The renowned Champs-Elysées is nicknamed “the most beautiful avenue in the world,” and not for nothing! This urban artery is a microcosm of Paris, hosts countless joyful celebrations, and symbolizes life à la française. Busy day and night, it welcomes 100 million visitors every year (including 30 million tourists). Locals and travelers alike come to enjoy the boutiques, restaurants, and palace hotels. And professionals pick its offices for the incredible views from the Tuileries Gardens to La Défense.
We would not be so bold as to offer you a tour of this mythical avenue – many guides are already on hand for that. Instead, this article on the Champs-Elysées – icon of the “French Touch” – will reveal the little secrets and major moments in its history.
During the reign of Louis XIII, the current Champs-Elysées was covered with swamps, meadows, and bushes. Marie de’ Medici wanted to bolster the standing of the Tuileries Palace, and set to work. The result was a long alley lined with elm trees leading towards another royal residence, the Château de Versailles. This route was named the Avenue des Tuileries, before being changed to the Cours la Reine in 1615.
Later, in 1666, King Louis XIV asked his gardener André Le Nôtre to continue the work. The artisan began by joining the Palais du Louvre to the Tuileries Gardens, with a road running through the greenspace and out through the city. This was the birth of the Grand-Cours, which went on to be christened the Champs-Elysées in the late 17th century. And did you know that name “Champs-Elysées” comes from Greek mythology? It was used to describe the part of the underworld where the souls of virtuous people and heroes could rest in peace.
In the early 18th century, the Champs-Elysées was extended up to the current Place de l’Etoile. The avenue continued to developed until the arrival of Baron Haussmann, who built his iconic buildings there during the late 19th century. It was around this time that the Champs-Elysées began to look like it does today. Cafés and restaurants were opened, and were followed by leading horse-and-carriage companies. The city’s elite were soon drawn to it, and would walk along the avenue or even hold parades on the road.
The Champs-Elysées: prestige and celebration
The most beautiful avenue in the world is 1.2 miles long and 230 feet wide. Today, it has become the setting for a constant stream of joyous activities and celebrations. On August 26, 1944, General de Gaulle marched down the Champs-Elysées after the Liberation. When France wins an important sporting match or a star is honored, throngs of people gather on the avenue. And some 600,000 people choose the illuminated Champs-Elysées as the place to see in the New Year every December. What’s more, it is also the starting place for the Paris Marathon and the finish line for the Tour de France. Without forgetting, of course, the wildly popular Bastille Day parade, attended by thousands of French people celebrating their country together.
Emulated the world over, the Champs-Elysées is twinned with other avenues that share the same aesthetic. They include Nanjing Lu in Shanghai, Fifth Avenue in New York, Orchard Road in Singapore, and the Nevsky Prospect in Saint Petersburg – the birthplace of Kusmi! Like the Champs-Elysées, they are all home to superb brands and delicious restaurants, and are symbols of their countries.
Go and see for yourself the next time you are in Paris! After all, “In the sun, beneath the rain, at midnight or at midday, there’s everything you want on the Champs-Elysées!” Don’t say you hadn’t been humming the avenue’s iconic song…