The Eiffel Tower is an iconic symbol of Paris. During your visit to the City of Lights, you will glimpse this magnificent tower from many places. You will spot it from the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Latin Quarter. As you stroll along the Seine, you’ll look up and see the Eiffel Tower.
If you’re like me, you won’t be satisfied with seeing the Eiffel Tower from far away -- you’ll also want to see it up close and go inside. The tower hosts about seven million visitors a year, so you’ll want to know how to keep from getting caught in long lines and crowds.
Here are a few things to know before you go to make your visit to this landmark smooth and memorable.
1. Read Up On The Tower’s History
If you know the basics of the Eiffel Tower’s history, your visit will mean more to you.
The tower was built for the Paris Exposition of 1889, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Gustave Eiffel headed up construction, finishing the tower in just over two years.
The design is complicated and intricate, far more than it appears from a distance. More than two million rivets hold the metal together. These metal pieces, each so small, work together to hold up the massive structure.
The original plan was to destroy the Eiffel Tower 20 years after the Paris Exposition. Eiffel wanted to preserve his tower, and he figured out a way to save his pet project. He argued that the Eiffel Tower could serve as a place for astronomical and weather observations. It could serve as a telegraph communications point. It would be perfect for studies of the wind. Eiffel put it this way: “It will be for everyone an observatory and a laboratory the likes of which has never before been available to science.”
So, the Eiffel Tower exists today because of its scientific contributions. These include services as a wireless transmitter site during World War I, and later, as a place for radio and television broadcasting.
2. Know How You’ll Get There
If you are walking or taking public transportation, figure out your route ahead of time. You want to be sure to arrive at your appointed ticket time. You also want to avoid getting lost. Even though you will see the Eiffel Tower clearly, navigating the streets around it can be confusing.
For the Metro, take lines 6, 8, or 9. RER C is the closest train. The Eiffel Tower website details all the options and provides a helpful map.
3. Don’t Rush
The Eiffel Tower is truly gigantic. It’s 1,000 feet tall, with four substantial legs anchoring it to the ground. This means that you will want to allow time to explore rather than just planning for a quick walk by it. A lovely park and pond are located right under one of the legs. Give yourself a few hours to walk around and under the structure. As you walk up to it and later walk away, pause and enjoy the different viewpoints. In other words, don’t rush.
4. Buy Tickets Online If You Want To Take The Lift
You can either walk up into the tower or take the lift. If you want to ride up, it’s best to buy your tickets online before your visit. Emailed tickets will be time-stamped and show the names of everyone in your party. Show up 15 minutes before your assigned time, and you will likely board the lift in short order.
If you wait to buy tickets until your visit, you risk waiting in line for a long time. I’ve been in both bitter cold and searing heat, and I was so thankful I had tickets and could skip waiting an hour or longer outside.
5. Decide In Advance Which Levels You Want To Visit
The lift goes to three levels. You can choose to go up only as high as the second level. The Eiffel Tower website explains these in detail and labels them “Explore,” “Amazement,” and “Vertigo.”
If you have issues with heights, choose the second-level ticket. The views are astounding, even if you’re not at the top. I’ve been to all three and love being very high, with only the antennae above, looking down at the tiny buildings of Paris.
The First Level
A bistro on the first level is convenient for a snack, lunch, or a cold drink. The first level also features an exhibit where you can learn about the history of the Eiffel Tower.
An interesting display here shows a section of the original orange spiral staircase.
The Second Level
Here you are high enough to marvel at the view. Move around 360 degrees to see the different parts of the city. You can easily pick out landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. The glittering gold dome is Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. Be prepared for a windy time, and enjoy the magnificent sights.
This level offers a buffet restaurant and a gift shop. I bought souvenirs for my family here and later told them their treasures were from inside the Eiffel Tower. They were impressed!
The Third Level
When the lift whisks you up to the third level, you will feel like you are on top of the world. The scenery below is the main draw here, along with the office of the builder of the tower, Gustave Eiffel.
6. Consider Climbing The Stairs To The Second Level
From the ground, you can climb 700 stairs to the second-level platform. That might sound like a lot, but you can stop all along the route. Going slowly up into the tower allows you to take in the views all around at any height. Also, you are in the structure, so you can study the metal girdings and rivets as long as you’d like as you catch your breath.
I was lucky to spy a man harnessed to the tower, hanging far above the ground, hard at work. Not many would be brave enough for that task!
Tickets to walk up can only be purchased at the tower. The lines are generally short, so if you haven’t bought lift tickets already, this is a good option.
7. Take Note Of The Color
The Eiffel Tower is currently three shades of brown; the lighter tones are higher up, which enhances the tower's silhouette in the Paris sky. Every seven years, 60 tons of paint are required to repaint the Iron Lady. So far, the tower has been painted 18 times. When presented to Paris to commemorate the French Revolution, the tower was painted red. It was once yellow, and now it is 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 spreads out just beneath the Eiffel Tower. Take a picnic lunch and relax with this superb Paris view in your line of sight.
The Trocadero Gardens on the other side of the tower provide a lovely place from which to view the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop for the Fountain of Warsaw.
9. Visit Again At Night
At night, the Eiffel Tower sparkles with lights for 5 minutes on the hour, every hour. This is a sight you must see when you’re in Paris. I’ve been entranced by this light show while eating a pasta dinner and sipping wine at a sidewalk cafe. And I’ve glided by the Eiffel Tower in a boat on the Seine just as the lights started up. You will always remember these scenes.
10. Check The Weather Before You Go
Check the weather the day before you plan to go. If the forecast is for a foggy or rainy day, reschedule your trip (unless you already have online tickets). Wait to go when you have the best chance for good views. Fog will often clear by midday.
With a little planning, you will be able to thoroughly enjoy your visit to this historic monument. Once you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower in person, you’ll likely want to return. The tower recently celebrated its 130th anniversary, so you can count on it being there for many more years.