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The Eiffel Tower – Icon of Paris or tourist trap?

Here’s the thing about the Eiffel Tower. It’s the icon of Paris and can be seen from miles away. It’s on every tourist’s tick list and is the one place you’ll make a beeline for if you’re a first time visitor to Paris.

In general I’m allergic to any place that attracts huge crowds and has ‘tourist trap’ written all over it. The ‘beware of pickpockets’ signs and the African lookie lookie men selling Eiffel Tower key rings, four for for €1, should be enough to get your tourist trap radar beeping.


Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

But then again, when taking your children to Paris for the first time, you want them to remember the experience. You imagine the discussing it with their friends – ‘What did you do at half term?’ – ‘We went up the Eiffel tower’ – ‘cool’. Or perhaps the conversation would be more like ‘we went up the Eiffel tower’ – ‘oh we went there last year, how long did you have to queue?’ At least we could tick the box and then move on to something more authentic  like sitting in a nearby cafe with an expensive coffee and baguette.

Eiffel  Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

We had one day to get a taste of Paris on a day trip from our 4 day break with Eurocamp. Luckily the holiday parc of La Croix du Vieux Pont at Berny Riviere,  laid on a coach trip which was cheaper than taking the train and a good deal more stress free than any other transport option. We decided that first thing on our list to visit should be the Eiffel Tower.

First decision on arrival – take the lift to the 2nd or 3rd floor or attempt the walk up. Your strategy will be influenced by your budget, the length of the queues for the lift and how fit you’re feeling. Our strategy was to take the lift to the top and then walk down. We joined the queue for the lift and filtered through a security check to the lift that whisked us up to the 2nd floor.  We decided not to linger here but joined the queue for the separate lift to take us right up to the 3rd floor at the top. Finally around an hour later we were there and took in the 360 degree views from the top, first from the heated enclosed platform with flags all around it, indicating the directions of different countries in the world, next from the windy upper platform. Amazingly there was a toilet right at the top, and of course we made full use of it just ‘because it’s there’. Apparently there’s also a champagne bar up there for that romantic moment with your beloved, but obviously not a stopping off point for us with teenagers in tow.

Next we binned out of the strategy to walk down (it seemed an awful long way) and just took the lift down again to the 2nd floor. There we had a proper look around, ventured into the information area and cafe where there were a few information boards about. I also noticed that there were i-pads to rent there for €7 per hour to find out more about the Eiffel Tower and the different sights around Paris that can be seen from the top.

View from the Eiffel Tower, Paris

View from the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Next we descended to the 1st floor where there were some interactive exhibits but by then we were ready to move on so we didn’t stop too long. I did leave with the impression that there was a missed opportunity to give lots more information and inspiration about the Eiffel tower when you’re actually there, although we probably didn’t make the most of what was there onthe 1st floor. I don’t even remember getting any leaflet with my ticket telling me all that was on offer on the tower. Looking at the website now, I see that there’s actually loads of information there, so if you’re visiting with children, I’d take a look at some of the online resources to get into the mood before you go.

For me I can’t say I felt the magic, it was more of a tick in the box, but after experiencing similar crowds at the Pantheon and the Colisseum in Rome when I visited with my son, I suppose I should know better by now.

So, if you’ve visited the Eiffel Tower, how was it for you? Did you feel the romance of Paris or get put off by the queues?

Visitor information

  • Take a look at the Eiffel Tower website in advance for information and downloadable resources to prepare for your visit.
  • The Eiffel Tower is on the South Bank (Rive Gauche) of the Seine, and the nearest metro isChamp de Mars-Tour (Line C)
  • Details of entrance fees are available on the website and at the time of writing are €13.50 for elevator to 3rd floor, €8.50 for elevator to 2nd floor, €4.50 for stairs to 2nd floor with reduced prices for youths and children.
  • From the banks of the nearby river Seine, you can take a Batobus (river bus) or walk along the bank to many of the other sightseeing stops such as the Louvre, Hotel de Ville, Musee D’Orsay and Notre Dame.
  • We visited Paris while a guest of Eurocamp at the holiday parc at La Croix du Vieux Pont at Berny Riviere. The parc is ideal for a family holiday, set in beautiful countryside and with many sports facilities and entertainments on site. The parc is around 1hr 15 mins from Paris and coach trips are arranged from La Croix du Vieux Pont, making it easy to spend a day in Paris as part of your family holiday.

