I first visited the Eiffel Tower thirty years ago. A French friend (who worked for a large champagne company) invited me to join him for a wine auction that was being held there. He pulled his car up alongside, parked illegally on the curb (that was a thing back then), and we walked a few steps to the “Lift” that took us to the first level of the Eiffel Tower. It was very casual, no crowds (it was at night), no security, and no waiting.
That was the exception. Since then, I’ve cautioned against going to the Eiffel Tower – due to the hours-long wait to get your ticket and another long line to get on the Lift; the overly crowded and touristy experience, with hawkers aggressively promoting their wares from souvenir stands; and the difficulty of getting a good photo when you’re so close to the Tower. Instead, I recommended people go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe facing the Champs-Elysees for better close-up views of Paris and a good angle of the Eiffel Tower in the background. [Note: Another good place for photos of the Eiffel Tower in the distance is the Trocadero plaza, just across the Seine River.]
I’m happy to report that the Eiffel Tower visitor experience has vastly improved. The City of Paris is spending 300 million Euros to refurbish the Tower, enhance security, and upgrade the visitor experience. They had me at a new Champagne Bar at the Summit and the ability to buy tickets online. So, I decided to try it out a few months ago and was very pleasantly surprised.
Buying Your Ticket
I hopped on the official Eiffel Tower site and picked a date and time for my ticket to the Summit, cost 25 Euros. (They recommend you print it out, rather than just having the barcode on your phone.) You need to present the ticket when you arrive at security and when you go up each Lift – the first Lift takes you to the second floor and then you walk around to another Lift that takes you to the very top.
The Eiffel Tower Experience
I went on a weekday afternoon, and the lines were minimal. There are new security checkpoints – at the perimeter and closer to the Tower – that I breezed through. A glass wall has been installed around the Tower for added security, which cuts down on the crowds of people milling around. The whole experience is more peaceful, especially with the newly refurbished park at the base of the Tower — including a duck pond, grassy areas and places to sit and reflect.
The ride up the Lift is like an adult Disney ride — the clanking noise of the mechanism pulling you up and changing views of the city as you climb higher. At the Summit, you get a sense of Paris’ expansiveness and feel the wind whipping around. [Note: One of the main concerns Gustave Eiffel had in designing the Tower was creating such a tall structure that could withstand wind gusts.]
In addition to walking around the Summit for the 360-degree vantage point, there are descriptive plaques and a recreation of Eiffel’s office in the Tower during its construction. To cap it off, a Coupe de Champagne to toast your memorable experience is a fitting finale.
The Eiffel Tower site has an excellent description of its history with photos and drawings. La Tour Eiffel was built for the 1889 World Fair in Paris. Work started in January 1887, “A team of constructors were responsible for the 150 to 300 workers on site assembling this gigantic erector set.” At the time, it was considered a “monstrosity” by many Parisians and was scheduled to be taken down twenty years after the Fair.
Thankfully, that opinion changed, and the Eiffel Tower has endured as a symbol of Paris and the romance of travel worldwide.
CAROLINE O’CONNELL is author of Every Woman’s Guide to ROMANCE IN PARIS (Square One Publishing) and has written numerous travel articles for magazines and newspapers. Her Paris website is https://theparisstore.com/, and her articles on other locales can be found at https://www.carolinestraveltips.com/.