Eiffel Tower

Part of the Eiffel Tower Since my pictures of the Eiffel Tower seem to attract a lot of visitors, I thought I’d prepare yet another FAQ to answer common questions about the tower. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, send me feedback and I’ll try to research an answer to post here (no guarantees).

The Eiffel Tower also has its own Web site, if you’d like more information.

Summary of Questions

* Where is the Eiffel Tower?
* Why was the Eiffel Tower built?
* What are the dimensions of the tower?
* What is the tower made from?
* Who owns the Eiffel Tower?
* Who built the Eiffel Tower?
* What color is the tower in real life?
* How long did it take to build the tower?
* How far away can you see from the top?
* Did the U.S. give the Eiffel Tower to France in exchange for the Statue of Liberty?
* Can the tower be climbed on foot?
* Why was the tower built?
* How much does it cost to visit the tower?
* When is the tower open?
* Do I need reservations to visit the tower?
* How do you say Eiffel Tower in French?
* Does the tower really sway in the wind?
* Is it okay for me to visit the tower if I’m afraid of heights?
* Can I mail things from the tower?
* Was there really a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the old French money?
* Is there ever a line to get into the tower?
* Are there really names written on the tower?
* Does the Eiffel Tower have a Web site?
* Has anyone ever fallen or jumped off the tower?
* Was anyone killed during construction of the tower?
* How many steps are there in the Eiffel Tower?
* How much did it cost to build the tower?
* Is it true that the tower is on hydraulic jacks that can tilt it?
* Can people in wheelchairs visit the Eiffel Tower?
* How is the tower lit at night?
* Are there restaurants in the tower?
* Where can I find a scale model of the Eiffel Tower?
* How long did the Eiffel Tower remain the tallest structure in the world?
* Has it ever been possible to climb the stairs all the way to the top?
* Were the stairs removed in 1983?
* What does the Eiffel Tower sound like?

Q:  

Where is the Eiffel Tower?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower is located on the Left Bank (that is, the southern bank) of the Seine river, at the northwestern extreme of the Parc du Champ de Mars /paɹk dy ʃɑ̃ də maʁs/, a park in front of the École Militaire that used to be a military parade ground (whence the name), in the southwestern portion of the city. The four pillars supporting the tower are aligned to the points of the compass, and the base covers almost exactly the area of two (American) football fields placed side by side lengthwise.

The nearest Métro stations are Bir-Hakeim /biʁ akɛm/ to the southwest, and Trocadéro /tʁokadeʁo/ to the northwest. The former is at the same level as the tower and somewhat closer, but less scenic; the latter is on the side of the Parvis (Plaza) du Trocadéro opposite the tower, so if you get off at that station, you can take a very scenic walk through the Trocadéro and down across the Seine to the tower, with many good photograph opportunities. One of my pictures of the tower was taken from this location.

The area of the tower is in the chic seventh arrondissement of Paris, also the home of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister’s palace, and the Hôtel des Invalides. This district is roughly at the eight-o’clock position on a map of Paris, and somewhat more centered than the adjacent Fifteenth.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Why was the Eiffel Tower built?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower was built as a theme structure for an international exposition held in Paris in 1889. Originally the other buildings of the exposition were built nearby, on the Champ de Mars and across the river. After the exposition closed, just about everything was torn down. However, the tower remained, by design, to help recover the costs of its construction. It was supposed to be dismantled after 20 years, in 1909, but by then its usefulness as a radio transmission tower had been discovered by the military, and so it was left in place indefinitely. Today, nobody talks about dismantling the tower.

One reason the tower has such a light structure is that it would make it easier to take apart. That was one of the selection criteria for the theme structure of the exposition (the Eiffel Tower won out over many other proposals).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

What are the dimensions of the tower?

A:  

The tower is 324 metres tall today, which is about 100 stories. Originally, it had no television tower (there wasn’t much television in 1889), and so it was 12 metres shorter. The levels accessible to the public are at heights of 57.63 metres, or 19 stories; 115.73 metres, or 38 stories; and 273 metres, or 89 stories. From the summit, you can see as far away as Chartres (to the southwest) on a clear day, although days that clear are rare in Paris, thanks to weather and pollution. It is by far the highest structure in Paris; contrary to what some claim, the Montparnasse Tower, is only a little over half the height of the Eiffel Tower.

