Once called the most beautiful avenue in the world, the Champs-Élysées has seen a number of France
's most important historical events. Originally a wasteland
outside the city limits, today it is one of Paris
's best-known business district
s and a center for nightlife
The Champs-Élysées was first outlined by André Ours in 1670, during his planning for the Tuileries Gardens. At that time, it was called the Grand-Cours ("Great Road"), and ran from the Tuileries to just before the Grand Égout ("Great Sewer"). Meant as a promenade for the wealthy, the Grand-Cours was lined with a double row of elm trees on each side and occasionally called the Champs-Élysées ("Elysian Fields," after the Roman vision of paradise). In 1710, the Duke of Antin created a bridge over the Grand Égout, lengthening the Grand-Cours up to the Butte de Chaillot. In 1774, the road was widened and lengthened by the Marquis of Marigny, who stretched the avenue to the Seine. Unfortunately, Ours's hopes of a century previous had not been realized, and the Champs-Élysées was unsafe and unpopular; a guard post was established at the Chaillot in 1777. At the beginning of the French Revolution, the Champs-Élysées began to host a number of historical events. In 1789 it carried angry women to Versailles so they could demand bread from the King, and in 1791 the party that captured King Louis XVI returned him to Paris via the same road. Later that same year, a hot air balloon left the street level to celebrate the proclamation of the Constitution; its pilot leafleted the area with copies of the new document. By this time a few hotels, restaurants, and bars had opened along the north side of the street and the nearby Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré; development slowed at the turn of the century until the Champs-Élysées was paved and lit with gas lamps. Suddenly a number of cabarets opened, and the area developed into a destination for members of high society under the Second Empire. Napoleon ordered fairs and parties held along the avenue, and distributed food there until the resulting riots forced the distribution into private homes. In 1840, his funeral procession passed along the Champs-Élysées before a crowd of more than 100,000 onlookers.
Today, the Champs-Élysées sits in the eighth district and runs from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle (also known as the Place de l'Étoile). It hosted France's bicentennial parade in 1989, and in 1994 was largely renovated to improve its general character. On Bastille Day, military processions parade along the avenue, and it is also the destination for the final stage of the Tour de France bike race. Primarily a business area during the day, at night it is dominated by clubs and cinemas. A few tourist attractions are in the area, including the Office of Tourism of Paris and several buildings from the 1890 World's Fair, and gardens can be seen along most of the Champs-Élysées. Various parts of the street are accessible from several Métro stops, including Charles de Gaulle/Étoile, Georges V, Franklin D Roosevelt, Champs-Élysées/Clemenceau, and Concorde.