Other adventures in Paris

Our Supercalifragilistic day at the Magical Kingdom of Disneyland Paris
Time to start planning your family autumn break in Paris

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heatheronhertravels' France - Paris photoset heatheronhertravels’ France – Paris photoset

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Eurotrip Tips
    November 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Well, that’s the thing with unmissable sights – it always becomes a tourist trap because everyone is going to visit, queues or not, keyring sellers or not. I think there are only a few sights like these in the world and that it’s worth the effort, simply to be able to say ‘Hey, I did this’. Kind of a benchmark.

    Everytime I visit a classic sight I always think to myself how lucky I am to be there. I even get a little emotional !

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    November 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Nice share! I’ve been to Paris with my hubby and the Eiffel Tower is like the capital of petty crimes from cons to pickpockets, sharpening your tourist trap alertness in this because many crooks will use the beauty of the place for their advantages.

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    November 13, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Wow – the ipad rental is interesting – I haven’t heard of that before. I was just at the Eiffel Tower this summer and skipped the trip up the tower in lieu of photographing those touts selling the !euro replicas!
    Sherry Ott´s last blog post ..signs

  • Reply
    jen laceda
    November 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I don’t like long cues. Anytime there is one, I skip it. Well, ok, maybe except if it’s Laduree. I would line up for pastries at Laduree any time!
    jen laceda´s last blog post ..Essential Italy – My Favourite Moments

  • Reply
    boutique hotel
    November 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    The Eiffel Tower really an tourist attraction to all people who visit in Paris

  • Reply
    Sophie
    November 14, 2010 at 7:18 am

    More of an icon but due to its beauty and popularity it is being visited by tourist and become their one favorite in Paris. I think most attractions are like that since it is being visited and liked by many it turn to be tourist spots. They all started with nothing and then become popular to many tourist or visitors.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    November 14, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    @ Sherry – I’m sure that you could have afforded the €4 to climb up to the 2nd floor, but I do think those African guys would have an interesting story to tell if only we looked beyond the tacky souvenirs

  • Reply
    Mark H
    November 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I have been to Paris half a dozen times or more and went up the Eiffel Tower the first time. Every other time I walked around or near it to see this remarkable and treasured icon. It is stunning day or night especially considering that Paris has preserved its architecture better than most cities in its centre. Sadly icons suffer from lots of people, touts selling loads of junk, security, queues, the icon itself milking money from quirky ideas etc but I don’t see how you can visit a major city and miss out on the Taj Mahal, Pyramids, Colosseum, Statue of Liberty, Opera House or equivalent – it is part of what defines that specific city. Thought-provoking article.
    Mark H´s last blog post ..Photo of the Week- Baird Glacier Alaska- USA

  • Reply
    Emiel
    November 14, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Dear Heather,
    Great story and so recognisable! We live in the Netherlands and traveled to Paris with our children earlier this year. Me and my wife have been to this wonderful city many times, but it was the first time with our children.
    And of course you go visit the Eiffel Tower, no doubt! The children know this icon from school. And we didn’t mind about the queues, it was an adventure all along the way.
    We decided to take the stairs upto the first level. My and my children even went up to the second level. It seemed they could not get tired!
    Anyway, to come back to your question. The Eiffel Tower is pure romance even if you look at it from a distance. Watching the Tower sitting on a bench of a French Quartier…. But when you visit with your children (or when you visit Paris for the first time), the Tower is a must! Don’t mind the queues, it’s part of the fun..just like the queues in Disneyland are..:)
    Emiel
    Emiel´s last blog post ..5 family adventures in South-Thailand part II

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    November 14, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    @ Mark You’re right that there’s a feeling that if you’re going once there are some sites that you really shouldn’t miss, but perhaps they require a bit more planning to enjoy the magic without the hastle factor.
    @Emiel I think we should have done like you and run up to the second floor, we’d have saved some money and also some time in the queue.