Although the Eiffel Tower was built over a century ago, only about two dozen structures in the world are taller than it today. Most of them are in the Far East, which is currently enjoying a fad for building tall skyscrapers similar to that of the U.S. in decades past. One of the things that makes the Eiffel Tower unique, however, is that it's an open latticework of metal, not an enclosed building. For this reason, it's a lot more likely to trigger a fear of heights than most other, taller buildings.

The base of the tower covers a square area of 120 metres (the length of an American football field, including end zones) on a side. You can stand in the center of the area at the base and look directly up at the floor of the second level, 38 stories above.

The tower weighs 7300 metric tons. It is thus extremely light—it actually weighs roughly the same as the air that surrounds it. If you built an exact scale model of the tower 30 cm (one foot) high, it would weigh only as much as a sheet of paper (about seven grams).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

What is the tower made from?

A:  

It is widely believed that the Eiffel Tower is made of steel, but this is incorrect. The Eiffel Tower is built of pure iron.

Steel has existed for thousands of years, but methods for producing it in large quantities didn't exist until the middle nineteenth century—only a few decades before the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889. Gustave Eiffel was an expert in the engineering use of structural iron and knew exactly what it could and could not do, whereas steel was still a bit newfangled for structural use. For a project as important and prestigious as the Eiffel Tower, he decided to take no chances, and so he built it of puddled iron, a type of traditional wrought iron, prepared in a special way in a special furnace, so that the iron is made very pure and strong. You can learn more about how puddled iron is made from this Wikipedia article. Puddled iron was common in Eiffel's day, but it has been replaced by steel in modern times.

The proof that Eiffel knew what he was doing is that the tower is still standing and in superb shape. Even in 1999, when a massive windstorm did considerable damage to a number of Paris monuments, the 100+ mph winds of the storm didn't hurt the tower at all. Additionally, the tower is designed so that individual parts can be replaced if they wear out.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Who owns the Eiffel Tower?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower belongs to the City of Paris. The city grants a concession to operate the tower to the Société Nouvelle d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (New Eiffel Tower Operating Company), which is a subsidiary of Crédit Foncier, a large French bank. This company just runs and maintains the Tower; it does not own it. The concession is periodically renewed, although the city reserves the right to give the concession to someone else if it so chooses (it has not so chosen recently).

Some years ago, GMAC Commercial Mortgage, then a division of General Motors, and in conjunction with the Bass brothers in Texas, was considering buying about 70 percent interest in Crédit Foncier. This gave rise to a persistent and incorrect rumor that the Eiffel Tower had been or was going to be sold to Americans. This never came to pass; the tower is still 100% French.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Who built the Eiffel Tower?

A:  

The tower was built by the engineering firm of Gustave Eiffel, Eiffel et Cie, a company well established in metallic construction projects. This firm underwent many transformations in the following years, but it still survives today, still under the name Eiffel, and it still specializes in complex steel construction work and engineering.

Eiffel didn't design the tower all by himself, however. Other people in his firm who worked extensively on the tower included engineers Émile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin; Tower architect Stephen Sauvestre; Jean Compagnon, who handled construction of the superstructure; and Adolphe Salles, who worked on the physical plant of the tower. The patents covering the tower were filed jointly by Eiffel, Nouguier, and Koechlin (the latter two eventually sold their rights to Eiffel in exchange for a percentage of the revenue generated by the tower).

