The Eiffel Tower Experience

The Eiffel Tower is open every single day of the year

  • from 9 a.m. to midnight from 17 June to 28 August,
  • from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the rest of the year,
  • At Easter weekend and during the Spring holidays : extended opening hours to midnight.

Obviously when one goes to Paris for the first time, a visit to the Eiffel Tower is a must-do activity.  You can’t not go and see it.  It’d be like going to New York City for the first time and not going to the Empire State Building.  Of course because it was holiday week when we were there, pretty much everyone in the world was thinking the same thing.  The base of the Eiffel Tower was packed with hundreds of people and the lines were long, like Disney World’s Space Mountain long.

Here’s a tip for any monument or museum visits in Paris (including the Eiffel Tower): Get tickets in advance online.  You’ll save yourself a ton of time and from a ton of hassle.   The first thing we had to figure out was which of the winding lines to stand in (and also try to find the end of each one).  It was like navigating through serpents of people.  Once we got into a line, we asked the people around us if we were in the right line.  If they spoke English – which was like a one in three chance – most of the time they shrugged and were clearly just as lost as we were.  At the same time other people were asking us the same question in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese – you name it.  And each time, we gave the same answer we were given – we just shrugged and said we didn’t know for sure.  It was kind of a hilarious scene – all these different races coming together in confusion despite the language barrier, and all sort of politely making the best of the scenario standing in mysterious lines that led to who knows where.

My sister was our recon soldier and when she came back to the line she let us know we had waited half an hour in the wrong one (figures right?).  Turns out there were four total lines – two go to the elevator that takes you to the 2nd floor (not the top) and two that let you walk to the 2nd floor.  So once we made our way over to the new line, we waited about an hour and a half.  If you’re going to visit the Eiffel Tower during the cold season – dress warmly.  It was very cold, and very windy.  Also, make sure to bring some reading material, Ipod, and a snack (croissant was my snack of choice) because you’ll probably want to do something to make the time standing out there go by a little faster.  

Once we got to the front, there was a sign that said, “Due to congestion we will not sell lift tickets to the top, only to the second floor.”  A few curses were tossed around by everyone in line, but at that point because we made it to the front we figured we may as well go up to at least the midsection of the Eiffel Tower.  The price for the lift ride to the 2nd floor is 8 Euros, the price for the ride to the top is 13 Euros (the price to walk to the 2nd floor is 4 Euros – you can’t walk all the way to the top).

The midsection of the Eiffel Tower is actually quite large and includes a cafe, bathrooms, gift shop, and the lift to the very shi-shi Le Jules Verne restaurant (we tried to get reservations, but the place gets booked months in advance).  We learned that we would be able to buy tickets to the top from the 2nd floor (for the additional 5 Euros) once the top cleared out a bit.  So we waited on the 2nd floor for another hour or so with some hot chocolate and snacks we bought at the cafe.  We waited in another line for about half an hour to get the tickets to the top and then an additional half hour for the elevator to the top.

Now if you’re queasy about heights, I should warn you.  The ride in the glass elevator to the top is a little unsettling.  I’m not that bothered by heights (see previous post about Skydiving), but even this ride is unnerving.  You can view some videos of the ride up and down on the Here and There Facebook page.  Once you get through the ride and to the top, the view is magnificent.   The 2nd floor view is good, but the extra height at the top really makes the birds-eye view of Paris spectacular.  There’s an outside patio that you can walk around on and a champagne bar for the romantic couples (or just tourists who are celebrating actually finally making it to the top).  But it is quite windy, and you should be prepared for the fact that if you’re unlucky, the visibility can be bad depending on weather conditions (we met some poor guy who had been up there the previous day and said he couldn’t see a thing).

Finally, if you’re able to get to the Eiffel Tower at night make sure to check it out at the top of the hour.  For six minutes the tower shimmers in magnificent fashion.  We didn’t know this until we took a night time bus tour that happened to go by the tower during this time (hence the not so great pictures of it from the bus below), so don’t miss a chance to see it.

So in summary, make sure to allot plenty of time in your day when you see the Eiffel Tower, especially if you don’t get tickets in advance (there really was like no line for people who had bought tickets in advance.  It’s amazing how many people around the world didn’t think to do that beforehand).  But it is worth the wait to say that you’ve been to the top of one of the most recognizable monuments in the world.

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