Paris Travel Blog

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The Avenue des Champs-Elysées is probably the most famous avenue in the world.

The Champs-Elysées was originally fields and market gardens, until 1616, when Marie de Medici decided to extend the garden axis of the Palais des Tuileries with an avenue of trees. As late as 1716, Guillaume de L'Isle's map of Paris shows that a short stretch of roads and fields and market garden plots still separated the grand axe of the Tuileries gardens from the planted "Avenue des Thuilleries", which was punctuated by a circular basin where the Rond Point stands today; already it was planted with some avenues of trees radiating from it that led to the river through woods and fields. In 1724, the Tuileries garden axis and the avenue were connected and extended, leading beyond the Place de l'Étoile; the "Elysian Fields" were open parkland flanking it, soon filled in with bosquets of trees formally planted in straight rank and file. To the east the unloved and neglected "Vieux Louvre" (as it is called on the maps), still hemmed in by buildings, was not part of the axis. In a map of 1724, the Grande Avenue des Champs-Elisée stretches west from a newly-cleared Place du Pont Tournant soon to be renamed for Louis XV and now the Place de la Concorde.

By the late 1700s, the Champs-Elysées had become a fashionable avenue; the bosquet plantings on either side had thickened enough to be given formal rectangular glades (cabinets de verdure). The gardens of houses built along the Faubourg St-Honoré backed onto the formal bosquets. The grandest of them was the Élysée Palace. A semi-circle of housefronts now defined the north side of the Rond Point. Queen Marie Antoinette drove with her friends and took music lessons at the grand Hôtel de Crillon on the Place Louis XV. The avenue from the Rond Point to the Etoile was built up during the Empire. The Champs-Elysées itself became city property in 1828, and footpaths, fountains, and gas lighting were added. Over the years, the avenue has undergone numerous transitions, most recently in 1994, when the sidewalks were widened.

The Champs-Elysées, because of its size and proximity to several Parisian landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, has made it the site of several famous (and infamous) military parades, the most famous of which were the march of German troops celebrating the Fall of France on June 14, 1940 and the subsequent entrance of Free French and American forces into the city after its liberation on August 25, 1944.

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Champs-Elysées... whenever Im in…
Champs-Elysées... whenever I'm i…
The preparation of Tour de France.
The preparation of Tour de France.
photo by: Sweetski