Note that Eiffel's company was very competent and undertook a great many interesting projects besides the Eiffel Tower. It designed and built the interior frame of the Statue of Liberty, for example; and the current Eiffel company was the builder of the amazing Viaduc de Millau bridge. Eiffel also worked on the French attempt at the Panama Canal, although that turned into a fiasco (through no fault of his own), and the resulting scandal caused him to retreat quite a bit from public life.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

What color is the tower in real life?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower has been painted in a number of different colors throughout its history, but today, it is painted a color called “Eiffel Tower brown,” which turns out to be the color of milk chocolate, and it is used in three very slightly different shades at different elevations of the tower (higher elevations use a lighter shade), in order to accentuate the impression of height. The paint is synthetic, lead-free, and silicone-based, and the entire structure is repainted over a period of 6-7 years by several dozen fearless and highly acrobatic painters, by hand (no automated way of painting the tower has ever been satisfactory). The most recent repainting operation (the nineteenth) began in 2009 and required about two years. See my photograph of the waiting line at the base of the tower for a good view of its actual color.

In the late afternoon and around sunset, the redness of the sunlight makes the tower look somewhat orange (see my main photograph of the tower for an example). At night, the tower is lit from within by a very energy-efficient arrangement of sodium-vapor discharge lamps, which produce an orange-yellow light (like most modern streetlights). This makes the tower look almost gold in color. (See my night photograph for an example).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How long did it take to build the tower?

A:  

Construction was started on January 26, 1887, and was completed on March 31, 1889, so it took two years, two months, and five days. Building the foundations required just over five months.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How far away can you see from the top?

A:  

From the highest public level of the tower, at 273 metres, you can theoretically see for a distance of just over 59 km (a little under 37 miles). However, because the region surrounding the tower includes a lot of rolling hills, some points even further away are visible, whereas other points at near distances are not visible (because they are hidden by other hills).

In reality, it's rare to see that far from the tower, anyway, because the air usually isn't clear enough to permit it. The best time to try is in August, when many Parisians are on vacation and the air pollution isn't quite as bad. On a good day, after a rain on a breezy day in August, you might actually be able to see for the full 59 kilometres, and I can assure you that it is quite impressive, both day and night. (There are virtually no other tall buildings nearby in Paris, so the view is unobstructed.)

Most of the time you can only see for 10-15 km or so from the top. In bad weather (including rainy weather), you may not even be able to see the ground. It's not unusual for the cloud base to be below the summit of the tower, which causes it to look as though it is disappearing into a golden fog from the ground—a cool view from the base of the tower, but very boring from the summit, shrouded as it is in mist. On very rare occasions the clouds may begin and end within the height of the tower, and the summit is then floating above a glowing mist covering the city, and that can be pretty impressive. Broken clouds drifting past the tower and alternately hiding and revealing the summit are interesting, too.

In extremely clear weather on summer evenings, it's common for people to have picnics on the Champ de Mars park next to the tower, and their picnics are lit by “Eiffel glow” from the tower itself.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Did the U.S. give the Eiffel Tower to France in exchange for the Statue of Liberty?

A:  

No; that's an urban legend. The Eiffel Tower was partially funded by the French government as a key attraction for the International Exposition of 1889; the rest of the cost was covered by granting the proceeds from admissions to the company that built it (Gustave Eiffel's structural engineering and construction firm) for a period of years.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from philanthropists in France to the United States. It was privately funded by a variety of fund-raising events, although it took a long time to raise the necessary money. The cost was shared, with the pedestal upon which the statue stands being paid for by Americans, and the statue itself being paid for by the French. As far as I know, no government funds went into it (originally).

The two things these structures have in common is that they were both built around the same time (1885 and 1889 for the statue and tower, respectively), and the structural metalwork for both was done by Gustave Eiffel's company: he built not only the Eiffel Tower but also the internal frame of the Statue of Liberty. Supposedly he had a fit after finishing the frame for the Statue of Liberty when the sculptor (Bertholdi) suddenly decided that he wanted the statue's arm held a bit higher, which required a redesign (and eventually caused damage which had to be repaired when the statue was restored a hundred years later).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Can the tower be climbed on foot?

A:  

You can climb the stairways to the first and second platforms (roughly 19 flights and 38 flights, respectively). You can only reach the summit by elevator, however. The stairways, while wide and sturdy and enclosed in a wire barrier, are nevertheless suspended within the open iron latticework of the tower, so if you are afraid of heights, you might want to skip this.

