The Eiffel Tower - le Tour Eiffel - symbolizes Paris to the world, and the 7 million visitors it attracts each year testify to its enduring fame and popularity.
The "Iron Lady" soars 1,063 feet high above the Seine River's Left Bank, where French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel's company designed and built the tower on the grassy expanse of the Champ de Mars Park for the 1889 World's Fair.
Of course you get spectactular views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower's three levels, but you'll also find a lot more to enjoy: excellent restaurants and snack bars, a Champagne bar, exhibits, a glass floor where you can peer down at the ground below, gift boutiques, and close-up views of the tower's impressive structure and mechanics. Go up to the third platform and at 906 feet above the ground, you'll feel the thrill of being near the top of the tallest structure in Paris. Visit at night, and you'll be surrounded by sparkling lights during the Eiffel Tower's hourly light Illuminations show.
But here's the catch: remember those 7 million visitors who come each year?
The crowds trying to gain admission to the Eiffel Tower and then move around it once inside can be massive. The tower is tall - but it's also skinny, and the platforms get smaller as you go higher. You'll need a strategy if you want to get the most from your visit.
Our Eiffel Tower Visitors Guide gives you all the information you'll need to plan your visit, plus 10 essential tips and strategies to help you have a wonderful experience.
Each of the Eiffel Tower's three levels offers you a unique set of viewing, entertainment, and dining experiences. You access the 1st and 2nd levels by elevator or stairs, but once you're on the 2nd level, you must take an elevator if you want to continue up to the summit.
One quirk: The elevator to the 2nd level does not stop at the 1st level on the way up, so if you want to visit the 1st level, you take the elevator up to the 2nd level, and then go back down one level.
But let's start at the ground level . . .
At ground level from close up, you realize how enormous each of the Eiffel Tower's four legs (or pillars, as they're properly called) actually are. The pillars house elevators, stairs, and even a small post office. A sculpture of Gustave Eiffel's head stands guard by the North Pillar, and you'll see gift shops near the East and West Pillars, as well as a snack bar.
If you already have a skip-the-line ticket in hand, reservations at one of the two onsite restaurants, or are part of a guided tour group, you'll go through a quick security check and then get expedited entry.
If now, get in line to buy your Eiffel Tower ticket if you haven't already bought them online before you arrive (more about how to do that in a moment).
The first floor, 187 feet (57 meters) and 300+ steps above the ground if you decide to climb the stairs, contains historic exhibits and videos, a gift boutique, and a buffet-style snack bar and comfortable seating.
Views even at this first level are spectacular - especially if you're in the area near the restaurant boasting a transparent glass floor (don't worry, its surface is non-slip) and clear glass walls. You'll feel like you're floating over the ground with all of Paris spread out before you. Have your camera handy!
Also on the first floor is the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant, at lunch time a family-friendly setting offering a prix-fixe menu with options similar to what you'd find in a stylish Parisian brasserie, and in the evening serving up gourmet cuisine in a romantic ambiance created by sunset views through the panoramic windows and the Eiffel Tower's dramatic lighting. You'll almost always need reservations (lunch is sometimes an exception) and a separate ticket to enter.
The second floor, has souvenir shops, a buffet-style dining area, and a Michelin-starred restaurant, the Jules Verne. Unless you're there for the restaurant, you'll probably head straight to the viewing platform stretching around most of the second floor's perimeter.
At 376 feet (116 meters) above the ground, the second floor offers what many fans consider the Eiffel Tower's best views. You're high enough to see far into the distance, but buildings are still recognizable and the sweeping views are dazzling. Telescopes positioned at intervals give you even closer views.
The Summit (Third Level)
Once you take the glass-walled elevator up to the Eiffel Tower's third level at 906 feet above the ground, you'll feel the thrill of being almost at the top of the tallest structure in Paris - only the Tower's antennas are above you.
The 3rd level actually has two floors - one narrow open-air viewing platform around the rim, and a slightly higher one inside with windows for you to look out. If you truly loathe heights or worry about vertigo, staying inside (or not going up past the 2nd level) is a fine option. But being outside feels exhilerating - and the heavy wire mesh enclosing the space keeps you safe.
On a clear non-hazy day (which you're more likely to experience during the winter than in Paris's often-humid summer), you can see over 40 miles.
Visiting the Eiffel Tower at Sunset and at Night
For an unforgettable experience, get to your favorite level at the Eiffel Tower right before sunset and watch colors reflect from the metallic frame as the sun sinks down below the Paris horizon.
As soon as the clock hits the full hour mark after sunset, the Eiffel Tower's dazzling light show lights up the skies for a full five minutes. The show repeats each hour until 2am in the summer and 1am during the rest of the year.
Once you are ready to buy your entrance ticket, you'll need to decide whether you want access to just the first and second level, or also to the third level, or summit. If you visited the Eiffel Tower in the past, you may remember how you could buy tickets to the 3rd level from yellow ticket machines on the 2nd level - but they have been removed.
Eiffel Tower 1st & 2nd Level Tickets
Eiffel Tower Summit Tickets
Remember those 7 million visitors who visit each year? If you visit during the summer without a ticket already in hand, you'll swear at least 1 million of them are in front of you in the ticket line. To be fair, the actual visitor count numbers only about 32,000 on the busiest days. However, if that's when you're visiting and need to buy a ticket, plan to spend 2-3 or more hours standing in the line.
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Hotels in every price range can be found in every Paris neighborhood and near every attraction. Check out our guide to Paris hotels
Prefer an apartment? You can choose from budget to luxe.
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- The Eiffel Tower contains 8,000 metal parts held together by 2.5 million rivets, and weighs 10,100 tons.
- The dazzling nightly light show uses 20,000 light bulbs that initially took 25 mountain climbers 5 months to install.
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