The Avenue des Champs-Élysées () is the most prestigious avenue in Paris. With its cinemas, cafés, and luxury specialty shops, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, and with rents as high as $1.50 million a year for 1000 square feet (92.9 square meters) of space, it remains the most expensive strip of real estate in Europe. The name is French for Elysian Fields, the place of the blessed in Greek mythology.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is known in France as La plus belle avenue du monde ("The most beautiful avenue in the world"). The arrival of global chain stores in recent years has slightly changed its character, and in a first effort to stem these changes, the Paris City government (which has called this trend "banalization") decided in 2007 to ban the Swedish clothing chain H&M from opening a store on the avenue.
The avenue runs for 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) through the 8th arrondissement in northwestern Paris, from the Place de la Concorde in the east, with its obelisk, to the Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly the Place de l'Étoile) in the west, location of the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-Élysées forms part of the Axe historique. One of the principal tourist destinations in Paris, the lower part of the Champs-Élysées is bordered by greenery (Marigny Square) and by buildings such as the Théâtre Marigny and the Grand Palais (containing the Palais de la Découverte). The Elysée Palace is a little bit to the north, but not on the avenue itself. Further to the west, the avenue is lined with cinemas, cafés and restaurants (most notably Fouquet's), and luxury specialty shops.
The Champs-Elysées were originally fields and market gardens, until 1616, when Marie de Medici decided to extend the garden axis of the Palais des Tuileries with an avenue of trees. As late as 1716, Guillaume de L'Isle's map of Paris shows that a short stretch of roads and fields and market garden plots still separated the grand axe of the Tuileries gardens from the planted "Avenue des Thuilleries", which was punctuated by a circular basin where the Rond Point stands today; already it was planted with some avenues of trees radiating from it that led to the river through woods and fields. In 1724, the Tuileries garden axis and the avenue were connected and extended, leading beyond the Place de l'Étoile; the "Elysian Fields" were open parkland flanking it, soon filled in with bosquets of trees formally planted in straight rank and file. To the east the unloved and neglected "Vieux Louvre" (as it is called on the maps), still hemmed in by buildings, was not part of the axis. In a map of 1724, the Grande Avenue des Champs-Elisée stretches west from a newly-cleared Place du Pont Tournant soon to be renamed for Louis XV and now the Place de la Concorde.
By the late 1700s, the Champs-Elysées had become a fashionable avenue; the bosquet plantings on either side had thickened enough to be given formal rectangular glades (cabinets de verdure). The gardens of houses built along the Faubourg St-Honoré backed onto the formal bosquets. The grandest of them was the Élysée Palace. A semi-circle of housefronts now defined the north side of the Rond Point. Queen Marie Antoinette drove with her friends and took music lessons at the grand Hôtel de Crillon on the Place Louis XV. The avenue from the Rond Point to the Etoile was built up during the Empire. The Champs-Elysées itself became city property in 1828, and footpaths, fountains, and gas lighting were added. Over the years, the avenue has undergone numerous transitions, most recently in 1994, when the sidewalks were widened.
The Avenue des Champs-Elysées, because of its size and proximity to several Parisian landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, has been the site of several notable military parades, the most infamous of which were the march of German troops celebrating the Fall of France on June 14, 1940 and the subsequent entrance of Free French and American forces into the city after its liberation on August 25, 1944.
Because of the high rents, few people live on the Champs-Élysées; the upper stories tend to be occupied by offices. Rents are particularly high on the north side of the avenue, because of better exposure to sunlight. The splendid architecture of the grandiose "Champs-Élysées" is admired by many people. The avenue is located right next to the Palais de l'Élysée, the presidential palace, with its rounded gate, and the Grand Palais that was erected in the late 19th century. While walking among the gardens and tree-lined promenades one could even encounter an open-air marionette theatre for children, a French tradition popular through the ages.
Finally, the avenue is one of the most famous streets for shopping in the world. Adidas, Benetton, the Disney Store, Nike, Zara,Cartier, Bel Air Fashion, continental Europe's largest Gap and Virgin Megastore as well as Sephora occupy major spaces. Traditionally home of luxury brands, the Avenue des Champs Elysées confirms its world-class appeal as a prime real estate location: it has lately seen the opening of new big upscale shops such as the biggest Louis Vuitton department store in the world, which even hosts an exhibition room.
Every year from end of November to end of December, the 'Champs-Élysees' Committee contribute for the Holidays seasons lighting of the Champs-Élysees.