Built by Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 as part of a “Universal Exposition” celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution. At 312 meters, it was the tallest building in the world until New York’s Chrysler building overtook it in 1930. It took 300 steel workers 2 years (1887-1889) to construct. It was originally designed as a temporary attraction, but the decision was made to keep it as a permanent attraction.
In the basements of the eastern and western pillars, one can visit the gargantuan 1899 machinery which powers the elevators, an astonishing spectacle reminiscent of a Jules Verne novel. From the Tower’s three platforms — especially the topmost — the view of Paris is superb. It is generally agreed that one hour before sunset, the panorama is at its best.
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First level: 57.63 meters (189 feet).
- Observatory from which to study the movements of the Eiffel Tower’s summit.
- Kiosk presentation about the mythic painting of the Eiffel Tower.
- Space CINEIFFEL: offers an exceptional panorama of sights from the Tower.
- Souvenir shops (yes, every tourist MUST have a miniature replica).
- Restaurant “Altitude 95” (phone 01-45-55-20-04).
- Post office, with special stamps “Paris Eiffel Tower .”
- Panoramic gallery displaying the Monuments of Paris.
Second level: 115.73 meters (379 feet, 8 inches).
- Panorama of Paris. Telescopes, shops.
- Animated displays on the operation of the elevators.
- Jules Verne Restaurant (extremely expensive, reservations absolutely necessary).
Third level: 276.13 meters (905 feet, 11 inches).
- Exceptional panoramic views, day or night, of Paris and its surroundings.
- Recently restored office, featuring wax reproductions of Gustave Eiffel and Thomas Edison in conversation.
The Eiffel Tower has witnessed a few strange scenes, including being scaled by a mountaineer in 1954, and two Englishmen parachuting off it in 1984. In 1923, the journalist Pierre Labric (who was later to become mayor of Montmartre) rode a bicycle down from the first level; some accounts say he rode down the stairs, others suggest the exterior of one of the tower’s four legs which slope outward.
Politics have also played a role in its life. During World War II, the Germans hung a sign on it that read: “Deutschland Siegt Auf Allen Fronten” (“Germany is victorious on all fronts”). In 1958, a few months before Fidel Castro’s rise to power, Cuban revolutionaries hung their red-and-black flag from the first level, and in 1979, an American from Greenpeace hung one that read: “Save the Seals.”
In 1989, the Tower celebrated its centennial with music and fireworks.