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Le Voyage de l'Obélisque

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Why you will love it?

Most Parisians and visitors walk around the beautiful Place de la Concorde, the biggest square in Paris at the junction between the famous Champs-Elysées avenue and the Jardin des Tuileries, noticing the obelisk in the middle, yet not realizing the incredible story behind this Egyptian wonder, the oldest monument in Paris to this day.

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About this place

Musée de la Marine - 17 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016 Paris
Line 6 / 9 - Trocadéro

Thursday : 11:00 am - 18:00 pm
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Monday : 11:00 am - 18:00 pm Tuesday : Closed Wednesday : 11:00 am - 18:00 pm Thursday : 11:00 am - 18:00 pm Friday : 11:00 am - 18:00 pm Saturday : 11:00 am - 19:00 pm Sunday : 11:00 am - 19:00 pm

Our Insiders' Article


Located at the very end of the Musée de la Marine (Marine Museum), the exhibition on the voyage of the Luxor (Egypt) obelisk to Paris is very interesting, both for its historical angle and the interactivity proposed. It is a small exhibition (only 1 large room), but there are many paintings and models to clearly understand the extreme engineering used to unearth, transport and erect the Luxor Obelisk.


The ancient Egyptian obelisks are tall, four-sided monoliths with a pyramid shaped tip. They were carved in a single rock, a technical prowess at the time since tools used 3000 years ago were very basic. Legend says that the god Atoum-Re, the sun God, appeared in this form (representing a solid ray of sunlight), and many temples of ancient Egyptian temples (Karnak, Luxor) had these obelisks at the entrance. This is why the pyramid shaped tip of the obelisks is generally covered in gold. Once erected, the monoliths were then sculpted by craftsmen with the famous Egyptian hieroglyphs


The race was on between England and Paris to get a beautiful obelisk of ancient Egypt and the sights were on those at the entrance of Luxor temple. The Vice King of Egypt, Mehemet Ali finally decides to give the 2 obelisks to France in 1830, as a token of thanks for the works of Jean-François Champollion, the father of Egyptology and hieroglyphs decipherer.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Champollion managed to convince both the Vice King and the English that the French should get the Luxor obelisks and the English the Alexandria obelisks, knowing very well that the latter was simply not possible to transport!


Although the French were given the 2 obelisks, the plan was to take only 1 in 1831 and have another expedition take the other one later. It took the state-of-the-art engineering knowledge of Apollinaire Lebas to remove and transport the 222 ton and 23 meter tall obelisk. The Luxor, a specially conceived ship, was used to transport the obelisk on the Nile River, and with the help of the Sphinx, a tug boat, it sailed all the way to the entrance of the Seine River in Le Havre, a journey that lasted almost 2 years.

Parisianist Fun Fact: the motors of the Sphinx burned approximately 300kg of coal per hour, and its speed was 13km per hour. 


The Luxor reached Paris by sailing the Seine River in December 1933. By the time it reached the Pont de la Concorde (the Concorde Bridge), the plans to arrange the square were not yet approved. The obelisk was therefore extracted from the ship only 6 months later, and it was not before October 25th 1836 that the obelisk was finally erected on the Place de la Concorde.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Debate was fierce as to where the Obelisk should be erected. A few areas were mentioned (the Invalides, Concorde, the Pantheon…). In the end, Place de la Concorde was chosen by King Louis-Philippe to give a new neutral image to the square, which previously held the mass executions (guillotine) during the French Revolution.


The exhibition fully illustrates the difficulties and time it took to bring this heavy monument to France in the early 19th century. Models, ancient drawings and paintings are used to clearly explain the different steps of the journey. Each detail had an importance in order to bring the monument in one piece and coordination was pushed to a new level.  Interested or funny details make the visit exciting and captivating. QR codes enable to get all the information via smartphone or tablets, and there is even a special discovery circuit for kids.

Parisianist Fun Fact: it is only very recently that France has officially abandoned the idea to take the second obelisk, therefore giving it back to Egypt.

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