Pros:Spectacular views, fun experience, ice skating in winter, dining anytime!
Cons:Frequently long lines for tickets and elevators
The Bottom Line: The Eiffel Tower is Paris's most recognized, famous and popular landmark. It's also fun, interesting and an absolute "must see"!
The dude built bridges, he studied aerodynamics in an age before airplanes, but of all his accomplishments, the one that Gustave Eiffel is best known for is his design of the Eiffel Tower --- France's most internationally famous and most visited landmark.
The Tower was built for the 1889 World's Fair, but romantic hearts always feel that Eiffel and his cohorts built the tower for them alone. I can't imagine anyone wanting to visit Paris without also wanting to go to the top of the tower. It would be as sacriligeous as going to Oktoberfest in Munich and ordering a Bud Light, or going to Indianapolis in May without getting an adrenaline rush over at their justly famous Speedway. It would be something that no civilized human could justify.
I'm not always into "tourist hotspots", and truth be told, I can be a jaded, cynical kind of guy. But even my black heart can't resist being melted by the romance and excitement of a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Of course I visited (several times, in fact). Of course I rode to the top. And of course I absolutely LOVED IT!
Some Interesting Factoids...
I was fascinated by the look and feel of the Eiffel Tower. I loved its graceful curves, intricate ironwork structure, and its fascinating history. Before visiting, I didn't realize that it was the tallest building in the world when it was initially constructed at almost twice the height of the previous record-holder --- the Washington Monument. Of course I've seen photos of the tower ever since I was a kid. The tower is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world and I don't think it's possible for a visitor to ever truly arrive in Paris and see it "for the first time". Instead, what the first visit does is change your perspective and give you a new-found appreciation for what Eiffel was able to erect.
The tower rises up more than 1,000 feet into the air (312 meters, to be exact).
As you walk around the observation decks on the various levels of the tower, you'll see posters and plaques exhibited that explain how the tower was built and how it was received by the Paris public when it was built. I thought it strange that so many individuals were critical of it --- but then, I suppose leaders of any ilk wouldn't *be* leaders if they let their visions be constrained by public opinion, would they?
Gustave Eiffel had perfected his structural technique in building arches and towers through a number of projects built over the preceding decade. Supposedly, the lower structure of the Eiffel Tower closely resembles the arches Eiffel designed for the Garabit Viaduct. Viaduct? Vy not?
The breath got knocked out of me when I read the one about the stairs and ladders of the tower. While it's well known that visitors can climb the 700 or so stairs up to the Eiffel Tower's 2nd level, what isn't widely known is that there's stairs going all the way up to the top level. Guess it makes sense, after all, if the elevator breaks down, all those tourists up there are going to need a "Plan B" to get back down --- the stairs are that plan. There's actually 1,665 steps in total --- so if you're out of breath from going up or down 700 stairs to the 2nd level, just imagine the burn in your thighs and lungs if you had to more than double it!!
The View From On High...
The Eiffel Tower is the highest point in Paris and from the upper-most deck, you can see for miles as the city stretches out before you. The views are simply magnificent! You can look down the city's broad avenues towards parks in the distance. You can watch boats cruising slowly under bridges on the Seine River below.
Don't make the mistake of going only to the top though. The views are outstanding from up there --- no doubt about it --- but it can be hard to pick out details and to get a real feel for Paris, plus there's a kind of light funky grey cloud on a still afternoon, so your photos won't look all that exceptional. But spend some time on the 2nd level and you'll get some of the spectacular "vista" shots that Paris is known for.
On a January evening, the outer walkway on the top level is a pretty chilly place to be. The temperature was about 2-3 degrees celsius cooler than at the base, but there's absolutely zero shelter from the winds. Even though it wasn't all that cold out, we were glad we had our heavier winter jackets with us once we felt the cutting chill at the top.
My mind boggles at the thought of having an ice rink on one of the observation decks of the Eiffel Tower, but such a thing does indeed exist. Not up at the top, oh no, but down on the lower (1st level) deck just a couple hundred feet above ground level. Best of all, you can skate for free (including free rentals) once you pay any of the admission fees (including the el cheap-o 5 euro fee to climb the steps). Did somebody say "free"?? My ears are dancing a samba of ecstasy at the sound of that beautiful word! If you're visiting Paris in January (as we were), and are looking for an inexpensive and very fun evening activity, climb the steps one level to the skate rink and do something you DEFINITELY can't do back home in Podunk Idaho!!! The rink is small, but oh so much fun! They also have a snack bar selling hot chocolate and hot mulled wine. What a great experience....I feel so French I want to go buy a beret!
The Tower By Night...
Even if you go to the top of the tower during the day, you owe it to yourself to come back at night and experience the magic of the structure as it seems to glow from the lighting. There's also a spectacular light show in the evenings and you really don't want to miss it.
The Eiffel Tower is located in the heart of downtown Paris in the 7th arrondissement. You'll have no trouble finding it since it can be seen from almost anyplace you might find yourself in central Paris. If you're getting around Paris via Metro, use Line 6 and exit at Trocadero, go through the gardens and take many photos of the spectacular view as seen through a mist of fountains. If you're getting around Paris via RER, take Line C to Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel.
The tower is open from 9am to 11pm. Expect to wait in line, especially if the weather is nice and/or you're visiting during the peak spring/summer months. When we visited in January, the lines weren't bad...but then, most tourists don't go to Paris in January. You'll have to buy a ticket to ride the elevators. It's 8 euros to the 2nd level, but of course everyone visiting Paris (especially for the first time) wants to go to the top, and that ticket will run you 14 euros (about 1-2 euros less for students and about 4 euros less for little kids). Yeah, it's a little pricey for an elevator ride, but the view *IS* the very best in Paris, the tower is a fascinating landmark in its own right, and its a heck of a lot of fun. Once you've done the elevator to the top, it can be fun on subsequent visits to use the stairs. You're limited to the tower's lower levels, but it's a cheap 5 euro ticket and a fun way to put some workout time into your tourism day.
Official information (mercifully free of my humorous interpretation) is online: www.tour-eiffel.fr (You can also buy your elevator tickets here, which will save you the aggravation of waiting in the excessively long, badly managed line.
Eat Drink and Get Heavy....
There are 2 major restaurants in the Eiffel Tower, and dining in the tower's two dining rooms is de rigeur for some tower fanatics. 58 Tour Eiffel is on the first level, Jules Verne on the 2nd level. If you want to eat there, you can make a restaurant reservation online: http://www.restaurants-toureiffel.com
Best reason to do so: restaurant patrons can cut the elevator line.
You've seen the Eiffel Tower in movies and magazines. You know you want to reach out and touch its mesmerizing metal superstructure and you yearn to ride the elevators to the top, and look out across the grey and red rooftops of France's beautiful capital city. Just do it!! It is TOTALLY worth it!
You Read the Review, Now See the Photos!
I often put my travel photos online for others to enjoy. My photos of the Eiffel Tower (starring mrkstvns junior as the ham for the camera) are on Webshots. Take a look!
Other Paris Landmarks...
Here's a couple other reviews of Paris landmarks that you might enjoy reading:
* Sacre Couer
* Arc de Triomphe
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Mar - May