From the second platform to the summit, you must take the elevators.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Why was the tower built?

A:  

The tower was built as the “theme structure” of the Universal Exposition of 1889, which was held in Paris. The city originally signed a contract for an operating concession for 20 years, and after that (in 1909) the concession would revert back to the City of Paris. The tower thus remained after the exposition (the only building to be left standing from the exposition). Most of the city council wanted to tear it down at the end of the concession and sell it for scrap. However, the military discovered that it was a great antenna for the newly invented technology of radio, and so the tower was left in place. After a while people stopped talking about tearing it down, and so it's still there.

Today, the tower is the world's most recognized landmark and an important symbol of Paris, of France, and of travel and exotic destinations in general.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How much does it cost to visit the tower?

A:  

For a trip all the way to the top by elevator, the cost for adults is €15.00. People between 12 and 24 years old get in for €13.50. Children between 4 and 12 years of age, and disabled people, pay €10.50. For a trip only to the first or second level, the prices are €9.00, €7.50, and €4.50, respectively.

You can also climb the stairs as far as the second level for a lower price; but it’s a very tough climb in an open stairway, and it should not be undertaken by anyone with heart problems, knee problems, any fear of heights, etc. The stairs cost €5.00 for persons over 24, €4.00 for ages 12-24, and €3.00 for kids between 4 and 12. Stairs are available only to the second level; for the summit, you must take (and pay for) the elevator.

Children under four years old are admitted for free. It is now possible for groups to purchase tickets in advance as well.

Prices given here were correct as of February 19, 2014, but the SNETE hikes prices regularly, faster than the rate of inflation, so this can change at any time. (By way of comparison, admission to the Louvre, where you can see a quarter-million works of art, is about 1/3 cheaper than visiting the summit of the Eiffel Tower.)

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

When is the tower open?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower is open every day of the year, except during strikes (which tend to be rare, especially now that the SNETE's juicy contract has once again been renewed).

During the low season, which runs from September 2 through the winter to June 15, the tower opens at 9:30 in the morning and closes at 11:45 PM. In high season, from mid-June to the end of August, the tower opens at 9:00 AM and closes 45 minutes after midnight, with the last elevators to the top at 11:00 PM and to the other levels at midnight. The hours are a bit more restricted for the stairs in low season, when they close at 6:30 PM..

The restaurants and shops in the tower generally close prior to official closing time because of the time required to get everyone back down from the tower.

These hours are current as of February 19, 2014.

The tower is lit roughly from dusk to 1 AM, with sparkling lights during the first five minutes of every hour during the time it is lit. At 1 AM, the lights sparkle for 10 minutes with the rest of the lights turned off.

During windy or stormy weather, the summit is sometimes closed. It may also be closed temporarily when it reaches capacity (until some people come back down), and sometimes it closes earlier than the rest of the tower, also for reasons of capacity.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Do I need reservations to visit the tower?

A:  

No. Reservations are optional. The reservation system exists to help people to speed up their visit if they want to buy tickets in advance, but you can still buy tickets on the spot. Reservations and advance purchase allow you to skip the ticket line (although you still have to go through security checks), and allow groups to benefit from special discounts. Reservations are accepted only for elevator ascents, not for people using the stairs (you can climb the stairs as far as the second level).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How do you say Eiffel Tower in French?

A:  

In French, the Eiffel Tower is la Tour Eiffel. The word tour means “tower” in French (in addition to meaning the same thing it means in English), and it pronounced pretty much like the English word of the same spelling, so the entire pronunciation would be /la tuːʁ ɛfɛl/.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Does the tower really sway in the wind?

A:  

Yes, although this isn’t normally noticeable. On days with high, gusting winds, the wind can reach speeds in excess of 160 km/h at the summit of the tower, and a person at the summit can feel the tower swaying gently. Under such wind conditions, the tower is usually closed to the public, although there is always an engineer present at the summit to monitor telecommunications equipment. The magnitude of the sway in the tower, under worst-case conditions, is about 15 cm; this record was set in 1971, but it might have been beaten in the windstorms of December, 2000 (I have not been able to check this).

