600 steps up the Eiffel Tower I’ve taken, and my legs are burning with each step. “Who needs coffee when you can hike 600 stairs first thing in the morning?” I take a moment to stop at every other platform to catch my breath and keep from overexerting myself, but it’s the view of Paris between the iron supports more than makes up for my physical anguish. Of all the things to do in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is a must. But taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower is one of the most unique and rewarding ways to see the city.
** This article was originally published in 2013, but updated in 2019.
Things to do in Paris – The Eiffel Tower
While there are many activities to do in Paris, no trip is complete without visiting the city’s most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to believe that the development of this iconic symbol was fiercely protested. Built by Gustav Eiffel for the World’s Fair in 1889, it rises over 1,000 feet above the city and is the tallest structure in Paris. Many residents in Paris, including the large artist population, believed the tower would be an eye-sore and diminish the cultural standards of Paris. Yet, over time it has become the symbol of this city.
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Can You Go Up the Eiffel Tower?
Besides admiring the view of the tower and taking photos from the ground, many visitors to Paris want to actually go up the Eiffel Tower. And yes, you can go up the Eiffel Tower! Going up the Eiffel Tower provides you with some fantastic views over the city of Paris. In fact, Paris is a beautifully designed city with the way the buildings, parks, and streets are arranged – so it’s a pretty spectacular view.
The challenge; however, is planning your visit so that you have time to go up the tower. And how long you spend at the Eiffel Tower could depend on how you decide to go up the Tower.
Expect Long Lines When Visiting the Eiffel Tower
Since the Eiffel Tower is one of the top visitor attractions in Paris, the lines are extremely long. You can avoid this buy purchasing an Eiffel Tower priority access pass in advance, but we didn’t. We arrived first thing in the morning, before the ticket booths were even open, and the line was already winding its way through the plaza directly under the tower.
How Many Floors of the Eiffel Tower Can You Visit?
Some visitors are surprised to learn that there are actually 3 different platforms of the Eiffel Tower, and yes you can actually visit all three of them! The first and second levels of the Eiffel Tower are almost always open, but you can also go all the way to the top of the Tower too! But it’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. And sometimes the top level of the Tower can be closed due to high winds — or at least the outside area may be (and yes, it is super windy outside up there!). So if you are really looking for the full experience (as we were), then you’ll be happy to know that you can visit all 3 floors of the Eiffel Tower.
My travel companions and I stood in the plaza drinking our morning coffee, dreading the thought of spending a beautiful morning in Paris standing in line. Then one of us noticed a separate line that appeared to be significantly shorter than the others.
Avoid the Lines, Take the Stairs up the Eiffel Tower
Upon further investigation, we discovered that the shorter line wasn’t for the elevators, but for the stairs up the Eiffel Tower! There are a total of 1665 steps to the very top of the Eiffel Tower! However, you cannot actually take the stairs all the way to the very top of the tower due to high winds. But you can take a set of stairs (328) up to the first level, and then another set of stairs (300+) to the second observation level of the tower. If that’s high enough for you, then you can come back down, or you may opt to hop on the elevator at the second platform (no line) and take it all the way up to the top.
Taking the Stairs up the Eiffel Tower is Cheaper than the Elevator
As a bonus, we learned that taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower was actually cheaper. Given the fact that we were on a budget for this trip, we loved the idea of saving both time and money! And who doesn’t want to be able to say that you hiked up the Eiffel Tower, right?!?! Because who does that…really? So we finished our coffee and began our journey up the stairs.
Now, my legs are on fire and I’m huffing my way up this giant tower of steel. The staircase zig-zags back and forth, like switchback roads up a steep mountain. Aside from the intense leg workout, the trek up the tower is actually quite peaceful because we are by ourselves. There aren’t many people taking the stairs. I could look down below the stairs and see the snaking line for the elevators getting even longer, and I’m thankful that we’re not standing in it. When we arrive at the first platform I’m surprised that I’m not more fatigued, so we all decide to just keep going without a long rest.
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Great Views while taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower, But Not for Those with a Fear of Heights
It isn’t long into our journey up to the second platform before I start to think that it may have been a good idea to rest on the first platform for a while. My legs are not only throbbing intensely, but they feel a bit like jello, so I decide to focus on my breathing to keep myself moving along.
This journey is not for the faint of heart when it comes to heights. Not only can you see between all the supports around you, but you can see through the stairs below you. I continue my climb back and forth, every now and then I taking a moment to gaze out over the city between the steel supports. I don’t pause for too long because it is tough to get the momentum going again.
Finally, we make it to the second platform and I am so grateful for a moment to rest and enjoy the view. Paris is such an architectural masterpiece, a supreme work of art. The city even looks beautiful from above, it’s as though they intentionally thought out every road, park, and tree that was planted to enhance the beauty and symmetry of the place. I was in constant awe of Paris’ beauty.
Lift to the Very Top Platform
From here you cannot hike any higher due to safety reasons, so we jump on the lift to take us to the very top observation deck. Even if you don’t have a fear of heights, this part of the journey can make any person feel uneasy. We crowded into a tiny glass elevator and the operator hit the button, immediately it starts to climb.
Then suddenly the lift begins to go faster as if some kind of turbo kicked in. This increase in speed is so noticeable that everyone on the elevator gasps aloud and looks at each other with wide eyes. Not helping the matter is the mysterious clicking noise every few hundred feet, but other than that, the elevator was a smooth ride.
The top viewing platform of the Eiffel Tower is incredibly small compared to the lower levels. For this reason, they only allow a certain number of people at a time to visit the top; hence the long lines on the ground! There is an outside viewing area as well as an inside area that allows you can escape the fierce wind; however, at times it was very crowded inside. On top of that, we are so high that it is difficult to see the sights below. Everything was hidden below the haze that was between us and the city.
So while it is nice to say that I went all the way to the top, I have to say that it wasn’t that impressive. Perhaps it is better at night when the lights are on and the morning haze isn’t blocking the view, but we felt like the view from the second platform was actually better and it was far less crowded.
Once you are done with taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower go and have a Nap and a picnic under the Eiffel Tower
The Trip Back Down the Stairs is Quite Pleasant
So after a short time, we leave the crowds and take the elevator back down to the second platform. Realizing that this is the best view, we spend more time here and visit a couple shops, then head back down the stairs. Walking down the stairs was actually the best part of the journey. Because it was so much easier on the legs, I was able to constantly look out at the view and not worry so much about each step.
On the way down we pass other people huffing and puffing their way up, and we give them encouragement that it is well worth every agonizing step. In the end, it is pretty cool to look back at my pictures and realized that I hiked up that tower. Not only is it a sense of accomplishment, but it’s something that most people wouldn’t think to do, and I’m all about taking the road less traveled. In the end, I would absolutely do it again.
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Photo Credit: All photos under CC 2.0 – Unsplash, -T-T, leshapyx