside that provide great views when you are going up or down, and the total structure weighs in at approximately 300,000 tons.

The North and South sides of the arch are utilised by numerous different enterprises and by the Ecology Ministry and these amount to around 87,000m squared of office space, but in the roof section, which is open to the public, this is home to two museums, several galleries and exhibitions, along with a restaurant serving refined French cuisine.

The Grande Arche in Paris was official inaugurated on the bicentenary of the French Revolution on 14th July 1989, which was also the same time as the 15th G7 summit of the seven most industrialised countries in the world.  And then the arch was officially opened to the public on 26th August 1989.
The Grande Arche lift

What you can Visit at the Grande Arche in Paris

As you are whisked to the roof of the Grande Arche in around 66 seconds, you will get a panoramic view from this, but you can also visit the Belvedere area for panoramic views of the Defense area, the Stade de France stadium, the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower.

There are also several galleries that you can wander around and to start with you have the Belvedere gallery that is home to temporary and permanent exhibits such as a multi sensorial orientation table.

The next is a models gallery that presents the history of the Grande Arche and its architecture, plus there is an area that shows a twenty minute movie about the competition, the project and the construction of the Grande Arche and this is shown in French with English subtitles.  Then there is another gallery that is dedicated to paintings of Paris that have been painted and produced by foreign artists that have visited this incredible city.
The Grande Arche columns
The Grande Arche windows
The next gallery displays anaglyphs, which are basically described as a stereo photograph or picture where you utilise special glasses to obtain the 3D effect, and then another gallery lets you have fun trying to figure out who is hiding behind each portrait by utilising the principle of retinal persistence.

Whilst you are on holiday in Paris and visiting the Grande Arche monument, you could also get to see the Photo gallery or one that displays work from an amateur artist that has never been exposed before.

And in addition to all of these there are temporary exhibits and further galleries along with a bookshop and souvenir shop, the O110 brasserie and restaurant in Paris, the Computer museum called Le Musee de L’Informatique and the video game museum called Le Premier Musee du Jeu Video en France
The Grande Arche view

Visiting the Grande Arche of the Defense area in Paris

The Grande Arche is open seven days a week, and from the start of September to the end of March is open from 10am through to 7pm.  However, from the start of April to the end of August it opens at 10am through to 8pm.

Individuals are a cost of €10 for adults and €8.50 for children, but there are discounts for groups upon reservation.

You will be pleased to know that this landmark in Paris is also accessible to the disabled, plus there is a boutique and bookshop and a cyber cafe, along with WiFi internet access throughout the whole roof area.
The Grande Arche restaurant
Upon reservation well in advance, guided tours are also available and for individuals you can hire a professional guide, although, to be honest these are not cheap at an approximate cost of €155 for one hour, but these are available in French, English, German, Spanish and Italian.

However, you could go on one of the group tours that do work out far less expensive at around €35 per person as of 2012, and you can opt for a half day or a discovery tour of the Defense district as well as the arch, but these are only available for groups of twenty people or more and again these have to be booked well in advance, either in writing, by fax or via telephone.

The Grand Arche is easily accessible via Metro with direct access from the Chatelet station in around 10 minutes and this is via line 1.  The RER on line A is another option, as is the Tramway T2.