Get orientated – ‘I ought to be jealous of the tower; she is more famous than I am.’ So spoke Gustave Eiffel, the civil engineer whose company designed France’s most iconic pylon. And who can blame him for morphing into the green-eyed monster? Shooting up to 324m high, the majestic Tour Eiffel has usurped its creator, becoming the ultimate architectural symbol of romance, not to mention one of the greatest and most enduring engineering feats of the 19th century. Built as the centrepiece of the 1889 World Fair, to mark the centenary of the French Revolution, the tower was supposed to represent, according to Eiffel, ‘the century of industry and science in which we are living’. It was also meant to be a temporary structure, due for demolition in 1909. But, 125 years since its first erection, the Tour Eiffel still dominates the Parisian skyline, and remains the emblem of the city.
Getting there – Many airlines fly from regional UK airports to Paris. For example, easyJet flies from Luton, Gatwick, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast to Paris Charles de Gaulle; flights from Luton cost from around £32 one way and take around 75 minutes. Alternatively, take the train. Eurostar services from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord take around two hours and 15 minutes, and cost from £69pp return. The tower is to the west of the city centre and can be reached by Metro and bus.
Tickets can be bought online (www.ratp.frj) or directly from the bus/train station; singles cost €1.70, and passes are also available. If travelling by Metro, disembark at Bir-Hakeim station (Line 6), a short stroll from the tower, or Trocadero (Line 9), on the opposite side of the River Seine. Buses 82 and 42 stop close to the tower. You can also reach the Tour Eiffel by boat. Batobuses run along the Seine; as well as the tower, stops include the Louvre and Notre Dame. A one-day pass costs €15.
The visit – You can stare at the tower’s facade for free. To ascend it comes at a price: €5 to climb the stairs to floor two; €9 to take the lift to it; €15 to ride the lift to the very top. Beat the crowds by booking tickets in advance online (at least the day before): this enables you to join a fast-track queue. The new Le 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant is on the first floor. Alain Ducasse’s swanky Jules Verne restaurant is on level two. At the very top there’s a hatch serving pricy champagne; here, you can also explore Gustave Eiffel’s office. Of course, it’s really all about the view: you can see the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeurand more.
Once the world’s tallest man-made structure (until New York’s Chrysler Building stole its thunder In 1930), the Eiffel Tower was also once the subject of fierce debate. Even before Its completion, the sky-high landmark was controversially branded a ‘truly tragic street lamp’ and a monstrosity that was ‘confused and deformed’ by the artists of the era. And then there were the non-believers, who didn’t even think such a building could be completed. How wrong they were. These days, around seven million people visit the tower every year.
Third Floor – At 276m above the ground, it can hold 800 people at a time.
Viewing Gallery – On a clear day It Is possible to see for over 70km; you might even glimpse Chartres Cathedral.
Daring feats – The tower has always Inspired crazy stunts. In 1912, Franz Relchelt, a Parisian tailor, attempted to fly from the parapet with only a cape for wings. He plunged to his death In front of a large crowd.
First Floor – At 57m, the first level can be reached by lift or 360 steps. There Is a post office here as well as Le 58 restaurant and a souvenir shop.
Double-decker lifts – These have a limited capacity; during peak tourist season there can be long queues – which require patience and a good head for heights.
Jules Verne restaurant – Rated highly In Paris, offering not only superb food, but a breathtaking panoramic view.
Second Floor – Located at a height of 115m, It Is separated from the first level by 359 steps.
Cineiffel – This small audio-visual museum shows historical film footage of the tower.
Construction – It took 300 steel workers two years to build the tower, which comprises 15,000 Iron pieces and 2.5 million rivets.
Eiffel Bust – The achievement of Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) was honoured by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle In 1929. The bust is at the corner of the north pillar.