Rising from the green expanse of the Champ de Mars, a former military parade ground established 140 years before its construction, the Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) is Paris ’s most enduring symbol. Built for the centenary of the Revolution in 1889, it was feted by half a million people at its own centenary celebrations in 1989.
When plans for the Tour Eiffel won first prize in a competition organized for the 1889 Universal Exhibition, Gustave Eiffel pronounced that France would be the only nation with a 300-meter flagpole. The precision of his plans, with exact measurements for more than 15,000 metallic parts, enabled 300 workers to complete the tallest structure in the world in just over two years (January 1887 to March 1889). A staggering 2.5 million rivets were used.
An immediate success, it was visited by almost two million people during the exhibition. Within a year it had recouped most of its building cost. The Tour Eiffel was due to be pulled down in 1909, but by then it had become indispensable in the world of telecommunications, particularly for the first transatlantic radio telephone service.
You can reach the first platform by 360 steps or by one of four elevators that travel diagonally up the legs (one serves only the restaurant). A small museum on the first floor runs a short film about the tower’s history. A video gives additional details and statistics.
The panorama from the top platform is breathtaking. On a very clear day, the horizon can extend to 45 miles (72 km). Directly below is the Seine and, on the opposite bank, the Palais de Chaillot. At night the Tour Eiffel is lit from within for ten minutes every hour, making a glittering spectacle so evocative of Paris’s romantic image.