I’ve never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t something I would have chosen on my own, but Drew booked the tickets and I was happy to tag along. I had no idea that this would turn out to be my favorite activity of the whole visit!
Today I felt a little stressed out about getting up and going, waking up early has definitely NOT been on my agenda this week. The Captain and I have been staying up late and night listening to the sounds of the city and lounging on the giant sofa in the living room while drinking wine and eating Bolognese flavored potato chips. Man, we need a sofa like that at home. It’s big enough for us to both stretch out on and snuggle into each other. Also it must be said that we drank 400 bottles of wine last night at dinner and all of us were happy to sleep in today.
We got up and going anyway and made breakfast from toasted baguette with soft cheese and a variety of juices with names I cannot pronounce.
We walked down to the Seine and crossed the river at Pont Neuf. Drew’s apartment is a short walk past Notre Dame cathedral and down to Maubert. (Fans of Le Divorce will recognize that name — Maubert — it’s an area which pops up in the book frequently.)
We met up just outside the apartment and walked together to the metro at Maubert, and after a quick subway change we made it to the Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel stop. In retrospect we should have taken the RER the whole way because it’s nicer but I’m used to mostly walking and I still get turned around on the subway.
The biggest shocker came just as we turned the corner — the ugly fence and the new security entrance to the tower. My heart dropped and I felt a physical reaction to the sight of it, yards of sagging chain link fencing, lines snaking around temporary queues, and security guys waving their wands over the crowd.
(Now I’m going to bemoan the loss of simple pleasures because of the state of the world. Then I’ll get back to the specifics.)
It had been eight months since my last stay in Paris (too long!) and yet in those eight months how did so much change? It appears that the scabby fences put up around the base of the Eiffel Tower during the Euro soccer tournament in June of 2016 have become a permanent fixture. The park and the tower have always been open and beautifully integrated into the city. I had no idea when I last left Paris in early June that it would be the final time I would ever see the tower without a barrier.
The open sprawl of this beautiful park has been a part of my Paris routine for six years. My normal morning walk/jog (on a lucky day) takes me around the Arc de Triomphe, down Avenue George V, cross the street at Avenue du Président Wilson, stop for a quick photo op here — it’s a stellar place to see the river and the tower, and the eternal flame is in a little land island. Walk down Quay Branly until reaching the Eiffel Tower and jog beneath it, stopping in the Champ de Mars or on Place Joffre to take a moment and drink it in. It’s a beautiful walk and now one that is just a memory in the past, it seems.
Well, enough of that. The world has changed, and so one must adapt.
At the security checkpoint
Visitors have to pass through a gate to be screened. As far as I could tell, you don’t need a ticket for this, although by the time you are reading this column who knows how much will be different.
The guards scan you with a metal detector, look inside your bags and if you have weird-looking electronics (such as my 360-degree camera) they ask you turn them on. You will want to build extra time into your schedule to get through this line — it was a low-traffic weekday in February and there was a 15-minute wait, so plan ahead especially if you are visiting during peak tourist times (June-August, December.)
Drew had reserved our tickets online and had the printouts all ready for the next queue, a line to get into the bottom of the tower leg where the elevator starts. Tickets are time boxed and you can get in line about 15 minutes before your ticket time. Ask one of the guides stationed outside the line for clarification.
The line here moves around a zigzag into the base of the tower. Here you get your tickets checked and go through another security screening zone. By the time we squeezed in to the second elevator with all the other squished tourists, I have to say I had a new appreciation for the security measures down below. You definitely feel the tension rise as the elevator goes up! I also happen to be a giant weenie who is scared of heights so there’s that.
The elevator stops at the second floor where you can get out, stretch your legs, see the view. If you don’t want to go any higher you can stop here. We did not stop. We needed to go to the TOP!
The next elevator ride is even smaller and scarier. When you exit, you’ll be one floor below the top floor. I did NOT like this level. It’s covered and it felt kind of claustrophobic. Find the nearest set of stairs and walk up (about 10 steps) to the top level. Be prepared to hug the wall for a moment if you are afraid of heights (like me.) I was crab walking along the wall until I reached my destination: The Champagne Bar!
It’s exorbitantly expensive but worth it — four glasses of champagne for 50 euros.
The city looks especially beautiful from this vantage point, it’s an experience I didn’t expect to enjoy (see: crowds, heights) but I adored this and thought it was one of the highlights of the trip. The elevators are glass, too, so you can get some great views inside the tower on the trip.
What you need to know:
The view is amazing and worth the wait! Definitely buy the ticket that goes all the way to the summit — it’s an experience you’ll never forget and it’s much nicer than the 2nd floor stop.
Trip planning info is available at the official LaTour Eiffel site:
Buy your tickets in advance online: