La Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel – © David H. Enzel, 2023

The first time I visited Paris in the mid-1970s, one of my gracious French hosts asked what I wanted to see first. I immediately said the Eiffel Tower. It’s not Paris’s most beautiful monument but nothing speaks Paris more than “la dame de fer” (Iron Lady). Seeing it for the first time sent a shiver down my spine. It’s an icon for a reason.

The Eiffel Tower is a wrought-iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. It was constructed from 1887 to 1889 as the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair. Although initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, it has since become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

The tower received almost 6 million visitors in 2022, up by 197 percent from 2021, when numbers dropped due to the COVID virus. It was designated a monument historique in 1964, and was named part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (“Paris, Banks of the Seine”) in 1991.

The tower is 330 meters (1,083 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and the tallest structure in Paris. Its base is square, measuring 125 meters (410 ft) on each side. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest human-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930. It was the first structure in the world to surpass both the 200-meter and 300-meter mark in height. Due to the addition of a broadcasting aerial at the top of the tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 meters (17 ft).

La Tour Eiffel – © David H. Enzel, 2023

The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. The top level’s upper platform is 276 m (906 ft) above the ground – the highest observation deck accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the climb from the first level to the second, making the entire ascent a 600 step climb. Although there is a staircase to the top level, it is usually accessible only by lift. On this top, third level is a private apartment built for Gustave Eiffel’s private use. He decorated it with furniture by Jean Lachaise and invited friends such as Thomas Edison.

The Eiffel Tower is repainted about every seven years. This rhythm was recommended by Gustave Eiffel himself. It has changed color over the years, passing from red-brown to yellow-ochre, then to chestnut brown and finally to the bronze of today, slightly shaded off towards the top to ensure that the color is perceived to be the same all the way up as it stands against the Paris sky.

“It seems to me that it had no other rationale than to show that we are not simply the country of entertainers, but also that of engineers and builders called from across the world to build bridges, viaducts, stations and major monuments of modern industry, the Eiffel Tower deserves to be treated with consideration.”

Gustave Eiffel

Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is illuminated. It sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris.The projectors that illuminate the Tower are turned on in under 10 minutes. This is activated upon nightfall by sensors.

Upon the German occupation of Paris in 1940, the lift cables were cut by the French. The tower was closed to the public during the occupation and the lifts were not repaired until 1946.

Because of its size, the tower is visible from many parts of the city and a variety of interesting viewpoints. One of the joys of visiting Paris is discovering your own special viewpoints.

The puddle iron (wrought iron) of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tons, and the addition of lifts, shops and antennae have brought the total weight to approximately 10,100 tons. 2,500,000 rivets were used in its construction.

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most-visited pay-to-enter monuments in the world. Because it’s so busy, it’s a good idea to plan ahead, You can find other useful information here.


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