It was only supposed to be a temporary structure, but the wrought-iron icon has become as much part of the fabric as the River Seine.
Designed as the red-painted centerpiece of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution, the tower was meant to be dismantled after 20 years — much to the relief of Parisian artists and intellectuals who protested the “monstrous” blight on the elegant city skyline.
Luckily for us, the edifice proved indispensable for scientific experiments (such as early radio transmissions) and the edifice — all 10,000 tons of it — has stood the test of time.
Did you know that con man Victor Lustig once “sold” the landmark to a scrap-metal dealer? Not once, but twice? And that Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower, kept a private office at the top, welcoming guests like Thomas Edison? (The inventor arrived bearing gifts: a gramophone, what else?)
Often imitated but never duplicated, the Eiffel Tower has inspired numerous copycats. There are miniversions all over the globe — from Prague to Shenzhen, not to mention Sin City. But there’s only one original, and you can’t come to Paris without going to the top. A visit is de rigeur.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks.
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
Planning your visit
The Eiffel Tower is open every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to midnight in summer (mid-June to late August) and from 9:30 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. the rest of the year.
If you’re the spontaneous type and don’t want to plan ahead, keep in mind that it’s best to avoid weekends and the period between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Another option for sportifs is to walk up the stairs (count them, 704 steps to level two), as the line is always shorter. This is a great workout, and also provides perspective on the tower’s construction with interesting information boards along the way — not to mention the bird’s-eye views.
Avoid third-party resellers, who often mark up the price heftily.
And then keep an eye on the news. Workers at the tower have been known to go on strike, most recently in August 2018 and June 2013.
Arrival by metro at Trocadéro (lines 6, 9) affords the opportunity to gape at the Iron Lady from a privileged vantage point above the Seine. This is also a top spot for watching the Bastille Day fireworks and the dazzling show when the Eiffel Tower sparkles on the hour. From here, it’s a 15-minute walk across the Pont d’Iéna.
The Eiffel Tower stands on the south bank of the River Seine.
BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images
Alternatively, the Bir-Hakeim metro station (line 6) is a 10-minute walk along the Quai Branly, and the École Militaire metro station (line 8) is 15 minutes away.
The Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel stop on the RER C line is the closest. Be sure to check for station and route closings and repairs before you head to the tower.
Did you know?
The Eiffel Tower isn’t immune to rumors — some true (oui! a zipline was set up during the French Open), and others false (non! a wall is not set to go up around the landmark).
The best way to get the inside scoop, and hear insightful anecdotes, is with a private guide.
The guide will also point out interesting features not usually visible to visitors, such as the new wind turbines, camouflaged with the same paint color as the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower steals the show on Instagram as one of the most photographed attractions in the world, and you can always get a gorgeous photo from many points throughout the city.
Popular spots for snapping pics of the Eiffel Tower include the Trocadéro and the Champ de Mars.
Her other tip is the Square Rapp, which “offers an original view of the Eiffel Tower between two buildings.”
The Normandy-born photographer also suggests the Rue Saint-Dominique, when you’re walking from Invalides to the Champ de Mars; the top of the Sacré-Cœur basilica; and the top of the Arc de Triomphe because of its relative proximity to the Eiffel Tower and the impressive panoramas.
Where to eat nearby
A note to diners: In Paris, it’s always best to call/email ahead for reservations. If you didn’t get a chance to do that, the famous Rue Cler market street is also a stone’s throw away, and you can pick up picnic items at the specialty food stores lining this pedestrianized thoroughfare.
This article was first published in August 2017 and updated in March 2019.