Located at the foot of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, the Place de la Concorde was designed by Jacques Ange Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Gardens to the east. Filled with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the then king. At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Divided by the rue Royale, these structures are among the best examples of that period's architecture and remain there to this day. Initially they served as government offices and the eastern one continues as the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the western building was made into the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon (still operating today) where Marie Antoinette soon spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons. The hôtel also served as the headquarters of the occupying German army during World War II.
During the French Revolution the statue of King Louis XV was torn down and the area renamed "Place de la Révolution". In a grim reminder to the nobility of a gruesome past, when the "Place des Grèves" was a site where the nobility and members of the bourgeoisie were entertained watching convicted criminals being dismembered alive, the new revolutionary government erected the guillotine on January 21, 1793. In a frenzy of activity 1,343 heads were lopped off later in May of that year including that of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The square ran red and was filled with the stench of blood. Also guillotined there were notables such as Madame du Barry, Danton, Laviosier, and Robespierre. They were all beheaded in front of cheering crowds. With the "Reign of Terror" subsiding, by 1795 the government began calling it Place de la Concorde (French for concord) and in 1830 the name was made official.
Today, the gruesome history of Place de la Concorde is lost behind the daily hordes of motor vehicles rushing past a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. Egypt presented the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1836, and King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde. The red granite column rises 23metres high, including the base, and weighs over 250tonnes. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, in 1998 the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk.
The obelisk lies in the line of the axe historique. The United States embassy is located just off the square in the northwest corner, west of the Hôtel de Crillon. To the north lies the Ste Marie Madeleine.
Without warning, in 2000, French urban climber, Alain "Spiderman" Robert, using only his bare hands and feet and with no safety devices of any kind, scaled the obelisk all the way to the top. Robert has scaled more than 70 giant structures around the globe, including the World's tallest structures.