If you close your eyes and try to picture Paris, you’ll likely see the Eiffel Tower rising above the city skyline. What was initially supposed to be just a temporary structure has become one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks and a symbol of Paris, much like French pastries or the Seine River. Finding the best spots around the city to watch the Eiffel Tower from is a great attraction in itself. If, however, you’ve been looking to elevate your experience, you may want to consider ascending all the way to the top!
Perhaps a lesser known fact about this iconic wrought-iron structure is that it wasn’t designed to serve a functional purpose. It was built purely as a showpiece ahead of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, a world’s fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. The French wanted to demonstrate to other nations they had the means to construct the tallest structure in the world, only to dismantle it 20 years after. However, Gustave Eiffel saved his namesake tower by erecting an antenna on top, making it the perfect place to study early radio transmissions.
The Eiffel Tower came under risk of disappearing from the city landscape again during the Nazi occupation of France when Hitler ordered the most important landmarks around the city to be destroyed. Luckily for us, that order was never followed through. Locals and tourists alike have since fallen under the Eiffel Tower’s charm, prompting the construction of more than 50 replicas around the globe! Nothing compares to the original though, so here’s what to expect if you decide to add it to your Paris bucket list…
How much does it cost to go up the Eiffel Tower?
Eiffel Tower ticket prices vary wildly depending on three main factors – the visitor’s age, method of climbing the tower, and whether or not summit access is included. You’ll need to decide whether admiring the view from the 2nd floor at the height of 116 metres is enough, or you want to go all the way to the top. The second option is understandably way more expensive and sells out fast, so it’s best to book tickets well in advance.
If you’d rather avoid cranking your piggy bank open, you can also save money by choosing to take the stairs. The staircase from the 2nd floor to the top is not open to the public. That means you would have to take 674 steps instead of all 1665 before taking the lift to the top. We still weren’t feeling brave enough, so we eventually chose tickets with lift access. At the time of our visit, they cost €25.50 each, while choosing the stairs would’ve saved us over €6. If you decide not to ascend to the top at all, the savings are even greater. As of September 2021, it costs €16.70 and €10.50 for lift and stairs access respectively. As ticket prices regularly keep increasing, I recommend checking the official Eiffel Tower website for the most accurate information!
Climbing the Eiffel Tower
We’d seen the Iron Lady from different viewpoints around the city prior to our visit. Still, it wasn’t until we were standing right under that we realised its magnitude. It’s even more striking when you remember that it was constructed in record time – a little over 2 years! I could name a number of smaller local investments that took way longer than this. When you are ready to ascend to the top, you join one of the lines depending on the type of ticket and time slot you’d chosen.
Now, even if you purchased a ticket with top access, the lift will still stop on the 2nd floor. Some guides recommend making your way from top to the bottom to avoid long wait for the lift. However, we chose to work up the excitement by starting small. The Eiffel Tower’s 2nd floor is where you will find the city’s most famous observation deck. As opposed to the summit, it offers unobstructed views of Paris. If you’re after that perfect photo with a clear background, this is the place to go! When you’re done taking in the views, you line up for the next lift and go straight to the top.
What can you find at the summit?
Contrary to what you may think, there isn’t that much going on once you reach the top. Unquestionably the biggest attraction is the ride in a glass-walled lift, allowing you to take in your surroundings. There are a number of coin-operated binoculars throughout the standing platform, in case you want to take a closer look.
What not many people might know, though, is that the top hides Gustave Eiffel’s fascinating secret. When designing the iconic tower, he included his own little apartment just below the tip of the spire. Eiffel constructed it with two goals in mind – to entertain notable visitors and make the rest of Paris jealous. It’s safe to say he succeeded, with many city dwellers reportedly offering to pay small fortunes to stay there even for one night!
Sleeping inside the Eiffel Tower…?
Eiffel was very selective about his guests and consistently declined all offers. Instead, he used the apartment to work on his experiments and host the science elite. While his much-coveted residence is no longer so secluded, visitors still cannot step inside. You can only take a glance through the window to admire the homely interior that stands in stark contrast to the industrial character of the rest of the tower. You can also spot life-like wax figures of Gustave Eiffel, his daughter Claire, and Thomas Edison – one of Eiffel’s guests.
If, however, you think that sleeping up the Eiffel Tower is a distant dream, I have to surprise you again! Back in 2016, to celebrate the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, a rental company turned an unused conference room on the first floor into a temporary designer apartment! Four lucky competition winners were invited to spend a night in the Eiffel Tower. 500 people could also visit this special space every day for the duration of the tournament. You have to give it to the French – they certainly know how to celebrate in style…
Those wanting to live the high life can instead visit a champagne bar at the top that offers alcohol-free options too. With the champagne prices starting at €15 per glass, we found it largely overpriced and decided to skip it. We did, however, bring our own box of Pierre Hermé macarons to live out that Parisian cliché!
Dining at the top of the Eiffel Tower
Did you know that a popular French writer named Guy de Maupassant reportedly ate on top of the Eiffel Tower on a daily basis? Rumour has it he hated the Iron Lady with a passion and claimed it was the only place in Paris from which he couldn’t see it!
If you’re all about that exceptional dining experience too (although, hopefully for a different reason), on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower you can find the Le Jules Verne restaurant specialising in contemporary French gourmet cuisine. It’s run by a triple Michelin-starred chef who draws inspiration from 20th-century Paris and the Eiffel Tower itself. If you’re looking for something slightly more affordable, there are also various buffets on the ground, 1st, and 2nd floor. They offer a variety of lighter snacks that cater for all tastes, and you can either eat in or take them to go!
Is it worth going to the Eiffel Tower summit?
Finally, it’s the subject of many heated debates whether it’s actually worth splurging on the summit tickets. In my personal experience, the views are more spectacular on the 2nd floor. It’s largely due to the fact that the observation deck is open, so nothing obstructs your view. However, there’s nothing quite like being able to say you made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower! It was significantly harder to get a half-decent photo due to the wind that kept taunting us, but the sense of achievement was like no other.
Having said that, it’s also worth repeating that summit tickets sell out extremely fast. If you’re planning a visit, it’s advisable to book well in advance and be flexible with your dates. We nearly missed out, as all summit tickets had sold out for the dates we were going to be in Paris. Thankfully, we kept checking the website on a daily basis. Our efforts paid off when several tickets suddenly became available! If all else fails, you can always head directly to the Eiffel Tower and hope to score some last-minute tickets. Good luck and bon voyage!