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Haters will tell you to skip the Eiffel Tower altogether: the lines are too long, the area’s a tourist trap, it has nothing to do with the real Paris, they’ll tell you. But the seven million people who pay to ascend its 324 meters every year aren’t all travel dunces, carried along by the crowd and clichés. There are ways, 11 to be exact, to organize your visit to make the most of this iconic monument.
You can buy tickets on the Eiffel Tower website up to two months in advance. In doing so, you commit to a specific date and time – so if the weather that day turns out to be miserable, there’s no way of switching up your plans – but you’ll gain access to the much shorter ‘Visitor with Tickets’ line. Be aware that if you’re more than 30 minutes late, you may be denied entry. Taking the elevator ticket costs €11 to the 2nd floor and €17 to the top.
The capital’s tourism office has devised the Paris Passlib’ to help tourists – adults, young people, and children – plan their trip and minimize their expense. The adult packages start at €40 for one day and go up to €155 for five days. The former includes a one-hour cruise on the Seine and a one-day bus tour around the city. For an additional €15, you can add a fast-track ticket to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower to any of the packages.
Private tour operators are often a good way of streamlining holiday plans and there are certainly a few that offer queue-jumping tickets for the Eiffel Tower. The ‘Skip the Line’ tour by Fat Tire Tours will let you take in all three levels without waiting for hours at the base and the ‘Guided Eiffel Tower Tour’ by City Wonders gets you straight to the front of the line with a local expert. You can also find excellent deals on Viator.
As with all of Paris’ attractions, the earlier you can get to the Eiffel Tower, the better. (Obviously, this is easier said than done if the French wine’s been flowing the night before.) The city’s most famous landmark is also highly susceptible to seasonal increases in popularity. The busiest time of year is from mid-July to late-August and the quietest times are weekdays during the winter. Check out the 2016 calendar of peak and off-peak periods to see when your visit falls.
Making a reservation at one of the Eiffel Tower’s two restaurants will also allow you to skip the line as both have a separate entrance. You can either go informal on the 1st floor with 58 Tour Eiffel, where a chic picnic will cost you €42.50; or opt for a fine dining experience on the 2nd level with Le Jules Verne, where you can enjoy a three-course lunch menu for €105 and a five- or six-course dinner menu for €190 or €230.
Even if you purchase your tickets in advance, waiting in line for a little while for the elevators is inevitable. Opting for the €7 stair ticket, on the other hand, is a surprisingly unused option and you’ll never normally wait more than a few minutes. The 704 steps take you to the 2nd floor, where you can catch the elevator to the top. In any event, consider walking down for the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet and unique views.
Low cloud cover and fog can completely obscure the Eiffel Tower and the great views people wait so long to see. If you haven’t bought tickets online, keep an eye on the weather forecast to see which day would be best to make the ascent. If there isn’t much wiggle room in your plans, don’t worry: the sun usually burns up most of the moisture by mid-morning. If it clears, you can buy a ticket to the top on the 2nd floor.
The Eiffel Tower app now allows you to be your own tour guide during your visit. It features an hour-long audio tour made up of thirty themed chapters, covering every aspect of the tower’s history with the help of unseen period documents. The Android- and Apple-friendly app will also help you identify 70 famous surrounding buildings, like the Grand Palais, Sacré-Coeur, and Champs-Elysées, using high-definition panoramas.
Skipping the line on the way up is a great time saver but, unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the wait for an elevator on the way down. There’s only one line on each floor and the longest wait by far is on the top floor. You can, of course, take the stairs down from the 2nd or 1st floor without any time lost. As you can’t re-enter once you’ve left, just relax and make the most of your time up there.
The two best stations to arrive at for a pre-ascent photo (or selfie) are Trocadéro and Bir-Hakeim. The former is by far the most popular and arriving any later than 9AM during the summer means large crowds of tourists and salesmen hocking cheap souvenirs. The latter, which is at the bridge made famous by movies like Last Tango in Paris and Inception, offers stunning views over the Seine. If you aren’t interested in photos, the nearest station is Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel.
Whether you go up the Eiffel Tower during the day or at night, you should make the trip to see it at both times of day. The evening light show sees the tower lit up by 20,000 bulbs. It starts at dusk and lasts for five minutes every hour on the hour until 1am and 2am in the summer.