Perhaps the most well-known man-made structure is the Eiffel Tower. It towers above Paris’ skyline and is the most iconic symbol of France. The iron latticework of its massive structure embodies the optimism of the Industrial Revolution as well as the hopes for Western Civilization. Although this optimism was greatly diminished by the two World Wars of the 20th Century, it still stands today and is recognized by almost everyone in the world, despite the turbulent 128 years that have passed since its construction. You probably know something about the Eiffel Tower if you are reading this. But how much do you actually know? We’ve compiled a brief history of the Tower in honor of our Paris walking tours. This will help you to become a more educated and well-rounded person.
1. It was partly built to massage Frances (badly injured) national pride
France’s 19th century was turbulent. The French opened the 19th century on a high note, taking control over large parts of Europe in the Napoleonic Wars. But internal strife, wider geopolitics, and internal strife eroded the empire until in 1870 the Germans defeated the French in the Franco-Prussian War, the Second Empire Fell. France’s territory holdings were reduced to a fraction of their former size. Paris was the most populous city in the world, but confidence was low and the men leading the Third Republic needed to be boosted.
It was found in the 1889 World Fair, which was a kind of coming out party for Paris’ “new and improved”, as it looked to the 20th century. The Eiffel Tower was designed as a kind of tiara for exhibition grounds. It would showcase France’s technological and design achievements, while also serving as a Napoleonic symbol for greatness. It would make France, according to Gustave Eiffel, “the only country with 300-meter flagpole.”
2. It was initially a 300-meter failure
A powerful cabal of Parisian architects and artists went nuclear almost as soon as construction started on the tower. The famous line from their petition “Artists Against the Eiffel Tower”, is:
We, poets, painters, sculptors and architects, are protesting against the erection… of the useless and monstrous Eiffel tower. To illustrate our points, picture a giddy tower dominating Paris like a giant black smokestack. Crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame and the Tour Saint-Jacques as well as the Louvre, Dome of les Invalides and the Arc de Triomphe. All of our shameful monuments will vanish dream. For twenty years, we will see the hateful shadow cast by the hateful column made of bolted sheet steel stretching out like a blot.
It was called the “Metal Asparagus” by the literati if they felt kind. It became a “solitary riddled supplementoire”. The most famous and most likely most apocryphal story about tower hatred is that Guy de Maupassant ate lunch there frequently because it was the only spot in Paris where the tower could not be seen.
3. Gustave Eiffel was also involved in another monument that you may have heard about
Eiffel did not actually design the tower, but his friends Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier came up with it. They did it under Eiffel’s direction, in his company, the Compagnie Des Etablissements Eiffel. This was not the first monument Eiffel and his team worked on. Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was the Statue of Liberty‘s internal designer. He died unexpectedly in 1879. This left construction workers in dire need of someone who knows a lot about large-scale metal tower building. Eiffel and Koechlin rescinded Violletle-Duc’s original plan to make Lady Liberty’s bronze exterior bear all her weight, and instead built an iron skeleton within her.
4. Even though some Parisian cultural elite believed otherwise, nearly everyone loved it.
In the year it was built, the tower received 2 million visitors. It now receives 6.9 million visitors per year, bringing its total to around 250 million since 1889. It was visited by eight African Kings, including the Prince of Wales and Thomas Edison, as well as Buffalo Bill.
5. It has no purpose or meaning and has been relegated to a point of no return.
Roland Barthes wrote that “The Tower attracts meaning in the same way a lightning rod attracts thunderbolts.” In fairness, the tower’s primary purpose has been to transmit radio and television signals since the start of the 20th century. However, this has not stopped people trying to add meaning to the tower in many different and sometimes bizarre ways. They go to the top. This meant that you would have to climb 1,710 steps up to reach the pinnacle. But, now it is possible to take an elevator. Many have gone beyond climbing. There have been runners who race to the top, bikers who ride from the pinnacle down to the bottom, climbers who have climbed it and parachutists who have parachuted over it. Two people have attempted to fly planes between the legs of the mountain. One of the attempts was unsuccessful. Tragically, 380 others have committed suicide from the tower.
6. For 42 years, it was the highest building in the world.
The Eiffel Tower (1.063 feet high) was the tallest building in the world, even though it is no longer listed on the World’s Tallest Buildings List. However, it stood out for almost a century after its construction. The Empire State Building in New York eventually took the Eiffel Tower from its high perch. The Tower’s 2.5 million rivets are often cited as the most remarkable statistic due to its size. However, it is more impressive that the tower must be repainted every 7 years (it’s iron and would rust if not treated) using 60 tons of paint.
7. How to Visit the Eiffel Tower
The Tower is at the intersection of the Quai Branly & Champ de Mars. There are buses that take you there (no. 42, 69, 72, 82, 87 to Champs de Mars. ), the express trains also known as the RER(C line) and the Paris Metro. (stop name: Bir Hakeim). Although its opening hours are longer than other monuments, they vary throughout the year. The Tower is open September through June from 9:30am to 11:45pm. It’s open daily from 9:00am to midnight, except in the middle of June and early September. You can also find extended hours on Easter weekend. The last elevator to the top leaves 45 minutes prior to closing. If the weather is severe, the top may be closed.
Three ways you can visit the Eiffel Tower are available. You can walk around the base of the Eiffel Tower for free. The second is to walk up to the top. The Eiffel Tower ticket to the top costs EUR7.00 in currency, but burns more calories than that. This route is not recommended for children under 12, the elderly, and infirm. However, it’s cheaper and gives you a sense of accomplishment. The Eiffel Tower actually has two types of elevators. The first goes to the second level and costs EUR11.00, while the second goes to the top and costs EUR17.00. The Eiffel Tower tickets can all be purchased at the same booths. This means that ticket lines can sometimes take hours during high season. You will have to wait in the line to board the elevators if you purchase tickets for them. However, these lines are short. You can avoid long lines by purchasing your tickets in advance or taking a guided tour which will reserve your tickets for you.