Champs-Élysées is an avenue in northwestern Paris that runs for just over one mile. The street’s name translated from French is “Elysian Fields.” It is bordered on the east by Place de la Concorde where the Obelisk of Luxor stands. To the west is Place Charles de Gaulle. The Arc de Triomphe, honoring French Soldiers of the French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars, was built here. Champs-Élysées is part of the Axe Historique, a series of thoroughfares of buildings and monuments of historical value. It is one of the most famous streets in the world. Certainly the real estate is costly for the luxurious specialty boutiques, cafes and cinemas that line the area. A more apt description in the French language refers to Champs-Élysées as “la plus belle avenue du monde,” meaning “the most beautiful avenue in the world”.
Up until 1616 Champs-Élysées consisted of market gardens and open fields. At that time the Queen of France, Marie de Medici, decided to lengthen the Tuileres Garden by planting trees. The horse chestnut trees which still stand today greatly enhance the natural beauty of the street’s environment. At the time of the extension this avenue was yet to be named Champs-Élysées. This did not occur until 1709.
It took until the late 1700’s for the avenue to become fashionable. It formally became a property of Paris in 1828. At that time gas lighting, fountains and foot paths were added.
The Champs-Élysées also has significance in military history as the site of two major parades. The first was the infamous march of German troops after their occupation of France in June of 1940. However, a very different celebration took place on August 29, 1944 when the country was liberated by soldiers of the United States. The avenue began to grow on a commercial level as early as 1860. In 1916 an association was formed to promote business on the avenue.
There are only few personal residences located on the street today, primarily due to the high rent of these homes. The upper floors of buildings are occupied mostly by offices with many of the first level structures containing upscale shopping facilities. Brands such as Sephora, Cartier, Benetton, Disney and Nike all are represented. Even Toyota has a store there. It also is home to continental Europe’s largest Gap location and the largest space for Adidas anywhere in the world. Other manufactures of goods available here are Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton.
Besides shopping visitors will find a wide array of activities available upon a visit to Champs-Élysées. Just to the north of the avenue is the Elysees Palace. This is the main residence of the President of the French Republic. For musical entertainment there is the Theatre Marigny. For educational purposes there is the Grand Palais, a historical site with a museum and exhibition hall. Other special events include the largest military parade in Europe each year on Bastille Day, the lighting of the avenue at Christmastime and the final stage of the Tour de France.