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La Tour Eiffel

Why and how the Eiffel Tower was built

The 1889 World Expo in Paris was planned to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution in 1789. Five years earlier, in 1884, it was decided to hold a competition to design an attraction which would bring more visitors to the World Expo. There were hundreds of entries, some of which - like a giant guillotine - were rather unusual. Eiffel's design of the Tower was the winning entry.

Construction of Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower under construction

It took only about twenty-six months to construct the Tower. It weighed 7 000 tonnes and two and half million rivets were used in its construction.

Old pic of Eiffel Tower
Early picture of the Eiffel Tower

At that time, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world at 321 metres in height. (1051 feet).

To begin with, the Eiffel Tower was not at all popular with the people of Paris. They did not like its shape, they thought it looked ugly. Parisians sneered at the Tower. 

Famous “savants” and artists of the day stated that it was unthinkable that a mere engineer, a maker of machines, could construct a work of art.They wanted to pull it down as soon as the World Expo had finished.

However, the Tower provided inspiration for many artists and came to be loved by its detractors. It proved to be the most popular place in Paris to visit. When World Expo had finished, people from all over the world were still coming to Paris, just to see the Eiffel Tower.

When it was due for demolition in 1909 along with all the other Expo buildings, the people of Paris decided that they would keep it and demonstrated for it to be left.  By this time, it was already serving a technological purpose as a telegraphic relay and weather station! Now it is ranked as the number one tourist attraction in the world.

A little about Eiffel

Eiffel was already a well-known engineer who had designed and completed many complex projects. He specialised in working in iron. Some of his constructions included viaducts across valleys and gorges, bridges, the department store of Bon Marché in Paris, churches, Budapest railway station, and the Statue of Liberty.

Gustave Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower, though, was to be his favourite construction. He even had a sitting room built for himself in it, where he worked every day right up to the time he died.

The photo shows him (or at least a model of him!) in this room on the Tower.

Eiffel in his office

What to see at the Tower

You may need to arrive early, or visit the Tower at night to avoid the queues. The advantage of the Tower is that you can visit it at night, when other monuments are closed. The Tower is open every day but ensure that you arrive early as the queues to ascend are very long. This is the queue seen from the top!

Queue on ground The people at end of the queue in the photo would proably have to wait in line for up to two and half hours!

The Eiffel Tower is open till 11pm. each night so it may be visited when most other attractions are closed. This is an ideal time to visit since the queues are shorter and you can see the lights of Paris.

The base of the tower covers 100 metres on each side; its height and size are often underestimated, since it has few other buildings near it for comparison. It is the equivalent of 105 storeys high.

Foot of tower The Eiffel Tower has three levels. You may walk or take a lift to the first level or premier étage. This lower lift is curved and has two passenger decks.

You may only take the lift to the second and top levels (deuxième étage and troisième étage.)

Ascending the Tower
Ascending in the lift

This picture was taken inside the ascending lift.

You can choose to visit the different stages on the way up or the way down (or of course, do both!)

On the other levels, there are shops, restaurants and even a post office so you can send a post card with a special stamp.

Shops on Tower The name of the restaurant is "Altitude 95" - a reminder of the height of the 2e étage or second level. There is also a small movie theatre where you can see films about the Tower and its special moments.

 

top of tower

The top of the Eiffel Tower. At the top there are TV and telephone transmitters and a weather station. There is also an exhibition in the cabin. You can climb on to the outside deck to admire the view. The Tower is lit up at night. On the half hour, there is a light show lasting for a minute.

In Eiffel's time, electricity was just being introduced to Paris specially for the World Exposition of 1889. The Tower though, had gas lights to start with. There were huge spotlights at the top of the Tower which were considered a wonder at the time of the 1889 Expo. The like had not been seen before. On each level, there were huge red flares glowing which made the Tower look like it was in flames. The gas lights were replaced by electricity in 1900.

The introduction of electric lighting changed the whole lifestyle of Paris - people were able to sight see by night, admire illuminated buildings and walk the streets in greater safety.

Today, the Tower's lights are designed to sparkle, flash and move up and down the construction every half hour starting at 8.30pm. It's a light show that can be seen all over Paris.

The lights are used for a variety of purposes. At various times they have been arranged to advertise Citroën cars (in 1926 for 10 years - with the word "Citroën" running vertically), as a clock and thermometer (in 1934), a countdown of days to the millennium (1999) and to support France's Olympic Games bid (2005).

skating on the tower In Winter time, the city of Paris installs a skating rink on the first level - premier étage - of the Tower. For a small deposit, you can hire skates and join in the fun. This "patinoire" (skating rink) is very popular at all times when the Tower is open.

Things to look for when you visit:

Bust of Eiffel

See if you can find the golden bust of Eiffel tucked away at the base of the Tower

And of course, track down Monsieur Eiffel in his little office!

Look up at the Tower and spot the names of all those who were involved in its creation. They are cast into the iron - see the photo on the right.


Here are some facts and figures about the Eiffel Tower

  1. The Tour Eiffel is more than 320 metres high – first stage at 57metres, and second stage at 115 metres.

  2. 18, 038 pieces of metal

  3. 2,500,000 rivets

  4. Weighs 10,100 tonnes

  5. 6 million visitors per year

  6. View up to 90 km in good weather

 

 

The most famous place in Paris is LA TOUR EIFFEL, named after the man who designed it, Gustave Eiffel.
 

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