The Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile (Arch of Triumph of the Star) is a iconic piece in Paris. It is actually one of several arcs in Paris. This arc is part of the Axe historique (English: is a line of monuments, buildings and thoroughfares that extends from the centre of Paris to the west. It is also known as the Voie Triomphale (“triumphal way”).
This arc stands in Place Charles de Gaulle, which used to be called Place de l’Etoile. Napoleon told his soldiers after the battle of Austerlitz in 1806 that he would build an arch for them to march home after victories. Napoleon was inspired by this idea because of his avid interest in ancient Rome. The arch was intended to be placed on the site of the Bastile, which is where the soldiers entered the city when they returned from the wars. Instead this spot was found to be open and was chose for the location. The architects Chalgrin and Raymond took their inspiration for the arch from the Arch of Titus in Rome.
The arch underwent a 30 year construction period from 1806-1836. It honors fallen soldiers and officers of the Napoleon and revolutionary wars. The arch also contains the tomb of the unknown solider. The solider has been buried their since 1921, his remains were first interred at the Pantheon. The flame of remembrance was lit 11 November 1923 and has remained lit since then. Every day at 6:30pm there is a rekindling ceremony that is by 1 of 900 associations of former soldiers/officers. This ceremony still took place under the occupation of Germany during WWII. The arch has and still does remain an important symbol to the people of France. Charles de Gaulle entered Paris and marched down the Champs-Elyeese and laid a flowered cross at the Tomb of the unknown solider in 1944. It also still plays an important part of the national celebrations every year: 8 May; 11 November; and the 14 July.
I personally think that the arc provides some of the best views of the city. I highly recommend visiting. You have to climb some stairs to reach the top, but the views are lovely.
I particularly recommend going to the top while dusk is coming. It is especially something to do for your first evening in Paris. There is a small fee to go to the top, but children are free.