The Eiffel tower was originally designed for the World's Fair, and it's iron mass was later discovered to be a great radio transmitter. During the millennium celebration in Paris, the tower was lined with massive doses of fireworks. At 00:00:00 1 Jan 2000, the fireworks were set off and it appeared the tower had been transformed into a rocket ship blasting off into space. The stunt was not perfect however, the clock to countdown broke about 7 hours before the end of the world. No matter, but some people feared it might be a premature version of the Millennium Bug.

When installing the tower's elevators, Eiffel insisted he wouldn't have the beautiful lines of his tower ruined by machines running through its middle, so his subcontractors had to engineer lifts to run in its legs.

Where there are landmarks which draw tourists, there'll always be lunatics with plans to draw more, see:

The Eiffel tower is not just a large metal structure: its two and a half million rivets hold up three floors of shops and restaurants. The lifts go up this far, but it is worth climbing the steps to the top. The French pronounce 'Eiffel' as /eff-ell/, and not /eif-fl/ as we do.

An interesting feature is that the pressure exerted on each of the four legs is very low, owing to the unusual design: it is about the same as the pressure your posterior puts on your chair.

That really tragic street lamp (Léon Bloy)

               |        <----- Height with TV antenna today: 324 m
               |                      with a flagpole in 1889: 312 m
              / \              
             |   |              

             |___|      <----- 3rd floor (273 m). You can get here
              | |          by the elevator only. Gustave Eiffel had a
              | |          private apartment on this floor.
              | |          
              | |          
              | |       <----- When the sun heats one side, the metal       
             '   `         expands and makes the tower lean slightly.
             |   |         
             |   |               
             |   |      <----- Nearly 400 people have fallen or jumped
             |   |         from the tower. They usually fall onto      
             |   |         lower parts of the tower, and       
             |...|         the firefighters have trouble removing
            '  :  `        the parts of their body.      
            |  :  |     
            |  :  |     
            |  :  |     <----- The puddled iron requires 50 tons of         
            |  :  |        paint every 7 year.                   
            | : : |     
          ./.:...:.\.   <----- 2nd floor (116 m). You can climb the 
           |.:___:.|       stairs up to this floor (674 steps in the
           | |   | |       wind), or use the public elevator. Unless
           | |   | |       you eat at the highly reputed restaurant
           | |   | |       Jules-Verne, which has its private
          ' '     ` `      elevator.          
          | |     | |                 
         /..:.....:..\   <----- 1st floor (58 m). 6,315,324 visitors
        |   :     :   |     came at least to this floor in 2000. 
       /    :     :    \     Here you can, well, buy souvenirs and
      /    :_..-.._:    \      take photographs.    
     /    :'       `:    \      
    /    /           \    \   <---- Four big pillars distant from
   /    /             \    \     100 m at the base support the 
  /    /       .       \    \     tower's 10,100 tons. 
 /    /       /|\       \    \          
/____| ....... | ....... |____\ ....................................
               .______ several planes have passed under the tower

O shepherd Eiffel Tower, the flock of bridges bleats this morning (Guillaume Apollinaire)

Other facts:

  • The tower was built from January 1887 to March 1889, for the 1889 World's Fair which celebrated the 100 years of the French Revolution.
  • The nearest underground station may be Champ-de-Mars-Tour Eiffel, but you should get off the metro at Trocadéro instead, because it will give you the best possible view. Crossing the Seine from the hill of Chaillot to the tower, watching its elegant shape be distorted as you approach the gigantic pillars, is a great experience.
  • The tower sparkles during 10 minutes every hour during the evening. You can see it from all over Paris, but the scene is even better from the Trocadéro.
  • The owner is the City of Paris.
  • There is always a line for the elevator, so go to the Montparnasse building or the department store La Samaritaine (which is free) if you want to see Paris from the above, not to the Eiffel Tower. But maybe it's just me.
  • A legend says that the tower is installed on hydraulic jacks. This is not true: the hydraulic jacks were used during construction, and removed afterwards.
  • The Eiffel Tower has been imitated several times, but never equalled: there is a half-size replica in Las Vegas; one of its giant feet goes through the roof of the Paris Opera House, which is filled with slot machines. You can find another Eiffel Tower in England (Blackpool Tower, thanks Mod), a one-fifth scale replica in Prague, an ugly 333-meter high imitation in Tokyo (known as the Tokyo Tower), and other replicas in Paris, Tennessee, in Paris, Texas, in Southfork Ranch, in Romania, in Shenzhen (China). And also the Tsutenkaku (通天閣) in Osaka, which (liveforever tells me) looks like the Tokyo Tower.
Whilst we're at it, I have heard from sources unreliable that the French didn't particularly care for the iron monstrosity gracing their capital for quite a long while after it was built. Apparently people used to say that the best spot in Paris was the top of the tower, since it was the only place from which you couldn't see it.

This is not true, of course, you can look down :)

Either way, seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time was my first visual tip that I was really in Europe. I'd seen pictures of it before of course, I'd been forced to study French in the first few years of highschool. Seeing the tower in all its glory was quite an experience.

I got over it quickly, however. A group of people and I walked up to the Arc De Triomphe which I found to be a far more impressive sight. Coming back though, it was dark and we experienced the unexpected sight of the tower lit up by hundreds of flickering lights. That made it look a lot more interesting.

(Incidentally, at the time we had stumbled across the infamous tunnel wherein Princess Diana and Dodi had met their unfortunate demise. You can see the tower across the Seine from there.)

That was my first time in Paris, and I didn't like the city enough at that time to really be bothered climbing the tower. I was also without my girlfriend and somehow it didn't seem like it would be the same in Paris without one's partner to do all the cliche things one does when one is a tourist.

So I simply walked back past the tower, past all the street vendors selling tacky miniature towers for about 5FRF and left for Munich the next day.

The third time I was in Paris I was with my girlfriend, and we did go up the tower. A few tips here. Firstly: jump queues. You'll wait forever otherwise, and it's almost expected of the French. Secondly: climb the tower at dusk. Paris by night from the top of the tower is a spectacular sight. Finally: walk down the stairs of the tower for the last two levels. You can catch the elevator, but don't. It's both quicker and a much better experience to walk down the stairs.

Eiffel Tower, The, a notable structure in Paris, France. The plans for the Paris exposition of 1889 included a monstrous iron tower, to be raised on the Champs-de-Mars, 1,000 feet high. The designer, Gustave Eiffel, constructed it of iron lattice-work, with three sets of elevators giving access to the summit. The uses of this stupendous tower are many, and it became one of the chief permanent ornaments of the city. Its importance from a meteorological point of view cannot be overestimated, the tower enabling meterologists to study the decrease of temperature at different heights, to observe the variations of winds, and to find out the quantity of rain that falls at different heights, and the density of the clouds. The French Government contributed $292,000 to the cost of the tower which was over $1,000,000. M. Eiffel & Co. supplied the rest for a 20 years' lease of the tower. The fees for 1889 repaid the outlay.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

The Eiffel Tower is repainted every seven years. Contrary to what you might expect, it is not painted uniform black, but rather is graded from light grey (at the top) to dark grey(at the bottom)

The reason for this is, due to the height of the tower and the angle at which you normally view it, coupled with the dimming effects of looking through the grim pollution of Paris, this is the only way to make it look like it has a constant colour. The level of pollution is recalculated every time it is redone.

I learnt this when hitchhiking in Germany; one of my lifts was a man who worked for the industrial paint company that was contracted to paint it last time.

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