Visiting the Eiffel Tower

Who can picture Paris without the Eiffel Tower? Yet when the tower was built in 1889, no one thought it would be around for this long.

Originally built as the main entrance for the 1889 World’s Fair, designer Gustav Eiffel could only get a 20-year permit for the structure. At the time, many thought it was an eyesore that clashed with traditional Paris architecture. By 1909 there were calls to tear it down. Yet the tower survived to become a symbol of Paris.

Eiffel approached the military in 1901 with a view to making the Tower into a long-distance radio antenna. In 1903 a radio connection was made with the military bases around Paris, and a permanent radio station was installed in the Tower in 1906, ensuring its continuing survival.

The Eiffel Tower is 1,050 feet high; it was the tallest structure in the world until 1930 when the Empire State Building took over that distinction. The tower is made from an exposed criss cross lattice work of iron beams weighing 7,000 tons. The lower platform rests on 4 legs that curve outward, providing a solid foundation for the rest of the tower.

The Tower has to be painted every seven years to protect the iron from deterioration. It has changed color several times before settling on the bronze shade of today.It takes 15 months, 50 tons of paint, 50 kilometers of security cords, 5 acres of protection netting, 1,500 brushes, 5,000 sanding disks, 1,500 sets of work clothes and 25 painters to paint the Tower from top to bottom.

The tower is open daily to visitors from 9 am to midnight, June 13 to August 31 and from 9 am to 11 pm January to June. Through April 3, 2009 it costs 12,00 € for adults and 6,70 € for children to take the elevator to all three levels of the tower. Group rates are also available. Be prepared for long lines. Mornings are probably the least busy time to visit.

At the base of the tower you’ll find ticket booths, souvenir shops and a snack bar. Be sure to look up before going in; it’s hard to grasp the scale of the structure until you are standing under it.

You can walk as far as the second level– it’s a workout with more than 700 stairs but it may help you bypass at least some of the queue. At every landing, there is a little placard detailing an event in Eiffel Tower history.

Once you’ve reached the upper platforms of the Tower, you can walk around and admire the view, with of Paris at your feet. You’ll find both an outer and an inner walkway to stroll. A 360-degree panoramic photo allows you to identify the city’s landmarks. You’ll find information displays and exhibits on each level detailing the history of the tower. Allow plenty of time during your visit to see them.

The Eiffel tower is even more impressive at night when it is illuminated. On summer nights, the Place du Trocadero is a great place to see the Eiffel Tower lit up. Another fantastic place to view the entire tower is from the top of the Montparnasse Tower. You can also take a cruise down the Seine and see the Eiffel Tower from the water.

If you’re looking for a lasting Parisian memory, try having lunch or dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant, located on the second level. The brainchild of renowned chef Alain Ducasse, the restaurant serves fine French cuisine. It’s an expensive restaurant: about $108 for lunch and $216 for dinner, without wine. Known for its romantic views over Paris, you will pay a lot for this meal, but you will also probably never forget it. The Jules Verne is served by a private elevator – you must have a reservation to go up.

Another restaurant, Altitude 95, is on the first level. Its prices are more down to earth as is the food and the atmosphere.