Visiting the Eiffel Tower: Highlights, Tips & Tours
One of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel) symbolizes Paris. Before arriving here, visitors have a vivid image of this monument as seen in a postcard, movie, or on a keychain, yet the Eiffel Tower still manages to amaze. This masterpiece of architectural achievement soars to a height of 320 meters. A feat of ingenuity, the structure of 8,000 metallic parts is held together by 2.5 million rivets. Despite its massive weight, the Eiffel Tower has an airy lattice construction with the seeming lightness of a ballerina on point. The graceful tower is also known as the "Iron Lady."
Gustave Eiffel created the tower as a temporary exhibit for the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) in 1889. At the time, it was considered an eyesore. Prominent writers and artists, including Charles Garnier and Alexandre Dumas, protested against its presence. Though the tower was only intended to last for 20 years, its usefulness as a radio antenna ensured its survival. The Eiffel Tower has become the most recognized feature of the Paris skyline, and for tourists a visit is one of the most popular things to do in the city.
Four massive pillars at the base support the entire weight of the 320-meter-tall, 10,100-ton tower. The engineer, Gustave Eiffel, decided to build his monument from metal rather than heavy stone that was used during his time to construct churches, the tallest monuments of the day. Because the tower's weight is so well-distributed throughout the framework, the base succeeds at securing the monument even in extreme winds. At the ground level, the pressure exerted is only four kilograms per square centimeter, roughly the same pressure exerted by a normal-sized adult on the seat of a chair.
The gigantic pillars provide a striking first impression, they are much larger than one would expect and are spacious enough to hold a post office (South Pillar) and four elevators. The Ticket Office lies on the Esplanade between the West and South Pillars. There are also souvenir shops and a cafeteria at the foot of the pillars. With your entrance ticket in hand, take one of three elevators from the North Pillar (Pilier Nord), East Pillar (Pilier Est), or West Pillar (Pilier Ouest) to ascend to the first level. (The Southern Pillar is a private elevator to the Jules Vernes restaurants). Enjoy an exciting elevator ride or walk up to the first level.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Eiffel Tower
Take the elevator or walk up 360 steps to the First Level, which offers excellent views of Paris monuments (although the panoramas are not as sweeping as at the higher levels). This level gives visitors a good sense of the tower's open-air metallic structure. At an altitude of 57 meters, the viewing platform features transparent floor and glass pavilions to showcase the sensational panoramas. More than 2,000 square meters of outdoor viewing space allow for relaxing and enjoying the scene.
This level has public restrooms, a gift shop, museum, an exhibition celebrating the tower's 120th birthday, and the Cineiffel Theater with an educational movie filled with fascinating facts about the Eiffel Tower's history. There is even a post office that will stamp your mail with a special postmark. A circular gallery offers stunning views and includes Panoramic Tables, viewpoints that allow visitors to locate specific monuments in Paris.
Enjoy lunch or dinner in this incredible setting at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. Lunch is casual, served picnic-style; dinner is a more formal brasserie experience featuring traditional French cuisine. Another option is the cafeteria that is open for lunch and serves a selection of snacks, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastries.
At an altitude of 115 meters, the second level offers the best views of the Paris cityscape. The buildings along the Seine River can be easily distinguished (whereas on the top level, the sights appear so small in the distance). To reach the second floor, take the elevator or walk up 704 steps from the ground level. The second level has public restrooms, souvenir shops, and a cafeteria similar to the one on the first level. There is also a Story Window that describes the Eiffel Tower's construction and a Vision Well that provides a plunging panoramic view of the sights below, ideal for a photo op (but not for those afraid of heights). Seeking the ultimate Parisian experience? Indulge in a meal at the incomparable Jules Vernes restaurant. This Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant offers the cuisine of renowned French chef Alain Ducasse. Blending classic French culinary heritage with a contemporary twist, the cuisine is as spectacular as the views. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance (several months ahead of time). Take the private lift from the South Pillar that leads directly to the restaurant.
