One of the great things about living in the French Alps is that it’s so totally different to life in big French cities. When I go to Paris, I’m a tourist: loud noises grab my attention, the Metro is confusing, and I need a map if I want to know where I’m going.
If this alternative-angle photo of one of the world’s most recognised landmark doesn’t already give it away, I spent the weekend in Paris with the French in-laws who live there. Although their local knowledge and unaccented language makes me a less obvious tourist, it turns out that my French partner had never been up the Eiffel Tower. So, there we were in Paris, acting like it’s normal to watch some guys dealing crack at a Metro station then smoking some, and to see a man having a wee in one of the Metro’s corridors, on our way to the Eiffel Tower. If you want to visit the least French part of Paris, go to the Eiffel Tower. It’s just you and the tourists getting confused about when to cross roads, and street sellers with bags of 1€ mini-Eiffel Towers being chased by French police on push bikes.
So, we went to the Eiffel Tower. Here’s a top tip for anyone planning to visit: book your tickets at least four days in advance online. As we decided the night before we went, it was too late to do this, so we had to wait in a queue for about half an hour just to buy tickets to join the first of many more queues. The queue led us to a turnstile, and once on the other side, we queued for the lift to the second floor. Once out at the second floor, we joined a very long queue to get to the top. It felt like hours with a cold breeze chilling us all to the bone in the shade of the massive structure, but it was probably only 45 minutes. Once we got through that turnstile, we queued for about ten seconds before a lift door opened up next to us, (much to the annoyance of those queuing further ahead in the corridor of lift doors). The views were great, and going with a genuine French person is a huge bonus: “What’s that building?” questions lead to answers. The answers might be totally made up, but as long as the stories behind the fiction is good, I’m fine with that — and actively encourage it.
Now, if you’re in a hurry, remember to allow time to get back down the tower. The lift from the very top to the second floor has less of a queue to get back down, but further down queues can build up. If you’re not already frozen from the wait to get to the top, you have the option of walking down too. You can also stop off at the first floor and wait for another lift if you want to take in the views from behind the shelter of glass. Although it’s lower down, the views are still amazing — and somewhat more enjoyable than higher up on windy days. You may need to properly Frenchify yourself and barge into one of the full lifts, or walk down the remainder of the stairs to get to the bottom.
More Eiffel Tower visit tips:
- If you haven’t pre-booked, check the queue lengths at each of the four towers: the closests is likely to be the longest!
- If you need to go to the toilet while visiting the tower, there are toilets on every level and they’re likely to be less crowded than the ones on the ground.
- Allow plenty of hours to visit, and if time is short, go directly to the top first, then trickle down to the lower layers if you have time.
- The queue gets longer later in the afternoon, when people want to watch the sun set over Paris.
- Go with someone who knows Paris landmarks if possible.