The Avenue des Champs-Élysées needs no introduction. A fixture on the list of the French capital’s top attractions, it is visited each day by nearly 300,000 people, who come to admire its majestic monuments, enjoy a shopping spree, or get caught up in the excitement of the major festive events that are organized here. There’s always something going on here, along the world’s most beautiful avenue, by day or by night.
The Champs-Élysées, past and present
The Champs-Élysées is a truly lovely avenue: a picture postcard scene. Nearly 2 kilometres in length, this historic thoroughfare runs from Place de la Concorde to the majestic Arc de Triomphe. But though it has since become ‘the world’s most beautiful avenue’, the Champs-Élysées was once a swamp. It was in the 17th century that André Le Nôtre, gardener to the Sun King, traced its original path. And thus a legend was born. The avenue has only become more beautiful with every passing decade.
A shopper’s paradise
The range and variety of stores along the Champs-Élysées will gladden the heart of any shopper. There’s something for everyone. Get set for a fantastic day out shopping!
A stroll on the avenue (affectionately referred to by Parisians as ‘les Champs’) offers an opportunity to browse products from many renowned French brands. J.M. Weston moccasins; crocodile-logo polo shirts from Lacoste; Longchamp’s iconic Le Pliage foldable bags; every French girl’s underwear basic, i.e. cotton panties from Petit Bateau, and Éric Bompard cashmere sweaters: fashion-conscious shoppers will find all these and more along the famous avenue.
This prestigious location is also home to a number of luxury brands. Legendary perfume maker Guerlain has had its premises here in a listed building since 1913, while the Louis Vuitton flagship – nothing short of a cathedral of luxury – doubles as a contemporary art museum, to the delight of visitors. The high-end American jewellery brand Tiffany & Co has also sited its boutique along the famous Paris avenue. A sister store to the flagship on New York’s Fifth Avenue, it is a setting straight out of the Audrey Hepburn film Breakfast at Tiffany’s! You’ll also find other renowned makers of designer jewellery and watches on the avenue, like Cartier and Mauboussin.
If you’re on a budget, not to worry: the avenue also has plenty of affordable ready-to-wear and sportswear brands, like Gap, Zara, Sephora and Nike, not to mention the official PSG store selling the well-known Paris football club’s merchandise. And, for a striking visual experience while shopping, head to the enormous Abercrombie & Fitch store, where the dimmed lighting throws American artist Mark Beard’s disquieting frescoes into sharp relief.
Foodies will find many delights to sample on a stroll along the Champs-Élysées: there is a Ladurée, known for mouth-watering French macarons, while a unique sensory experience mingling fragrance and pâtisserie is to be had at 86 Champs, an innovative concept store that’s the result of a tie-up between Pierre Hermé and L’Occitane.
A culture break
The Champs-Élysées is a cultural hotspot, boasting cinemas, theatres, exhibition venues … take your pick!
If you’re keen to visit an exhibition, there is a Paris must-see only a short distance from the Champs-Élysées roundabout: the imposing Grand Palais. Built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900, this monument hosts the supersize exhibitions held in the French capital. And, just across the street, you can admire the superb collection of artworks at the Petit Palais.
As for film enthusiasts: the avenue is dotted with cinema halls. In fact, it is the street with the largest number of cinemas in Paris – including ‘vintage’ halls dating back to the 1930s, like UGC Normandie, UGC George V and Gaumont Champs-Élysées. There are some arthouse cinemas too in the area, like L’Elysée-Lincoln and Le Balzac. And, for a unique cinema-going experience, head to the unusual MK2, tucked away inside the Grand Palais.
The Champs-Élysées is a firm favourite on the Paris nightlife scene. There is no lack of bars and cafés where you can sip a cocktail. What’s more, many of these places boast a huge terrace: the perfect spot in which to enjoy the unique setting.
Dining options also abound. There are several Michelin-starred restaurants along the avenue: Ledoyen, where Yannick Alléno is head chef; Laurent, Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier Étoile, Copenhague, which serves gourmet Danish fare and Pizza Pino, a taste of Italy. Fouquet’s, the legendary brasserie, is located here, as is Publicis Drugstore, reputed for its club sandwich.
If you’re in the mood for a culinary journey, why not try the Scandinavian specialities at Flora Danica, or a delicious rendering of traditional ‘choucroute’ (sauerkraut) from eastern France at L’Alsace. For something offbeat, head to the 53, the restaurant at L’Atelier Renault, with its Formula One-inspired menu.
Full-on French glamour is to be found at number 116, where the dancers at the Lido put on a magnificent performance every evening in the course of an enchanting cabaret show.
Clubbers take note: the avenue is the headquarters of the most exclusive nightclubs in town. Wealthy young Parisians head to the Planches and the Duplex, while the in-crowd hangs out at the Raspoutine and the Baron. If poker is your game, make a beeline for the Paris Elysées Club: it’s the French capital’s only casino.
A number of events take place on the Champs-Elysées all year round.
On Bastille Day, the avenue is the place to go: it is decked out in the French national colours to host the world-famous 14th July parade.
When it comes to sporting events, the avenue is the starting point for the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris (in April), and the place where cyclists riding the Tour de France cross the finish line after the final stage (in July).
In June, the Champs-Elysées Film Festival takes over the avenue, placing the spotlight on the best independent French and American films over an 8-day period with screenings, talks and showcase events. An entire week devoted to cinema, during which the rooftop of the Publicis building is opened specially for the occasion.
The year-end festivities see the Champs-Elysées lit up with seasonal sparkle, with superb illuminations to be admired all along the avenue. On 31 December, people ring in the new year on the avenue with a countdown displayed on the Arc de Triomphe.
|Did you know?Twice a year, the sun sets right in the centre of the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a spectacular and unforgettable sight.|
A walk along ‘les Champs’
The news made headlines around the world when it was announced: cars are now banned from the Champs-Élysées on the first Sunday of each month. The pedestrian-only Champs-Élysées initiative has proved to be a huge success. Enjoy a leisurely stroll, go for a cycle ride, have a picnic – the choice is up to you! The avenue is even more beautiful when it’s car-free.