Previous and future posts in this trip report:
4. Eiffel Tower
6. Café Kleber Trocadero and The Eiffel Tower At Night
7. Lufthansa New Business Class, Upstairs On The 747-8i
Our second and final day in Paris was also our only full day, and it started with a tour of the Eiffel Tower. This was solidly number one on our daughter’s list (and pretty high on Michelle’s and my list as well).
Once again, we had received solid advice from Michael that we should book our tickets for the tower online ahead of time. We had that conversation about 3 weeks prior to departure which meant all I had to do was hop online then when we had the conversation and reserve our tickets online. Easy, right? Except I didn’t do that. I waited until about a week out, and they were completely sold out all weekend. Yikes!
For those that would like to buy tickets ahead of time, it’s pretty easy to do right here.
Buying a ticket ahead of time will cost you 15 Euro, or about $20 USD (kids are a bit cheaper).
As a further aside, you can also buy tickets for the Arc de Triomphe ahead of time and pick them up on the Champs Elysees instead of waiting in line. That website is right here.
Panicked, I e-mailed my Hyatt Private Line Agent so she could see if the Park Hyatt concierge could help us. Sure would be a bummer of a trip to Paris without the Eiffel Tower! The answer came back quickly that there was a tour service that could get us access.
They directed me to Easy Pass Tours, who offer, among many other things, Eiffel Tower access. The website was easy to use and they did have availability, though even they were limited. I’m guessing part of it was due to Valentine’s Day, but this is arguably the biggest tourist attraction in Paris.
They have two different options. Just buying a ticket through them is 40 Euro (55 USD). That’s a far cry from $20, but that’s what you’ll pay for procrastinating.
In our case, procrastinating on a popular weekend cost 59 Euro (80 USD) for the ticket and guided tour. Gulp!
The tour itself is a total of 2 hours. We’re not big “tour” folks, and I can certainly say we didn’t get an extra $25 in value per person out of the tour guide versus just walking the tower ourselves, though there were a few nuggets of information we probably wouldn’t otherwise have learned.
The tour started about a block away from the tower at a souvenir store. A quick walk over and some history from the base of the tower, then into a private security lane where we passed through metal detectors and were quickly on the 2nd floor, an intermediate observation level. The lines to wait if you didn’t have an advance ticket were massive, easily a multiple hour wait.
For those that haven’t visited, the tower is about as breathtaking as one might imagine staring up from the base.
Throughout this whole time our daughter was completely bonking from the time change. I had carried her from the souvenir store and was still holding her while she pleaded to go back to the hotel. Even when she was staring at the tower she didn’t snap out of it. It was cold as well, so I’m sure that didn’t add to the experience for her. When we got upstairs there was a small cafe. Since she hadn’t eaten much we figured we would try and get her a snack to see if that would break the mood.
The tour operator holds your summit tickets separately and doesn’t given them to you until the tour is over. I asked her how long the tour was since we wanted to break off for a bit. 2 hours? Wow. That’s a long time to talk about the tower, and certainly way longer than our 7-year old could handle. The tour guide happily gave us our summit tickets and we went to rejuvenate our daughter.
Thankfully, the snack helped snap her out of it and she was soon enjoying beautiful views of Paris from the 2nd floor and summit.
The elevator ride to the summit from the 2nd floor had a bit of a wait but not that bad. If you are visiting the tower on a cold day, it’s worth noting that there’s plenty of heated (and supposedly cooled in the summer) observation space at the summit.
Interesting tower factoid. The tower was commissioned to be built entirely by Parisian companies. But, Eiffel couldn’t find a Parisian company who could make elevators that would go up the legs of the tower at an angle. He turned to the Otis brothers, who’s name you can see etched on many an elevator and escalator in the United States. They used hydraulics to essentially come up with a modified cable car system that takes people up and down the tower legs.
Once we got down to the 2nd floor we decided to walk down the stairs to the ground. Walking up the stairs from the ground to the 2nd floor is also an option for those who don’t want to wait for the elevator. For those who aren’t in great shape, I wouldn’t recommend it. I wasn’t exhausted walking down the stairs, but it wasn’t an easy walk and I’m in okay shape.
If you have the opportunity to walk down the stairs (or up briefly from the intermediate 1st floor where the restaurant is) there’s a great place to take a picture from the inside of the tower. We happened upon it quite by accident when we came down a short flight of stairs by the elevators and saw someone lying on the ground with a camera. It made for a great last picture before heading off the tower.
We were heading to Laduree for a bite of lunch and some more macaroons, so we walked in the direction of Trocadero Square to hail a taxi cab. A quick look over our shoulder for one last look at the tower from a different angle confirmed we’ll be back to see her again.
What did we learn?
Plan ahead and buy your tickets online.
We spent about 2.5 hours at the tower. Setting aside however long you might wait in line, the tower can be done in 90 minutes for most folks. Certainly you can spend longer lingering over the sights, but there isn’t a lot of reading history there.
An alternative to a guide tour are some smartphone apps that will give you a self-paced tour through the history and architecture of the tower.
There’s a well-reviewed upscale restaurant on the 1st floor of the tower, reservations are essential.
We went earlier in the day, about an hour after opening, and there was virtually no line if you had a reserved ticket for the elevators. But, the walk-up line was already quite long.
It’s well worth it, no matter how many tourists you encounter. The Eiffel Tower was a masterpiece for its time and still represents a significant piece of history and architecture.