Few structures in the world are as easily identifiable and iconic as the Eiffel Tower. Built in 1889 for the 1889 World’s Fair, it has become an image of Paris and of France.
The Eiffel Tower’s official website is excellent and has pretty much anything you’d like to know about it: history, architecture, and of course the practicalities like visiting hours. Here’s the tl;dr for your visit:
- The tower is open 9 to midnight in the summer, 9:30 to 23:00 the rest of the year.
- Pricing varies greatly and ranges from 3EUR to take the stairs to the second floor (for children 4-11 as well as disabled persons) to 17EUR to take the elevator to the top (adult price). You can buy your ticket online, but only if you’re taking the elevator all the way. Online tickets also require that you choose a time of entry, and if you’re more than 30 minutes late, you may forfeit your entrance.
- To get to the Eiffel Tower, you can take a bus, train, or even a boat. The easiest way is by metro (which is the mode of transport you’ll likely use the most). Closest stops are Bir-Hakeim on Line 6, Trocadero on Line 9, or Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel on RER Line C.
We chose not to go the online route simply because we weren’t sure what day and time we would be visiting the tower. We decided to check it out after we explored Notre Dame, with the idea that we would climb up just before sunset and thus enjoy the tower both in the daytime and at night.
This was a good plan, until we reached the tower and saw the long, long lines of people. Eiffel Tower attracts about 7 million tourists annually. Expect lines to get in. Prepare for it. And be clever.
We immediately deployed our typical divide-and-conquer tactic. David joined a line after checking that it was truly one to buy tickets and enter (as opposed to one where you present your pre-paid pass… you’d be surprised how often people get in the wrong line just because they automatically want to be in a line). I went on a fact-finding expedition: was there only one line? (No, there were two.) Of all the lines available to us, which was the quickest? (The one on the far side of the tower, away from the “main” ticket window, which led up the stairs and not the lift).
If you’re at all physically fit, take the stairs. They’re cheaper, they’re not as tiring as you think (704 steps at your own pace), and the lines are shorter. The stairs only go up to the second floor, and if you want to get to the top, you will need to take an elevator. However, during our visit, they were no longer selling tickets to the very top. So if that’s a must for you, arrive earlier in the day or buy your ticket online.
The view from the second level was amazing enough and we enjoyed the climb. It was also very interesting to be in the tower (whether in the stairwell or on the second level) during the five minutes when the entire tower sparkles. Definitely stay long enough to see this light show! Every hour on the hour, 20,000 low wattage bulbs randomly light up all over the tower. It’s pretty amazing!
At the end of the evening, hang out on the grass of Champ de Mars. Many people spread a blanket and pop open a bottle of wine or champagne as they watch for the sparkling lights. Some enterprising individuals sell champagne and roses, if you happen to not be prepared.
The Eiffel Tower was an amazing sight in the daytime and especially at night, and it’s definitely a must-visit for any visitor to Paris.