It’s a bit of a cliche, but we couldn’t very well take a trip to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower, could we? As it turned out, for a good part of our trip, I was worried that just might happen. We’d had day after day of clouds and rain in Paris, and after riding the London Eye in the rain, I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to go up into the Eiffel Tower unless the weather improved. As if in answer to our prayers, on our last full day in Paris the weather gods smiled on us and we got sun. Lots of it.
We headed to the Eiffel Tower first thing in the morning, which for us means 11am. (I don’t like to be rushed while on vacation!) I suspected there would be a line, this is Paris after all, but holy crowds! Judging by the amount of people there, I would have thought it was a weekend in the summer, not a Tuesday in late October! Apparently Paris does not have an off-season.
There were three lines for visitors heading up – two for those taking the lifts, and one for people willing to take the stairs. I had read online that the lines for the lifts would be much longer than the line for the stairs, but to tell you the truth, they looked the same to me – all depressingly long. Advance online ticket purchases are available that will let you skip the line, but if you don’t know what the weather will be like on your trip, you’re taking a chance that it’ll be raining during your specified time.
Climbing the Eiffel Tower
We ultimately decided it would be really fun to say that we had actually climbed the Eiffel Tower instead of taking the lift the whole way. The image I get in my head is of us scaling the tower King Kong-style. In reality, it was far less dramatic than it was exhausting!
There were over 700 stairs up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower with a first level break in between. You need to be in good shape before you undertake this! Even though I was wheezing by the 200th step, I’m still glad we did it, and not just because it saved us a little money, although that is a bonus when you’ve got three people to pay for. I tried not to look down as we were climbing, but the few times I did, I got that feeling in my stomach like when you’re on a swing set and you’ve suddenly swung a little too high, but no worries – the stairs are completely enclosed on both sides. You will not fall off the Eiffel Tower. (I had to repeat that in my own head multiple times, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)
First Level Views
Upon reaching the first level, I let out a huge sigh of relief until I realized we weren’t actually on the second level. When we purchased our tickets, I thought they only included the second level and that along the way I had somehow passed the first level and not noticed it. (Maybe while I was squeezing my eyes shut and climbing after making the mistake of looking down?)
As it turned out, the first level was my favorite for taking photos. It was completely enclosed on all sides by the fencing pictured above, and that’s the only reason I felt safe enough to venture out to the edge and take photos. (Seriously people, heights make me extremely nauseous if I don’t feel protected!)
You can see so much from the first level – the Champs de Mars, Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb), and La Basilique du Sacré Coeur to name a few. Many of the shots in this post were taken with a 55-250mm lens, so keep in mind that some things, particularly Sacré Coeur which is a good ways away, won’t appear this close if you don’t have the right equipment, but you’ll still be able to see them, especially if you make use of the telescopes provided for a small fee. (This is me pretending to use a telescope.)
We were allowed to spend as much time here as we wanted (that goes for all levels, actually), and we took full advantage of that. I’d say we spent about thirty minutes on the first level making our way around all sides, snapping photos and watching the people below, and then it was time to make our way to the second level. Hallelujah, more stairs! (I’m kidding, it’s really not that bad
as long as you’re a trained marathon runner.)
Second Level Views
After a total of 704 stairs, we reached the second level, and this was where I began to freak out a bit. We were still enclosed with fencing on all sides, but not above our heads. And so I began thinking up completely irrational scenarios that all ended in the same horrific manner, for example – my imminent demise at the hands of a madman loose on the second story of the Eiffel Tower whose mission it was to pick me up over his head and toss me over the side. Like I said, I might have been a tad irrational.
So while the panoramic views from the second level were even better than those on the first level, I could barely think beyond snapping a few quick shots and getting the heck out of dodge. Evidence of my fear – the composition in the photo of the bridges over the Seine is awful, just awful. I even made Lexie hang onto the back of my jacket as I took photos. I was completely protected by a fence, mind you. I had lost all ability to reason beyond the most basic of human thought processes. Breathe in, hit the shutter button, breathe out…
And it was at this point that we had to make a decision. We’d only bought tickets that would take us up to the second level via the stairs, but we had intended on purchasing tickets once we reached the second level that would take us to the top via the lifts, the only way to reach the top as there are no stairs past the second level. Even though I was pretty close to crying and I knew it would only get worse if we went to the top, I also knew I’d regret it more if we went back down before reaching our goal. So up we went.
View from the Top
The lift took about 100 years to get us to the top, and we were smashed into it with around thirty strangers. (Normally this would bother me, too, but I have to prioritize my fears, and heights always takes precedence.) We came out of the lift into an actual room with windows along the sides and I’d have been perfectly happy if that was where it ended, but no. There is one more set of stairs to climb and then you are quite literally at the top of the Eiffel Tower. At least as far as one can go, anyways.
It was freezing cold and windy up this high. I had gone into self preservation mode about two seconds before we entered the final viewing platform, so I didn’t even look at the view – I just took the photo above by lifting the camera and hitting the shutter button with my eyes closed. And then I promptly went back into the covered area and waited to go back down.
To be honest, after looking at the photo I took, I much prefer the views from the lower two levels. At the top, we were up so high above the city that it was nearly impossible to pick out any specific sights. So really, if you’re going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you’re not doing it for the photos, you’re doing it to say you’ve been there, and that was the whole point of putting myself through this. I did it once, and that’s enough.
Visiting the Eiffel Tower with Kids
But this girl, she wasn’t scared at all. She was holding onto my hand on the viewing platforms for my benefit, not hers! Speaking of bringing kids to the Eiffel Tower, there are some fun online activities on the Eiffel Tower website you can do with young children before your visit to get them excited about it. However, if you’ve got small children, particularly those that like to be carried, I wouldn’t recommend taking the stairs for obvious reasons.
From start to finish, the whole Eiffel Tower experience probably took around three hours. Half of that time was spent waiting in line to buy tickets. The other half was walking up the stairs, taking photos on the first and second levels, waiting in line for the lift to the top, and then coming back down via the lift and the stairs.
When we got back down on the ground, I was all, ‘Hey, that wasn’t so bad!’ And then Cory looked at me like I’d lost my mind because he had just minutes before witnessed me descending the tower with a death grip on both sides of the stair railing. But hey, it’s easier to be brave on the ground!
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