How to beat the queues at the Eiffel Tower

When the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, it was originally – like the London Eye – intended to be a temporary installation, the entrance to the Exposition Universalle in the French capital. Once the magnificently tapering structure was complete, it quickly became the biggest draw in Paris. Plans to dismantle it were overturned, and for the next 41 years it was the highest structure in the world (until superseded by the Chrysler Building in New York).

Today, it is the most popular paid attraction in France. The crowds and queues can seriously reduce your enjoyment. This is the strategy for making the most of a visit – and it involves an early start, which also leaves you with the best part of the day to spend elsewhere in Paris. Incidentally, pack a plastic bottle of water in a small backpack (large bags and glass bottles are banned) .

The Eiffel Tower has viewing platforms at three levels, at 57m, 115m and 275m. You can, and should, walk to level 2. It takes around 15 minutes and enables you to get closer to the fabric of the structure.

If you prefer not to use the stairs, then you can buy tickets for the lift online ( eiffel-tower.com) and print them at home. There is no price saving, but you can almost eradicate the queue: arrive a few minutes before 9am, and breeze straight in. Absurdly, you cannot buy tickets online for the stairs-plus-lift combination – only for elevator ascents.

8.30am: Arrive on Métro line 9 at Trocadero station

This approach is an essential ingredient of the experience. Brown signs in the Métro station indicate the Tour Eiffel. Exit the Métro station, round the corner and you are greeted with a fabulous perspective of the tower on the far side of the Seine. Descend to, and cross, the river. Once you get close, the vendors of miniature Eiffel Towers (five for a euro) will seek your attention.

8.45am: Join the queue at the Pilier Sud (south pillar)

You should find it a much shorter line than the snaking queue of visitors who do not realise the extra attractions of climbing to the second level – not least, the shorter queue. The people who join the line for the lifts at 8.45am may still be waiting when you reach the top.

The only smarter visitors are those with pre-paid online tickets, who will be able to go straight in and be among the first in the double-deck lifts; these pause at the first level before continuing to the second.

9am: The cash desk opens

A trickle of visitors is allowed through, after a cursory bag check, to the cash desk. After the cash desk, there is a more intensive security check including a metal detector. Pay €4.70 for the right to walk to the second level (€1 less for those aged 18-25, €1.50 less for four- to 17-year-olds).

9.30am: You should be climbing by now

At the first level, don't stop to take in the view; follow the signs around to the second staircase.

9.45am: By now you should be at the second level

Make your way to the cash desk for the sommet; you have to buy a separate ticket (€5.20). Then join the queue for the four lifts to the third level. Within the first hour of opening, you shouldn't have to wait more than 10 minutes for the 80-second ride to the top.

10am: Welcome to the top

The majestic geometry of Paris unfolds at your feet. The viewing platform should not be too crowded, giving you a grand prospect of the city from every angle.

On a sunny day, look out for the shadow of the tower over the Seine – the photo opportunity that many tourists miss. Gustave Eiffel's office at the top has been preserved, with waxwork models inside. The other facility: toilets.

10.20am: Time to descend

At this time of day you should wait no more than five minutes for a lift to the second level.

10.30am: Dwell at level 2

After the wide-screen view from the top, gazing from the second level is like using the "zoom" setting on your camera: the skyscrapers of La Défense and the Sacré-Coeur are closer and more intriguing from this height.

10.45am: History of the Tower

Level 1 is the place to be to find out more. It is also where you will feel uncrowded, thanks to almost everyone bypassing it en route to the top.

11am: Back on ground level

The loos are around the back of the west pillar.

Travel essentials: Eiffel Tower

Dine in style

Le Jules Verne restaurant, on the second level, is accessed by the south pillar via its own private lift. The weekend set lunch costs €165 per person.

Dine on a budget

After leaving the tower, walk 1km east to rue Cler, full of tempting specialist shops that enable you to put together a picnic.

Beware pickpockets

According to the numerous signs that are displayed on the tower, thieves are a big problem. And at ground level, beggars and scam artists prey on tourists.

Joke to tell your companion at the top

Q: Pierre, a Parisian pâtissier, creates a tall structure from sponge, fruit, custard and cream. What does he call it?

A: The Trifle Tower.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk