Glamorous yet a tad gaudy, neatly landscaped but sometimes chaotic with cars, the Champs-Élysées may be a bit overwhelming at first. But once you get into the hectic rhythm, it’s easy to see that the crowds are here for good reason. The vista down the 1.25-mile (two-kilometer) boulevard is certainly one of the most picturesque in Paris. It’s lined with some 588 trees whose branches at night create an umbrella of glittering lights.
This high-rent district is packed with theaters, cinemas, fashion houses and couture boutiques. Offices take up most of the upper levels of the buildings, which are worth inspecting for their architectural beauty.
Before it became synonymous with some of the most expensive real estate in the world, the Champs-Élysées (Elysian Fields) was home to markets and lush gardens. In 1616, under Marie de Medici’s guidance, the Tuileries Garden was extended with an avenue of trees. By the late 18th century, “the world’s most beautiful avenue” had blossomed into a fashionable destination for the wealthy from around the globe.
Even today, the best way to soak up the avenue’s ambience is to wander on foot. Go slowly, stopping at shops, and re-energizing with coffee and a pastry at one of the many cafés along the way.
If shopping is your calling, the Champs-Élysées is a prime destination, with Louis Vuitton’s enormous signature a magnet for big spenders and browsers. There is also the luxurious perfume boutique La Maison Guerlain, Cartier and Fendi. It’s not all high-end designer prices, however; you’ll also find chain stores like Zara, H&M and Gap.
Enjoying a meal at one of the French restaurants along the Champs-Élysées is a treat that can be worth the considerable price. However, a latte and croissant are always an affordable option. The nearby Rue Washington has a host of charming and affordable eateries for lunch and dinner.
Day or night the street is alive with activity. For an atmospheric photo opportunity, time your stroll to catch the Champs-Élysées at sunset. This is when the twinkling streetlights are switched on. During December, the avenue’s trees are strewn with festive lights and on Bastille Day (July 14), Europe’s largest military parade marches down the thoroughfare.
The Champs-Élysées neighborhood is located in the western 8th arrondissement of Paris. The Seine River is to south and the Louvre Museum is to the east, just past the vast Concorde Plaza. For a nice afternoon stroll, take the subway, bus or train to the Concorde and walk up the street into the neighborhood.