I saw a particularly interesting demonstration of this on television some years ago. During a period of heavy winds, a live broadcast from the summit showed an engineer seated behind a large wrench suspended from the ceiling at the end of a string. The wrench was swaying gently to and fro like a pendulum, through an arc of 10 cm or so. I hope the engineer was not prone to motion sickness!

There is no danger of the tower being damaged by wind-induced movement, however, since it is designed to withstand movements easily five times beyond those produced by the highest winds ever recorded.

Today, the movements are monitored by a laser alignment system, and are displayed in real time for visitors; I have a picture that illustrates this, if you’re interested in seeing it.

The tower also leans very slightly in bright sunlight, as one side is heated by the sun and expands slightly.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Is it okay for me to visit the tower if I’m afraid of heights?

A:  

Not unless you keep your eyes tightly closed for the duration.

Although the Eiffel Tower is no longer the tallest structure in the world, it is still relatively unique in that it is an open metal structure, and not an enclosed building. This means that, while riding the elevators to the summit, only a few passing girders in the open air separate you from the ground below, 100 stories away. At the summit, you can peek through windows and through tiny joints in the deckplates at the ground directly below. People with a strong fear of heights can have anxiety attacks while visiting the tower.

The diagonal elevators taking visitors up to the second platform often tilt very slightly during the ascent, which can alarm people who are already afraid of heights. They have windows only on three sides, though, so it's possible to stand at the back and avoid the vertigo-inducing view down the elevator track at a steep angle. They also bounce very slightly at landings as the cables flex. The elevators that go to the summit have windows on all sides and on the ceiling (but not the floor, thank goodness) and rise through an open latticework of structural iron with essentially nothing between the cars and the open air outside. On windy days, the cars rock gently against their guides as they travel up and down. None of this is going to please people who are afraid of heights.

The summit also moves gently in high winds, not nearly enough to induce any kind of motion sickness, but just enough to be faintly perceptible. It's really only moving by perhaps an inch or so, but the sensitive inner ears of people who are already nervous will pick this up very reliably.

The first and second levels are far less anxiety-inducing than the summit and do no move even in very high winds.

If you suffer from a serious case of acrophobia, you may enjoy the Eiffel Tower more by viewing it from the ground, either from the base or from the excellent viewpoints of the Champ de Mars or Parvis du Trocadéro across the river.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Can I mail things from the tower?

A:  

Yes. There is a small post office in the tower itself.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Was there really a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the old French money?

A:  

Yes. The old 200-franc banknote (the equivalent of slightly less than $US 40 at one time) has several pictures of the Eiffel Tower on it, as well as a picture of Gustave Eiffel himself as the banknote’s portrait and watermark. All French-franc banknotes were replaced by the euro on January 1, 2002, so you are not likely to encounter the 200-franc note today (and it is no longer legal tender).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Is there ever a line to get into the tower?

A:  

Yes. In fact, there is a line almost all the time in high season, and it can take several hours to reach the summit during peak periods. During off-peak periods, it may only take ten minutes to get to the summit. The tower can be quite a madhouse during the busiest periods, when there are lines and crowds practically in every direction you turn.

The lines are shortest in the early morning, when the tower opens, and very late at night, just before the last elevators go up.

In low season and in gloomy weather especially, there may not be any line.

I have a picture of this, if you’d like to see what the line looks like.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Are there really names written on the tower?

A:  

Yes. The names of 72 French scientists and other famous individuals are permanently affixed to the sides of the tower in 60-cm letters just beneath the first platform, with 18 names per side. They are rarely visible in photographs, but you can see them easily from the base of the tower in person, and I have a photo of them in my gallery. They are part of the original tower design.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Does the Eiffel Tower have a Web site?

A:  

Yes, at http://www.tour-eiffel.fr.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Has anyone ever fallen or jumped off the tower?

A:  

Yes. Unfortunately, the tower's romantic appeal seems to attract depressed and suicidal individuals almost as well as it attracts tourists and young lovers.

