The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the nineteenth century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.
The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1829. It arrived in Paris on 21 December 1833. Three years later, on 25 October 1836, King Louis Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.
The obelisk, a red granite column, rises 23 metres (75 ft) high, including the base, and weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons). Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machinery that was used for the transportation. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by fountains constructed at the time of its erection on the Place.
Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.