Destination: Paris
Top Ten
1 Centre Georges Pompidou
2 Les Champs-Elysées
3 La Grande Arche de la Défense
4 Les Invalides
5 Le Louvre
6 Notre-Dame
7 Orsay, Musée d'
8 Les Quais
9 La Tour Eiffel
10 La Villette
3 La Grande Arche de la Défense

Symbolically guarding the western approach to the city, the Grande Arche is both a recognition of tradition and a bold step towards the future.

From the arch's roof top (110m above ground), accessible by lift, a marvellous view unfolds in a straight line along an axis to the Arc de Triomphe and, beyond, to the Obelisk at La Concorde and to the Louvre, extending the magnificent vista opened up by Le Nôtre. The arch was inaugurated in 1989 for the bicentenary celebrations of the French Revolution. The stark simplicity of its architectural outline and the materials used are definitely contemporary, while its sheer size is a marvel of modern technology. The Danish architect, Otto von Spreckelsen, built a perfect hollow concrete cube covered over with glass and white Carrara marble. Steps lead up to the central platform, where the lifts are to be found.

The arch dominates a vast square, known as Le Parvis, decorated with colourful sculptures, including a red 'stabile' by Calder, and surrounded by other remarkable buildings: the Dôme Imax, a glass-covered sphere housing a cinema with a 180°-screen and the CNIT (Centre of New Industries and Technology), shaped like an upside-down-shell. Opposite, there is a huge shopping centre known as Les Quatre Temps, which has some of the best shopping bargains in Paris.

On the left of the arch, close to the glass sphere, is the Colline de l'Automobile, which traces the history of driving from its beginnings to the present. The collection of old motor cars by manufacturers such as Ferrari, Bentley and Mercedes is constantly renewed with items lent by private collectors.

Address: 1 parvis de la Défense, 92040 Paris-La Défense
Phone: 01 49 07 27 57 (Grande Arche); 01 46 92 46 43 (Colline de l'Automobile)
Open: Grande Arche: daily 10-7; Colline de l'Automobile: daily 12:30-7:30
Restaurant: Restaurants, snackbars and cafés in Les Quatre Temps shopping centre (Inexpensive) and in the CNIT (Inexpensive and Moderately priced)
Bus: 73, Balabus in summer
Metro: Grande Arche de la Défense
Accessible: Good
Admission: Lift Grande Arche: expensive; Colline de l'Automobile: moderate
Practical: Video presentation, guided tours, shops
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