Nearly four hundred people have jumped from the tower, or fallen (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference). Most incorrectly estimate their trajectory and hit the tower during the fall, since it becomes wider as you approach the base. They usually end up stuck on the iron frame of the tower, and must be removed—often in pieces—by firefighters. (Parisian firefighters serving the Eiffel Tower must regularly climb the tower by hand in order to practice for this type of rescue, in fact.) Survivors can be counted on one hand.

Current safety equipment in place makes it impossible to accidentally fall from the tower, so only deliberate and very determined suicides still manage to kill themselves with a fall from the Eiffel Tower.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Was anyone killed during the building of the tower?

A:  

No. There was one fatal accident on the site during the period of construction, but it occurred outside working hours and was not really work-related. A worker who was off duty was trying to show off for his girlfriend, and he fell and killed himself.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How many steps are there in the Eiffel Tower?

A:  

Counting from the ground, there are 347 steps to the first level, 674 steps to the second level, and 1710 steps to the small platform on the top of the tower. The public can only climb as far as the second level via the stairways. Public access to the summit is by elevator only.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How much did it cost to build the tower?

A:  

The cost was about 8,000,000 French Francs at the time of construction. Using the price of gold as a metric, this would correspond to about $US 60,000,000 in 2012.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Is it true that the tower is on hydraulic jacks that can tilt it?

A:  

No. The lower part of the tower was temporarily mounted on hydraulic jacks during construction, in order to facilitate the proper alignment of the tower up to the first level. Once that was accomplished, the jacks were removed, and the tower was permanently anchored to the piers at each corner of the base.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Can people in wheelchairs visit the Eiffel Tower?

A:  

Only as far as the second level, and only via the elevators. For security reasons, they are not permitted to visit the summit (if you visit the tower, you’ll understand why this is not practical).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How is the tower lit at night?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower is lit at night by more than 350 sodium-vapor lamps mounted within the structure of the tower itself, making the tower look more gold than brown at night. This lighting scheme, designed by lighting specialist Pierre Bideau, is a major improvement over the rows of external floodlights that used to light the tower prior to 1985 (when the new system was installed). The new system is brighter, makes the tower more visible, and is more energy-efficient. (However, in all honesty, there are only two ways to light the tower—from the inside or from the outside—and in times past lighting it from the inside was not technically feasible, so there's no real revolution in this lighting system.) I have a picture of the tower at night, if you are interested.

The Tower also is equipped with revolving searchlights at the summit that operate continuously at night, as well as thousands of tiny flashlamps that make the tower sparkle for the first five minutes of every hour in the evenings.

The flashlamps were custom-designed by Philips for the sparkling effect on the Eiffel Tower and were a technical challenge because of the need for very high power on intermittent flash duty. The first version of the custom-designed lamps had a useful life of only about a month. The current version of the lamps has a lifetime of about a year, so quite a bit of improvement has already been made.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Are there restaurants in the tower?

A:  

Yes. In addition to snack bars, there is a Michelin-rated restaurant on the second platform, called the Jules Verne /ʒul vɛʁn/; it is a very tiny restaurant (only a handful of tables), with a great view. (Be sure to reserve at least a few months in advance, and bring lots of money.) There is also a more ordinary restaurant on the first platform, called Altitude 95; prices are lower, and you don’t need to reserve months in advance, and the view is still great (it faces the Seine River).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Where can I find a scale model of the Eiffel Tower?

A:  

A very nice plastic scale model of the tower is sold by Heller in France, under reference 81201. It's the only model I've seen, and I think it was once sold under the Revell brand name. It's of good quality, with accurate detail and decals, at 1/650 scale, making it roughly 49 centimetres (19 inches) high.

This model is pretty hard to find, but good model shops may have it, and if not, they can probably order it. You can find it in some stores in Paris, too. It's great for classrooms, cultural displays, or just to have in your house if you really like the Eiffel Tower.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

How long did the Eiffel Tower remain the tallest structure in the world?

A:  

The Eiffel Tower was surpassed in height on May 28, 1930, by the Chrysler Building in New York City, United States.