  • Reply
    Anna
    November 14, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Paris was the first trip I took with my husband so I loved it despite the queues! We have the obligatory photo holding on to the tower, it goes nicely with the one of me pretending to push down the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

    I absolutely understand what you mean though, it’s nice to avoid the crowds as much as possible without missing out on spectacular sites which are busy for a reason!
    Anna´s last blog post ..Princes Street Gardens with Kids

  • Reply
    Margo
    November 14, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Paris was my first overseas trip when I was a teenager, so that probably contributes to my romantic feelings about it. I love standing right under the middle of it and looking up. I also thought it was exciting when I was there after the new millenium and they lit it up for several minutes on the hour (which was nice too, because you didn’t have to BE there with the hordes. Going up it was never a big deal though – it’s more looking at it from afar 🙂
    Margo´s last blog post ..A Colorful Grey Day in Amsterdam

  • Reply
    Ankur
    November 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Dear Heather
    A nice post about travel to Paris. I see that your blog is about travel. I want to share some info with you. Citymedia foundation(http://citymediafoundation.org) has launched http://www.city.vi , a network of 68,000 city specific video sites, where you can share videos about cities and regions across the world. like for Paris videos you can visit http://Paris.vi . You can also find out about other cities that you are interested . Hope to see you there

  • Reply
    Dawn
    November 17, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Like many of the world’s major tourist spots, the Eiffel Tower is a bit of a Catch-22.

    I mean, if it is your first visit to Paris you just have to go and see. The first question your Aunt Em will ask when you get home and you say you went to Paris is “did you climb the Eiffel Tower?” So you have to do it – like a mountain – just because it is there.

    However, many of the top world tourist spots are now a wee bit of an anticlimax. Queues everywhere, accosted by touts at every steps, cheap souvenirs – the magic gets lost.

    And yet if you could just pick the right day – when you had the place almost to yourself, it would be the unforgettable experience that the Eiffel Tower use to be.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    November 17, 2010 at 8:38 am

    @ Margo, so glad you felt the romance
    @ Dawn, I do agree, these top tourist sites are a victim of their own popularity, you want to go and see what all the fuss is about, but would be better without the crowds of others doing the same

  • Reply
    Anil
    November 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    It’s a bit of both but worth seeing up close even if you don’t go all the way to the top.

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    November 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Hi Heather: More and more, I find I’m staying away from the major sites, since I cannot stand the huge crowds. I suppose I’d have to go to the Eiffel Tower, though, if just to say I’d done it. But frankly, I learn much more about a culture sitting in a coffee shop for a few hours than by visiting any of the better known iconic sites (aka tourist traps).
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..Help Passports with Purpose Build a Village in India

  • Reply
    Natalia
    November 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    While it is easy to get all ‘oh, I don’t do tourist traps’ in a quest to try and look like someone after ‘authentic experiences’ the fact is the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is wonderful. And definitely worth waiting and queues and wind to see it.
    And if my six year old can handle the queues without complaining, I guess a well seasoned adult traveller should be able to!
    http://nobeatenpath.com/?p=1595

  • Reply
    The Travel Guy
    November 24, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Nice blog Heather! Traveling makes me soo 🙂

  • Reply
    Seat Vacations
    November 25, 2010 at 5:03 am

    loves the story you have. Still, no matter what happens, Eiffel is a must visited place if you go to France 🙂
    Seat Vacations´s last blog post ..Antigua &amp Barbuda

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  • Reply
    Thomas Travels Indonesia
    December 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I am all thumbs up with you! I don’t like crowds. The tower can be seen in the landscape not climbing. There are so many wonderful things to do and people to meet I would rather take pics from a museum or side street or enjoying a lunch at a cafe!

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    Steve in Bali
    January 6, 2011 at 6:15 am

    I just returned from NYC and climbed the Statue of Liberty. Yeeks! Not very exciting and anti-climatic in the end. Plus too many people. So when I go to Paris in the Spring I am gonna hand my camera to my wife and she can climb it and take the pics of her memories for both of us.

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