The Eiffel Tower or Tour Eiffel as it is in French, has become synonymous with Paris and France. It is impossible not to feel moved when you view this cultural icon proudly standing high – so absolutely linked is its image with France’s capital city. Read the amazing Eiffel Tower history and facts of this majestic landmark which almost never got built…
History of the Eiffel Tower
Designed by Gustave Eiffel to be unveiled at the World Fair (Exposition Universelle) which was held to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution it was in its day the tallest man-made structure in the world but not its most loved.
The design was chosen from hundreds and hundreds of proposals but when construction was approved and begun, a petition signed by many influential people of the time including Guy de Maupassant and a prominent architect of the times Charles Garnier (he designed the fabulous Palais Garnier in Paris) was presented to the city council protesting:
“We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects and lovers of the beauty of Paris, do protest with all our vigour and all our indignation, in the name of French taste and endangered French art and history, against the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower… imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour de Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal” ”
Thankfully the Eiffel Tower also had its admirers and they were equally influential and the build went ahead.
In September 1889 the famous inventor Thomas Edison visited the tower and wrote in the guestbook:
“To Monsieur Eiffel the Engineer the brave builder of so gigantic and original specimen of modern engineering from one who has the greatest respect and admiration for all Engineers including the Great Engineer the Bon Dieu, Thomas Edison”.
It had an antenna at the top and it was this that saved the tower for future generations to love. In 1910 there were plans to tear down the tower after its designated twenty year stand. The antenna was used by the International Time Service telegraphy service and this saved her. The Eiffel Tower held the title of world’s tallest structure for 41 years until 1940 when the Chrysler Building in New York was completed.
Locals call the Tower the Iron Lady (“La Dame de fer”). By day the awesome size thrills tourists, by night it is illuminated and seems to float on the skirt of the Seine.
Visit the Eiffel Tower – top features
More than 250 million people have visited the Eiffel Tower since it was opened – it seems to hold a constant fascination and it is in fact the most visited paid tourist attraction in the world.
Ground Floor – covers an area of some 9,000 m². You’ll find an information office and post office from which you can send a postcard or letter stamped with a special Tour Eiffel image. There are also souvenir shops and a buffet restaurant.
Stage 1 is at 57 metres high and when the tower was first built this level contained two restaurants, a bar, a 250 seat theatre and a 2.5m promenade area around the outer edge. Currently the first floor is undergoing reconstruction to make it more accessible to wheelchair users and to create new shops and restaurants to enhance the visitor experience to be completed in 2013.
The first floor serves as a rest and entertainment area; there are exhibitions about the tower’s history, a special area for children, restaurants, shops and a cinema and of course those views!
Stage 2 is at 115m – there are shops, restaurants, displays and exhibition and for those who don’t suffer from height anxiety a glass window to the floor!
Top Floor – 276m above Paris offering stunning panoramic views and the reconstructed office of the famous designer himself. Celebrate reaching the top in the champagne bar while you gaze out over the city – you can see up to 50 miles away on a clear day.
Facts about the Eiffel Tower
How high is the Eiffel Tower? The tower is now approximately 320m high if you include the TV antenna at the top. Approximately because the metal used to create the tower, expands and contracts according to the weather conditions by as much as 15cms. When it was first created it was about 301 metres high.
7,300 tonnes of iron, 18,000 parts, were used to build the lattice work tower, held together by 2.5 million rivets. Other structures which are non mental weigh some 2,500 tonnes making the total weight of the Eiffel Tower about 10,000 tonnes.
It took two years to construct (1887 – 1889) and around 300 steel workers were employed during its creation.
It takes almost 60 tons of paint to give the tower a new lick of colour to its 250,000 m² of surface and prevent rust developing and it has to be done every seven years.
There are 1665 steps from the base to the top via the eastern leg of the tower.
Maximum sway at top caused by wind: 12 cm (4.75 inches).
Maximum sway at top caused by metal dilation: 18 cm (7 inches).
How to get to the Eiffel Tower
By Metro (underground train): Line 6, station “Bir Hakeim” or Line 9, station “Trocadéro”
By train (RER): Line C, Station “Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel”
By bus: Bus 82 stops “Eiffel Tower” or “Field of Mars”; Bus 42 , stop: “Eiffel Tower”; Bus 87 , stop: “Field of Mars”; Bus 69, stop: “Field of Mars”
By boat: take the Batoboat service on the Seine and alight at the Tour Eiffel
By car: there are no car parks at the tower, the nearest is at Quai Branly (the official website [see below] has more details for parking requirements.
Eiffel Tower opening hours
The Eiffel Tower is open every day of the year from 9.30 a.m. to 23.00 except June 15th to September 1st opening hours are 09.00 to midnight (plus during the Easter weekend break).
The official website for the Eiffel Tower has lots of useful information about the weather for the day – especially important for those wanting to go to the top, any problems such as lift issues which mean visitors may have to use stairs, changes to opening time and the facility to buy tickets online rather than at the base of the tower where there can often be long queues.