If you are going to Paris there are certain things you have to do:
- You have to eat some form of French treat, be it a croissant, a pain aux chocolate, a Nutella crêpe or a macaroon.
- If you are a lady, you need to get either a scarf of a beret. It’s a little cheesy, but who doesn’t like some cheese to look back on.
- Buying something from a street market is a must. Be it a few cherries, or antique silverware.
- You need to get a little lost wondering the streets one evening. It’s preferable with a lover, but anyone else who isn’t a safety risk will do too.
- You have to see the Eiffel Tower.
Even if you don’t go up. And preferably at night. Admittedly, with its dominance in the skyline it is hard not to notice it if you spend any amount of time in the general vicinity of The Eiffel Tower.
It’s just one of those things. The Eiffel Tower is so synonymous with Paris that it’s almost a sin not to walk past it if you are in Paris. And with so many little cafés and street vendors there is no good reason not walk through the gardens and streets surrounding the Eiffel Tower.
When we first went to Paris my husband and I considered not actually going. It seemed somehow cliché to go, but considering its proximity to the Champs Elysees and other ‘less’-clichéd Parisian landmarks we decided to go that way. We are glad that we decided to see The Eiffel Tower up close.
You don’t have to go up to enjoy The Eiffel Tower
The first time we went to Paris we decided not to go up. It was summer, and the queues to go up the tower were quite long. We decided that we didn’t have the time to wait in a queue for an hour. Instead, we bought some fruit and pastries at a street market and pedalled to The Eiffel Tower. We had already seen it from afar, but there’s something very surreal about walking underneath the massive metal construction. As if it finally hits you that you actually are in Paris.
Mauritz and I picnicked in the gardens. Just chatting, admiring the day and the architecture of the tower. We soon realized our first mistake was biking the cobblestoned sidewalks of Paris with nothing to protect our fruit in the baskets of our bicycles. The strawberries and peaches were almost smoothies that we messily ate and slurped from the packaging as we laughed. The wet wipes I keep in my handbag were very necessary.
Going up The Eiffel
When we returned to Paris in February the following year the queues to go up the tower were much shorter. Despite my initial reservations, we bought tickets to go right to the top. The first thing that struck me upon looking out was the sheer enormity of Paris. The city sprawls out around the tower much further than the eye can see and is almost silvery. Realising that it was only about half an hour to sunset, we decided to wait to see the sun setting over Paris. It really was something special to see all the lights of the city slowly turn on as the darkness set in. And then there’s what my husband calls “arguably the most exclusive apartment in Paris.” The designer of The Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, actually had a small apartment at the very top which he would stay and entertain special guests in. You can see this apartment, and other interesting facts about The Eiffel Tower on the top level.
A few general guide lines
Before going up, be aware of the weather. If you want see far, aim for a clear day. In the winter you will be hard-pressed for a clear day, but the views remain beautiful none the less. As we were in Paris in February, it was cold. But it was a lot colder at the top of the tower. Bundle up on the ground with hats, scarves and gloves.
When you buy your ticket on the ground you can choose whether you want to go half way up the tower, or the whole way up. If you are indecisive, or not convinced, you can buy a ticket to go half way up, and then buy another ticket at the mid-way stop to go all the way up. There is a champagne bar right at the top, but it is pricey.
There are also coffee and souvenir shops in the tower itself. As with most attractions, you can buy almost anything you find up there for a fraction of the price a street or two from the Louvre. Speaking of buying things…there are many hawkers who target tourists in the surrounds of the Eiffel Tower. More so than at other tourist attractions. Again, you can get what they are selling for much cheaper from a shop around the corner. Also beware of the pickpocketers. If someone comes at you with a clipboard asking you to sign a petition hold on to your pockets and purses. These pseudo-Samaritans use the clipboard to distract you from their wondering fingers. A strong decline and assertive body language should save your valuables so that a wonderful experience is ruined by theft.
If you are the type of person who usually likes to look at a statue from afar, instead of clambering all over it this landmark is definitely the exception to the rule. It certainly didn’t disappoint us, and the whole experience was more than what we thought it would be. Deciding to go up, or simply looking up is entirely up to you and the circumstances for your trip. If the weather is bad there isn’t all that much shelter from the sharp winds at the top. So if you’re a little grumpy when you’re cold then you are not going to enjoy it. But if it’s a clear day and the queues are manageable, go for it. It really is a beautiful sight from up there.