The Eiffel Tower in Paris
, was constructed by Alexander-Gustave Eiffel in commemoration of the French Revolution, and completed in 1889 at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. The design beat out 700 others who were competing for the opportunity, and the structure was completed in just 21 months. At 986 feet, it was the tallest building in the known world after being unveiled at the Paris World's Fair. This open-latticed, brown wrought iron structure has since become one of the world's major tourist attractions, even though dozens of buildings have now surpassed it in height.
Originally viewed as unattractive, the tower's first year of tourist sales for its "new-fangled" elevator rides brought in almost enough revenue to pay the building cost. (It is estimated that total visitors since opening numbers around 200 million.) In 1909, the Eiffel Tower's was slated to be torn down, but because its radio antennae were considered essential, it was given a reprieve. At that time, the antenna was used for telegraphy, but today several antennae atop the tower are in use for French television stations.
Gustave Eiffel's design allows for wind to pass through the countless openings, so that although the 7000 ton tower is twice as tall as the Washington Monument, it weighs 70,000 tons less. At 100 stories high, and with a base the size of two football fields, photography and film fail to convey the tower's true size. There are observation levels on the heights relative to the 17th, 37th, and 75th floors. (Even the first level offers spectacular views because Parisian structures must not be taller than 66 feet high.) The first two observation levels are accessible by stairs or elevator, but the uppermost one can only be reached by elevator.
Wait lines for these elevators are known to be extremely long, especially in the summer. Tourists are advised to arrive first thing in the morning or after 6 PM. (Actually, the view is claimed to be reach its peak an hour before sunset.) The tower offers unique "double decked" elevators to the first two levels that ascend the tower's legs, which are at a rather steep incline. Due to the open nature of the tower's construction, this ride may be quite unnerving for visitors who suffer from a fear of heights. However, more traditional elevators are available for the rest of the trip to the tower's top. The second level platform hosts a very expensive restaurant, the "Jules Verne", while the top one offers a gift shop, bar, and a restoration of Gustave Eiffel's office.
One of the most remarkable sights in the world has to be the Eiffel Tower at night. This "metal lady", or "iron lady", is lit by over 350 projectors of 1000 watts each, 4 floodlights at 6000 watts, and as well as 800 fairy lights and 20,000 bulbs which twinkle every half hour. These twinkling lights were originally installed in celebration of the new millennium, but Paris missed their absence after the holiday. Unfortunately, the power needed to retain them was too expensive. In June of 2003, the tower got its twinkling illumination back after the system had been re-engineered to reduce the power consumption and cost. This event was the center of a fantastic celebration, supported by a stunning firework display and attended by 20,000 visitors. These current twinkling nights should last for many more years before needing replaced again. Many guests agree that the best location to get a full view photo of the tower in its night time glory is across the Seine River, at the Place du Trocadero.
There are many interesting trivia facts about the Eiffel Tower, as well: It is owned by the local government and is maintained by a private company, which paints it every 7 years with 50 tons of chocolate-brown paint. The workers who perform this task must have already mastered acrobatic and climbing skills. The tower is constructed of over 18,000 pieces of iron, held together by 2.5 million rivets. Even in high winds, tower sway has been almost non-existant, and, depending on the temperature, the tower's height actually varies. To walk to the top of the tower, guests should know in advance that there are 347 steps to the first level, 674 to the second, and 1,710 to the third. A visitor can see over 40 miles in all directions from the top of the Eiffel Tower on a clear day. The Eiffel tower also boasts the names of close to a hundred famous French individuals on its sides under the first platform, along with a bust of its creator, Gustave Eiffel at the base.
The Eiffel Tower has been the background for thousands of photos, movies and television shows from around the world as well. Every few decade, it seems that it is involved in publicity stunts. It has been scaled by a mountaineer, people have parachuted from it, and once someone rode a bicycle down from the first level.
As the symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower has a rich and colorful history, with a beauty and engineering which have withstood the test of time. Little wonder it attracts over 6 million visitors each year and why it is a universally recognized landmark. No trip to Europe can be considered complete without a stop at the Eiffel Tower, and probably few structures in the world have been photographed as often as this Parisian masterpiece!