Not for the faint of heart, the top level of the Eiffel Tower stands at a dizzying height of 276 meters. The summit of the Eiffel Tower continues several meters higher with the radio antenna reaching 320 meters. To arrive at the top level, take the elevator from the second level. There are two viewing platforms, one is inside under a roof and the other is in the open air for a thrilling high-altitude sensation. The platforms are more compact than the first and second levels and definitely not suited for those who fear heights. From the viewing platforms, enjoy the stunning panoramic views that extend as far as 70 kilometers on a clear day. Notice how small the other Paris monuments seem from this height. The 70-meter tower of Notre-Dame is 200 meters below this viewing platform.
The top level includes Gustave Eiffel's Office, which appears in its original condition. Wax models show Gustave Eiffel and his daughter Claire meeting with Thomas Edison. From various points on the viewing platforms, Panoramic Maps indicate the most emblematic monuments in Paris along with the height of each building. There is even a Height Gauge chart where visitors can measure their exact altitude.
The Eiffel Tower at Night
To appreciate the different aspects of Paris' most famous landmark, be sure to visit in the evening as well as during the day. The Eiffel Tower is at its most enchanting after sundown when it is illuminated with Golden Lighting that glows from lights placed inside the tower's framework. The effect is truly magical. The Golden Lighting was created by electrician and engineer Pierre Bideau in 1985. Since the millennium, the tower has featured a special light show that is superimposed on the Golden Lighting. Every night, on the hour from sundown until 1am in the morning, a Beacon light is cast in a 360° rotation, and Sparkling Lights glitter for five minutes. The Sparkling Lights system is made up of 20,000 light bulbs and required 25 mountain climbers to install over a five-month period. The budget for this glittering light installation exceeded 4.5 million euros. This Sparkling Light show continues on a daily basis. Energy-efficient six-watt light bulbs reduce the energy consumption, making the show more sustainable.
Best Places for Photos
For those who want the perfect photo of themselves with the Eiffel Tower in the background, there are two excellent options: Across the river from the Eiffel Tower, the Place du Trocadero offers a wonderful viewpoint. Closer to the tower, the Champs de Mars also provides a good background for photos. From either of these locations, it is easy to take photos that will become much-cherished memories of the visit. The ideal time to take a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower is in the morning or late afternoon.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Eiffel Tower
- Tours of the Eiffel Tower: Skip the entry lines, which can be as long as four hours, on a two-hour Eiffel Tower Priority Access Ticket with Host tour that whisks you straight to the elevators for a leisurely look at the landmarks of Paris as you learn some of their history from your guide. Or you can combine several top tourist attractions on a four-hour Paris City Tour, Seine River Cruise, and Eiffel Tower, an excellent introduction to the city as you see and learn about landmarks such as the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe from your air-conditioned coach and view others from a relaxing cruise boat, ending with panoramic views from the Eiffel Tower's second level.
- Tickets: Prices vary depending on the type of visit. An elevator ticket allows visits to the first and second floors. The price increases if it includes a visit to the top floor. To avoid waiting in line, you can buy tickets online at least one day before your visit.
- Avoiding the Crowds: With seven million visitors a year, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most-visited monuments in the world, so lines can be hours long. They are shortest before 9am, after 6pm (in summer, the Eiffel Tower is open later in the evening), and off season.
- Climbing the Eiffel Tower: You can skip the elevator lines by taking the stairs, saving a few euros as well. Keep in mind that there are 360 steps to the first level and another 344 steps (for a total of 704 steps) to the second level. The top level is not accessible by stairs.
- Watch Your Valuables: Pickpockets know that this is the top tourist attraction in Paris, and unfortunately, thefts occur here, especially in the crowded areas and elevators. Be sure to attach a camera strap to avoid dropping it from the viewing platforms.
- Accessibility: All three levels are accessible by elevator.
- Getting to the Eiffel Tower: Take the Metro to Bir-Hakeim or Trocadéro station or the RER to the Champs de Mars - Tour Eiffel station. Take bus 82 or 42 to the Tour Eiffel stop, or take 82, 87, or 69 to the Champs de Mars stop. The Batobus on the Seine River drops passengers off at the Port de la Bourdonnais, within easy walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. The most convenient parking is at the Quai Branly parking lot, 300 meters away from the Eiffel Tower.
• Champ de Mars, 75007 Paris