Commonly the most visited paid tourist attraction in the world, there is no more famous monument in Paris than the Eiffel Tower, which the French media sometimes refers to as la dame de fer which means the "Iron Lady" in English.
The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World's Fair by entrepreneur Gustave Eiffel — who named the tower after himself — with engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, architect Stephen Sauvestre, and hundreds of craftsmen and laborers.
As the Eiffel Tower now often is used as a symbol not just of Paris — but also of French culture and the French language — it's hard to believe that during its construction, the Eiffel Tower was protested by artists who thought the structure was "useless and monstrous" and that it would make Paris "irreparably ugly." To be fair, at the time, the structure wasn't particularly useful. It also was scheduled for demolition after 20 years, which blunted the impact of protests. However, Gustave Eiffel cleverly funded radio technology research that led to its use as a broadcast antenna for years to come. To this day, the Eiffel Tower is used to hoist more than 100 antennas and it's safe to say that the appearance of the structure itself has grown on the city, its inhabitants, and the world since then, too.
You probably don't need any Paris travel guide to tell you to visit the Eiffel Tower. However, if you want to go to the top, it would be wise to book directly ahead of time as tickets often are snapped up months in advance. If you are making preparations ahead of time — but not two or three months ahead of time and direct tickets are sold out — you still have the possibility of booking via a travel agent. Three "skip the line" packages include an inexpensive, barebones option to go the 2nd floor; a 2nd floor option with a guide; and a more expensive, but spectacular option to go to both the 2nd floor and the summit with a guide.
Even if you have reserved tickets, be sure to show up at least half an hour earlier than the time on your ticket as the security is similar to that in an airport and it is time consuming. If you show up late, your ticket will not be accepted. It is possible to queue for tickets on site without pre-booking, but it often involves hours of standing in the sun or rain (although the city is working on improvements to security and comfort alike).
If you didn't plan ahead, you have less time, you would like to spend less money, or you would prefer a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower from the air, consider going to the top of the much less famous Montparnasse Tower instead. You also can pre-book tickets to Montparnasse Tower if you would like to be prepared.
Likewise, some routes to the Eiffel Tower are better than others, and travelgasm.com has painstakingly burned plenty of shoe rubber to map out the most pleasant walks from the Metro to the Eiffel Tower and around the area.
The most popular option for tourists to gawk at the Eiffel Tower is to go to the Esplanade du Trocadéro. It is a nice viewing platform, but the area is completely overloaded with selfie stick wielding tourists and touts hawking light up Eiffel Tower keychains, snowglobes, and the like, so it's not as majestic feeling as it could be. Even if you're pressed for time, be sure to at least make it past this area down into the Jardins du Trocadéro as the tourists start to thin out a bit and it feels more relaxed. The much larger Champs de Mars park on the other side of the Eiffel Tower also is a nice walk and we've stitched together a walk between these two green spaces in a logical fashion.
Our favorite alternate route in the area is to walk L'île aux Cygnes or Swan Isle in the middle of the Seine river. When we first wrote this piece, the island had a grand total of zero reviews on the world's search engine, and it wasn't in the top 250 attractions on the big tourist advisory sites. Furthermore, tourist reviews tended just to mention seeing the miniature Statue of Liberty on the end of the island from a tour boat rather than walking Swan Isle itself, so we easily could have considered it one of our "7 Things Tourists Don't Do in Paris, but You Should."
The attached Pont de Bir-Hakeim (bridge) attracts some tourists — as well as local wedding photographers — for its great view of the Eiffel Tower, but it's far less crowded than the Esplanade du Trocadéro and few tourists go beyond that point. Swan Isle could use some love from a landscape architect — or at least a bit more maintenance — but those who stroll it mostly will encounter a local sitting on a bench reading a book, fishing off the side of the island, or exercising in an outdoor gym under the Pont de Grenelle (bridge). Even in the evenings — when the Eiffel Tower famously "sparkles" each hour on the hour for five minutes starting just after sunset and ending at 1 AM — Swan Isle feels remarkably local and quiet even though it is practically in the shadow of the world's most visited tourist attraction. We've mapped out logical start and end points below. Be mindful of rats in all of these parks. Parisian parks have a significant rat problem, but if you don't bother them, they likely will not bother you either.
If you want something more substantial than a crêpe from a street vendor near the Eiffel Tower, and you're on a tighter budget, the food court in the Beaugrenelle Mall is about as inexpensive as the area gets. Note that we would instead recommend Montparnasse for crêpes, as well.
Of course, the Eiffel Tower itself also hosts a handful of restaurants including the pricey Michelin starred Le Jules Verne. As Paris is home of the Michelin Guide, there are plenty of other Michelin recommended options, though. Other Michelin recommendations for French food from their considered to be budget €40 "Bib Gourmand" meal selections in the area include 20 Eiffel, Les Cocottes, and Le Close des Gourmets near Champs de Mars and Le Pario near Charles Michels station.
How to Get Here: Take Metro Line 6 or Line 9 to Trocadéro. Exit 1 (Av. du Président Wilson) is the closest to the Esplanade du Trocadéro viewing platform (although Exit 6 is effectively its mirror and is less crowded at peak times). Our "tourist walk" ends at Metro Line 8, École Militaire station (Exit 1), which is roughly a mile from Trocadéro (1.7 km). Our "more local walk" starts at RER Line C at Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel station, which is connected directly underground to Metro Line 6 (Bir Hakeim station), and ends at Metro Line 10 at Charles Michels station. This walk also is about a mile (1.7 km).
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