Going to Paris was an experience I’d been dreaming of for my whole life. Of course, I don’t recall ever meeting someone who didn’t at least like the idea of visiting Paris at some point. Since I knew we’d only be heading up to the top once, I made sure to plan for the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower. We couldn’t decide if we wanted to go to the top during the day or late in the evening to see the city lit up below us. After a bit of researching and debating – no one ever agrees on anything with us haha – we came up with the perfect solution.
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Getting To the Eiffel Tower
We were a few minutes late for our tickets, but it didn’t seem to matter. I’d read about horrendous lines for security and the elevators at the Eiffel Tower, but we seemed to breeze right through. Of course, we were visiting on a random weekday in November, so don’t count on the same quick experience if you arrive during the peak summer season. Plans to increase the barriers around the base of the Eiffel tower were recently announced, but guards and barriers were already heavily present, so those seem to be more to add a permanent structure to replace the temporary (and kind of ugly) ones already there. We had to walk through metal detectors before being allowed under the structure. Security only took a few minutes and we didn’t have to wait for more than one elevator car at any of the levels as we headed to the top. Booking your tickets online is well worth it, and in the summer, it might be your only chance at getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
There are several bus stops within a block or two of the Eiffel Tower. Bus line 82 will get you the closest, but routes 42, 69, and 87 are also solid choices with stops in the area. If you’re taking trains, the RER C line has the closest stop called the Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel. The Metro Line 6 stop for Bir Hakeim is also very close. We walked from our hotel about 2/3 mile away because there weren’t any convenient public transportation options running in the direction we needed to go and the hotel front desk clerk said that taxis wouldn’t bother to take us such a short distance. If you plan on arriving on foot, give yourself some extra time to enjoy the Champ de Mars so you don’t have to power walk through it like we did. You can also hop a ride on an insanely expensive bike taxi, but I would definitely not endorse that option.
When to visit the Eiffel Tower
When making our reservations, we debated about what time we should visit the Eiffel Tower. One school of thought was to go up during the day so we could have good views of all of the landmarks in Paris. The other was that we should go up at night to enjoy the sight of the City of Lights all lit up below us. (And also to take advantage of its late hours so we could use the days to hit museums and other sites that closed in the evening. Read about our strategy in this Paris itinerary post.) It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that going up in late afternoon was the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower. That way we could catch the last bit of daylight and then watch the sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower. We’d get to see both day and night in just one trip to the top with the added bonus of a (hopefully) gorgeous sunset in between. We googled the sunset times for our days in Paris and chose our tickets accordingly.
I wanted to get tickets about an hour before the sunset to give us time to get through security and all the way to the top, but there was a mix-up when booking and we ended up with only about 25 minutes between our ticket time and the sunset. Oops. On top of that, we were a few minutes late, so we made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower just as sunset would’ve been ending. It didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because it was overcast that day anyway. We saw some peeks of yellow cutting in between the clouds, but that was all of the sunset action we got that evening. The best laid plans can always go awry, so sometimes you just have to make the best of things. We still had amazing views and got to watch as Paris lit up below us as streetlights, headlights, and windows came to life one by one. This is truly the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower.
I was able to snap some cool photos of my favorite landmarks with the last of the afternoon light, and then I circled back around the viewing platform after dark to check them all out again with their dramatic evening lighting. If you’re really into spotting the highlights of Paris, bring a pair of travel binoculars with you.
Drinks at the Top of the Eiffel Tower
There is a (slightly overpriced) champagne bar at the top of the Eiffel Tower. My sister and I spent the extra 5 Euros to get light-up glasses with ours because we figured it might be our only chance to ever drink champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, so we might as well go all the way. She was especially excited because at 19, she was too young to drink at home in the US, but here in France she was plenty old enough for a pour. We were not disappointed with our choices, and toasting with my mom and my baby sister atop the Eiffel Tower was a pretty cool experience. I took mine home and used it at midnight on New Year’s Eve, so if you factor in two uses, it was less expensive.
As you would expect in November, it was freezing and very windy at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but we braved the cold and took our coats off anyway so we’d look semi-decent in some of the pictures. Yay, vanity. Even if you’re visiting during the summer, you’ll likely want to pack a light jacket or long-sleeved shirt for the top of the Tower because it gets breezy and chilly the higher you go.
Watching Paris light up below us was magical. Sunset was absolutely the best time to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. In contrast to other European cities I’ve visited, Paris looked kind of grey and monotone from above, but as darkness fell it seemed to take on a whole new life. I had a bird’s eye view of an endless array of sights I’d been dreaming of seeing for most of my life. Paris has so many recognizable landmarks that gazing out over the city almost felt familiar because everywhere I looked, I saw buildings and monuments that I’d looked at in pictures hundreds of times before.
I could’ve stayed at the top of the Eiffel Tower there until midnight, but we had tickets for a river cruise, so we eventually headed back to earth to grab a quick dinner and find the docks. Kicking off the Paris portion of our stay with a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower was definitely a good way to start things. It worked well logistically based on the locations of our hotel and our cruise departure and made us even more excited for the next few days. After finally laying eyes on the Louvre and Notre Dame from afar, it was almost impossible to sleep knowing that I’d be visiting them up close the next day.
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