Adventures in Paris: Eiffel Tower, exceeding expectations since 1889

Our four boys have been fascinated by the Eiffel Tower ever since discovering it in books a few years ago.  Their anticipation grew further when my brother sent us a Lego Eiffel Tower set in a pre-France care package.  As hard as we tried to introduce them to other French things before our trip, they just kept coming back to the Eiffel Tower.

Now I admit, the Eiffel Tower was always pretty awesome to me, even though I’d never been to the top.  Roughly a thousand feet of steel beams and rivets reaching into the sky high above Paris.  But I’ve gotta say—in real life it is even more amazing.  It is ENORMOUS.  It is a magnificent engineering creation of the late 1800s.  And it becomes even more impressive when you’re inside it, heading to the top, and then enjoying the views from the summit.  Spectacular.

Is it worth the two- to three-hour wait at the bottom for tickets?  If you’ve got enough time in Paris for the wait, then yes, we think it is.  But if you’re able to plan ahead, you can save those hours by making advance reservations online.  The trick?  Get online to book your reservation exactly 90 days before the day you’d like to ascend the Eiffel Tower.  That’s the point at which they release tickets, and from my experience and those of others, the advanced reservation tickets generally sell out within a day or two (sometimes hours) of becoming available online.

For us, that meant that on April 19, I was sitting at my computer picking a date and time 10 days into our Parisian adventure that seemed like it would work for us to head up the Tower.  I wouldn’t have waited until 10 days in, but I didn’t think of checking the Eiffel Tower website until that point, and lucky for me, I didn’t miss the window completely!  So set a calendar reminder once you have your Paris trip booked!



On the appointed day, at the appointed time, we took a PDF of our tickets to the line marked “advance ticket holders” at the base of the Eiffel Tower.  I showed our tickets on my phone, which works, but it is easier for scanning if you have them printed out.  There was essentially no waiting to climb into the first elevator which takes you to the second level (don’t forget: in Europe, the ground floor is Level 0).  From there we were directed around the side of the tower to the line for a second elevator to take us up to “the tippy top” (as our boys call it), in which we had to wait about ten minutes.

Being inside the Eiffel Tower is pretty spectacular.  Steel, steel, and more steel.  There are some pretty cool elevator designs.  The elevator from the ground level to the second level is a diagonal-moving, double-decker contraption with fascinating gears, counterweights, and pulleys.  Our boys were in heaven.

From the top, of course you have the 360° view of Paris, the surrounding area, and the Seine snaking through the middle.  Our boys were excited to recognize and point out the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Champ de Mars (where we had played for a couple of hours the week before), and Sacré Coeur.  Also at the top, Gustave Eiffel had his own personal office, which has been preserved.  That office was well-earned, if you ask me.  He not only designed the Tower—he also organized and oversaw its construction, including all components and assembly, managed the funding of the project, held legal responsibility for the tower, and managed to complete the project on time and under budget.

We headed back down to the second level via elevator, despite Ben’s pleas to take the stairs.  We decided to pass on the full ~1700 stairs back to the bottom.  After exploring for a few minutes, we obliged and took the stairs down to the first floor.  We didn’t spend much time here (there is a restaurant that I’ve heard is pricey but of course has great views), but one thing to check out is the section of flooring on the first level that is glass.  It’s a bit disconcerting to stand looking through the glass to the ground 189 feet below, but the kids LOVED it.

We tried to take the elevator from the first level down to the ground, but the line was excruciatingly slow.  We finally gave up (it didn’t take long) and took the stairs the rest of the way down.  Going down the stairs isn’t too bad, and it was cool to see the construction of the tower up close.  Even though our legs were pretty rubbery at the bottom, it was fascinating how the stairs weave down through the leg of the Tower to the ground.  No regrets there.

All in all, it was a fantastic outing that we were very glad to experience, especially without the long wait at the bottom for tickets.  On previous trips, I’d enjoyed a great view from other spots in Paris—the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré Coeur—and while those are great (especially if you don’t have advance reservations or the time to wait in line for Eiffel Tower tickets), if you can swing a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it’s something you and your kids will never forget.


4 replies
  1. Kristy
    Kristy says:

    I love the pictures! What always gets me about the Eiffel Tower is that it was supposed to be temporary, dismantled after the Expo. Can you imagine?!


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