What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Paris? Probably the Eiffel Tower. In a city filled with iconic sites, this attraction might be the most famous of all. Read these facts to learn more about the history of this world-renowned landmark.
1. What’s in a name?
Built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, the Eiffel Tower was named after its engineer and architect, Gustave Eiffel. During his lifetime, Eiffel kept a small apartment near the top of the tower to entertain friends. While you can’t live there yourself, you can at least take tours with access to the second floor and summit. Aside from the tower, he’s notable for making the metalwork for New York’s Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, toward the end of his life, Eiffel was the subject of scandal. When a project to build a canal in Panama ran into financial difficulties, he was charged with misuse of funds and his public image never recovered.
2. How it all adds up
The Eiffel Tower is the sum of its parts — 18,000 metallic parts to be exact. At 324 meters (1,063 ft) tall, there are 1,665 steps to the top. Luckily, you can join a tour to take an elevator to the top. The elevators travel a distance of 103,000 km (64,000 miles) a year — that’s 2.5 times the circumference of the Earth. The tower was the world’s tallest manmade structure until 1930, when it was outdone by New York’s Chrysler Building. How do they keep the landmark looking fresh? You could call the Eiffel Tower “high maintenance,” as it’s repainted every 7 years and requires 60 tons (54,000 kilograms) of paint.
3. The City of Lights
If you’ve ever been walking around Paris at night, you may have noticed a twinkle in the sky. As part of the Illumination Show, the tower lights up hourly after dark. The spectacle takes 20,000 lightbulbs to make the entire Eiffel Tower sparkle. Why not plan a night tour and marvel at “The City of Lights” from its most iconic landmark?
4. Parisians thought it was an eyesore
Believe it or not, the tower faced significant criticism when it was built. French intellectuals and the general public believed the new structure would destroy the beauty of Paris. Now the tower is considered an architectural wonder and has received over 250 million visitors. Today, around 7 million visitors ascend to the top of the tower every year. Take a tour in the future and learn more about the history of this architectural icon from a local, experienced guide.
5. It’s a survivor
When the German army occupied Paris during World War II, they closed the Eiffel Tower to the public. In 1944, as the Allies approached, Hitler ordered Dietrich von Choltitz to destroy the tower and other parts of Paris. Fortunately, the general refused and helped save many of Paris’ architectural and cultural masterpieces from destruction. Want to take in all these sights at once? A river cruise along the Seine is an excellent option. Starting at the Eiffel Tower, you’ll glide past The Grand Palais, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Notre Dame Cathedral on a future trip to the city.