Eiffel tower

10 things to know before visiting

The Eiffel Tower is an iconic symbol of Paris. During your visit to the City of Light, you will see this magnificent tower from many places. You will see it from the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Latin Quarter. As you walk along the Seine, you will look up and see the Eiffel Tower.

If you’re like me, you won’t just see the Eiffel Tower from afar, you’ll also want to see it up close and step inside. The tower sees around seven million visitors a year, so you’ll want to know how to avoid getting caught in the long lines and crowds.

Here are a few things to know before you go to make your visit to this landmark enjoyable and memorable.

Sharon Odegaard

1. Learn about the history of the tower

If you know the basics of the history of the Eiffel Tower, your visit will interest you more.

The tower was built for the Paris Exposition of 1889, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Gustave Eiffel led the construction, completing the tower in just over two years.

The design is complicated and complex, much more than it seems from afar. More than two million rivets hold the metal together. These metal parts, each so small, work together to support the massive structure.

The original plan was to destroy the Eiffel Tower 20 years after the Paris Expo. Eiffel wanted to preserve his tower and he found a way to save his favorite project. He argued that the Eiffel Tower could serve as a place for astronomical and meteorological observations. It could serve as a telegraph communication point. It would be perfect for wind studies. Eiffel put it this way: “It will be for everyone an observatory and a laboratory as never before has been made available to science.”

Thus, the Eiffel Tower exists today thanks to its scientific contributions. These include services as a wireless transmitter site during World War I, and later as a radio and television broadcasting location.

2. Know how you will get there

If you walk or take public transport, plan your route in advance. You want to be sure to arrive on time for your ticket. You also want to avoid getting lost. Although you will clearly see the Eiffel Tower, navigating the streets around it can be confusing.

For the metro, take lines 6, 8 or 9. RER C is the nearest train. The Eiffel Tower website details all the options and provides a helpful map.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Sharon Odegaard

3. Don’t rush

The Eiffel Tower is truly gigantic. It stands 1,000 feet tall, with four substantial feet anchoring it to the ground. This means you’ll want to allow time for exploring rather than just planning a quick walk. A nice park and a pond are located just under one of the feet. Allow yourself a few hours to wander around and under the structure. As you approach it and move away later, take a break and enjoy the different viewpoints. In other words, don’t rush.

4. Buy tickets online if you want to take the elevator

You can go up the tower or take the elevator. If you want to ride, it’s best to buy your tickets online before your visit. Tickets sent by e-mail will be timestamped and will list the names of all members of your group. Show up 15 minutes before your assigned time and you’ll likely be up in the elevator in no time.

If you wait to buy tickets until your visit, you may end up waiting in line for a long time. I was in both freezing cold and scorching heat, and was so grateful to have tickets and to be able to avoid waiting an hour or more outside.

The first level of the Eiffel Tower.

Sharon Odegaard

5. Decide in advance which levels you want to visit

The elevator serves three levels. You can choose to only go up to the second level. The Eiffel Tower website explains them in detail and labels them “Explore”, “Amazement” and “Vertigo”.

If you have trouble with heights, choose the second level ticket. The views are stunning, even if you’re not at the top. I’ve been in all three and I like being up high, with just the aerials above, looking down at the small buildings in Paris.

The first level

A bistro on the first level is convenient for a snack, lunch or cold drink. The first level also offers an exhibition where you can discover the history of the Eiffel Tower.

An interesting exhibit here shows a section of the original orange spiral staircase.

The second level

Here you are high enough to admire the view. Move 360 ​​degrees to see different parts of the city. You can easily spot monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. The shimmering gold dome is Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. Be prepared for a windy spell and enjoy the magnificent views.

This level offers a buffet restaurant and a gift shop. I bought souvenirs for my family there and later told them that their treasures came from inside the Eiffel Tower. They were impressed!

The third level

When the elevator takes you to the third level, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. The landscape below is the main tableau here, along with the office of the tower’s builder, Gustave Eiffel.

Looking from the base of the Eiffel Tower.

Sharon Odegaard

6. Consider climbing the stairs to the second level

From the ground, you can climb 700 steps to the second level platform. It may seem like a lot, but you can stop along the way. Climbing the tower slowly allows you to enjoy the view all around at any height. Plus, you’re in the structure, so you can study metal beams and rivets for as long as you want while catching your breath.

I was lucky enough to see a man hitched to the tower, suspended high above the ground, working hard. Few people would be brave enough for this task!

Tickets to climb can only be purchased at the tower. Lines are usually short, so if you haven’t purchased lift tickets yet, this is a good option.

7. Take note of the color

The Eiffel Tower is currently three shades of brown; the light tones are higher, which highlights the silhouette of the tower in the Paris sky. Every seven years, 60 tons of paint are needed to repaint the Iron Lady. So far the tower has been painted 18 times. When presented in Paris to commemorate the French Revolution, the tower was painted red. It used to be yellow, and now it’s a specialty color developed in 1968 called “Eiffel Tower Brown”.

8. Enjoy a picnic with a view

The Champ de Mars is a large public lawn that extends just below the Eiffel Tower. Grab a picnic and relax with this great view of Paris in your sights.

The Trocadero Gardens, on the other side of the tower, offer a beautiful place to admire the Eiffel Tower against the backdrop of the Fountain of Warsaw.

Eiffel Tower illuminated at sunset
Illuminated Eiffel Tower (Photo credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

9. Revisit the night

At night, the Eiffel Tower sparkles with lights for 5 minutes every hour, every hour. It is a sight not to be missed when you are in Paris. I was mesmerized by this light show while eating a pasta dinner and sipping wine at a sidewalk cafe. And I slid by the Eiffel Tower in a boat on the Seine just as the lights came on. You will always remember these scenes.

10. Check the weather before you go

Check the weather the day before your departure. If a foggy or rainy day is forecast, reschedule your trip (unless you already have tickets online). Wait to go when you have the best chance of getting good views. The fog will often clear around noon.

With a little planning, you can fully enjoy your visit to this historic monument. Once you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower in person, you’ll probably want to go back. The tower recently celebrated its 130th anniversary, so you can count on it for many years to come.

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