Since the Eiffel Tower has gained such iconic status around the world, becoming an object of endless fascination as well as the cliche of choice for representing Paris, it can be easy to gloss the surface when visiting it and overlook its fascinating (and tumultuous) history. The tower's remarkable construction is also something that tourists often fail to appreciate, so I suggest reading up on this marvelous monument before you go up to the top and look out-- you'll no doubt get a much richer appreciation for it.
Key Dates in the Tower's History
March 1889: The tower is unveiled at the Paris World Exposition of 1889. French engineer Gustave Eiffel manages to see his project through despite impassioned protest. The tower was constructed from 18,038 separate pieces (mostly iron) and weighs a total of 10.1 tons. Nonetheless, it remains relatively lightweight.
1909-1910: The tower is nearly torn down, but is salvaged due to its usefulness as a radio tower. Some of the world's first radio transmissions are broadcast here.
1916: The first transatlantic telephone transmissions are realized from the tower.
Highlights: First Level
The first level of the tower features a circular gallery that gives visitors an overview of the tower's history and design, as well as an introduction to some of Paris' most famous sights and monuments.
A part of the spiral staircase that once led from the second floor to the top level is displayed on the first level.
The staircase was eventually dismantled in 1983.
You can also see the hydraulic pump that once supplied water to a former elevator.
The "FerOscope" is an informational exhibit installed in one of the tower's beams. Interactive videos, light shows, and other media give visitors an evocative look at how the tower was built.
The "Observatory of Tower Top Movement" is a laser beam that monitors the tower's oscillation under the effect of wind and temperature.
Panoramic indicators of places and monuments visible from the first level, as well as historical panels tracing the tower's history, are placed around the gallery. You can also view the city in minute detail from an electronic telescope.
Highlights: Second Level
The second level offers noteworthy panoramas of the city, as well as more insight into the tower's history and construction. Animated window scenes tell a visual story of the tower's unique history.
You can enjoy truly dizzying perspectives of the ground through the glass floor. Once again, this is probably not recommended for those prone to vertigo!
Top Level Panoramic Viewpoints: Landmarks to Look Out For
The top floor provides breathtaking views of the entire city, as well as top-rate dining. The elevator climb of 18 meters (59 ft.) also allows you to fully appreciate the tower's elaborate metal latticework. A reconstitution of Gustave Eiffel's office features wax figures of Gustave and American inventor Thomas Edison; while panoramic indicators and viewpoint indicators help you identify the city's landmarks.
Night Displays: Shimmering Grandeur
Seen from a distance, the tower bursts into a shimmering display of light every hour after nightfall, until 2 a.m. in the summer. This display is made possible by 335 projectors, each equipped with high-wattage sodium lamps. The intense sparkling effect is created by the beams shooting upward through the tower's structure.