Ironically, the top floor of the Chrysler building is only one metre (three feet) higher than the top floor of the Eiffel Tower. Still more ironically, the Eiffel Tower today is taller than the Chrysler Building. The reason for this is that spires and towers at the top of a structure count as part of the height. The Chrysler Building was deliberately built with an eighteen-story spire to make sure it was the tallest structure in the world (a common practice at the time, less so today). The Eiffel Tower later had a larger transmission tower placed on top, and now it's six metres (eighteen feet) taller than the Chrysler Building again.

This illustrates the kind of weirdness that goes on when builders are just trying to beat a record. When the Eiffel Tower was built, nothing else was remotely close, so there was no problem beating the record, but the Chrysler Building was built at a time when many organizations were competing to build the tallest buildings in the world, and in fact the Chrysler Building held the record for less than a year (the Empire State Building beat it by a substantial margin, although the Empire State Building also had an enormous spire to improve the statistics).

One nice thing about the Eiffel Tower is that it still actually belongs entirely to the City of Paris, the tower's owner. The Chrysler Building, in contrast, has changed hands many times (like so many tall office buildings), and the current majority owner is a Middle Eastern investment firm, despite the building's status as an American icon (and Chrysler actually moved out of the building more than half a century ago).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Has it ever been possible to climb the stairs all the way to the top?

A:  

No, at least not for any length of time.

In the first few months after the tower was built, while the elevators were being installed, the only way to the summit was via the spiral service staircase that ran from the second platform to the top of the tower. After the elevators entered service, all visitors took the elevators.

During WWII, the elevators were sabotaged, and the only way to the top was via the staircase. However, civilians were not allowed to visit the tower, anyway, so it didn't matter. At the liberation of Paris, a tower worker unsabotaged the elevators and they immediately started working again.

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

Were the stairs removed in 1983?

A:  

During renovation of the tower in 1983, the original spiral staircase leading from the second platform to the summit was removed, cut into pieces, and sold to collectors. However, it was replaced by two emergency and service staircases, so the stairs are still there (they have to be, in case the elevators break down). The very upper portion of these staircases becomes a spiral staircase, otherwise they are conventional straight staircases.

They are still prohibited to the public, but the lower staircases between the ground and the second platform are open to all (a discount ticket is required when climbing them).

[Return to Summary]


Q:  

What does the Eiffel Tower sound like?

A:  

You can download an actual, high-quality, stereo recording of the tower, which I made myself, by clicking on the link below:

click here

This is a stereo MP3 file. I've released it to the public domain, so you're welcome to make copies of it or whatever you want. The file is 4.7 MB in size, so it might take a while to download. The recording is two minutes long.

I made this recording of ambient backgroud noise directly beneath the Eiffel Tower. The shape of the Eiffel Tower creates a unique acoustic environment in the vicinity of the tower, especially beneath it. You can hear a much higher level of background noise than you would hear in an open area, and the noise is unusual.

The tower is made of thin pieces of iron arranged into a complex and very large lattice, which reflects and slices and dices sound in a unique way. Thus you have a high level of very even and unidentifiable background noise as noises from the ground and the platform get bounced around and distorted by the structure of the tower.

This recording was made from street level, with microphones pointed straight upwards about 2 meters off the ground. Noises from the ground travel upwards and bounce around the inside of the tower, then drift back down. There are noises in the tower itself as well, such as elevator motors and people on the platforms. The first platform, at 57 meters, is open in the center, whereas the second platform, at 116 meters, is completely closed and flat on the bottom.

Wind moving through the tower also makes noise, and again the open structure of the tower changes the noise in a way that is specific to the Eiffel Tower. There wasn't much wind at ground level for this recording, but I don't know what the wind speed was at higher levels in the tower.

Some voices in multiple languages are audible in the recording, as the area beneath the tower is awash in tourists.

[Return to Summary]


Last modified on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 22:50:06 UTC
http://www.atkielski.com/main/EiffelTowerFAQ.html
© 2014 Anthony Atkielski. All rights reserved.