More than 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year. It’s popular and it’s crowded, but it doesn’t have to be a total time suck. Here’s how to get the most of your visit to this iconic monument.
Hours of Operation
The Eiffel Tower is open every day of the year. With the exception of certain holidays that either extend or reduce admission times, regular hours of operation from early July through late August are 9:00 a.m. to 12:45 a.m., though the last elevator ride to the top departs at 11:00 p.m.
For the remainder of the year, the tower is open from 9:30 a.m. until 11:45 p.m., with the last elevator ascending at 10:30 p.m. Times for stair access are similar to those for the elevators during peak season and drastically cut back to 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. the rest of the year.
Eiffel Tower ticket costs vary widely. Adults over the age of 25 willing to take the 704 stairs to the second floor pay 10 euros, those aged 12 to 24 years pay 5 euros, and children 4 to 11 pay 2.50 euros. Admission tickets with elevator access to the second floor cost 16 euros, 8 euros, and 4 euros, respectively. If you want to climb the stairs to the second floor and then take an elevator to the top, you’ll pay 19 euros for adults over 25, 9.50 for those 12 through 24 years old, and 2.50 for children ages 4 through 11.
Third-floor admission tickets via the elevators cost 25 euros for adults over 25, 12.50 euros for those 12 through 24 years old, and 6.30 euros for kids ages 4 through 11. Children aged 3 and under enter for free with a paid accompanying adult. Discounted rates are available for travelers with disabilities.
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There Are Public Restrooms
No need to rush off the tower to answer nature’s call. There are two public restrooms: one each on both the second and third floors. At ground level, restrooms can be found on the east and west pillars.
There’s a (Somewhat) Secret Floor
The Eiffel Tower has three floors. Because most visitors ascend the tower via the elevator—which directly travels to the second floor—they completely bypass the first floor. This is a missed opportunity to experience the newly redesigned first floor‘s immersion gallery, gift shop, and vertigo-inducing see-through floor.
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You Can Walk on the See-Through Floor
If you dare, you are allowed to walk on the 187-foot-high see-through floor found near the first floor’s 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. Be forewarned: Even those without a fear of heights may find the experience a little intimidating.
Dining (and Shopping) Options at the Eiffel Tower
Ranging from snack bar to multi-course French cuisine, there are numerous dining options inside the Eiffel Tower.
Le Jules Verne requires reservations and proper attire. 58 Tour Eiffel on the first floor offers a “chic picnic” lunch menu and multi-course dinners. Reservations are recommended for 58 Tour Eiffel, though chances are those visiting on slower days will likely get in.
Light meals and snacks, including sandwiches, pastries, ice cream, and beverages, can be had at the Buffet Tour Eiffel snack bars located on the esplanade and on the first and second floors.
Lastly, toast your time at the iconic monument while at the summit’s Champagne bar (open midday through 10:45 p.m.).
You’ll find gift shops located on the first and second floors.
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Visit Off-Peak to Avoid Long Ticket Lines
Expect wait times greater than two hours from mid-July through late August, and less than 30 minutes during weekdays in January, February, the early part of March, and again November through mid-December.
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There’s a Way to Skip Admission Lines Altogether
Ticket lines during the busy peak season can be several hours long. Luckily, skip-the-line ticket options are available, including with tour operators like City Wonders, which offers several Eiffel Tower tour packages. Our fellow TripAdvisor site Viator is another great source for skip-the-line admission tickets.
Unfortunately, the time-saving skip-the-line access doesn’t apply to either the second-floor elevators leading up to the summit or those used to descend the Tower.
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Buy Tickets Online for Shorter Lines
Those who buy admission tickets online may proceed to the “Visitors with Tickets” lines, which are usually shorter than the ticket booth queues. According to the official Eiffel Tower site, e-tickets must be printed on a letter-size page or display the bar codes when on a mobile phone.
Take the Stairs
Even if you go up via the elevator, you should descend the tower via the stairs located on the second and first floors. The stairwells are hard to find (located at the south pillar) and the 704-step descent (from the second floor) is slow-paced, but their access to alternate city views and the tower’s inner workings are worth the effort.
Because not many people take this route, you’ll get a sense of exclusivity. The stairs are virtually crowd-free, unlike the jam-packed elevators and their long queues. Note that the summit of the tower can only be reached via the second-floor elevators.
This video from Rick Steves shows you what it’s like to take the stairs:
Check the Weather
When the weather’s bad, fog doesn’t just shroud the tower, it also limits your views of Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower. Check the weather beforehand, but note that fog often lifts after mid-morning. If you’re wary of persistent fog for the day of your visit, buy tickets to only the second floor, and pay the difference for the top floor at the second-floor ticket counter if the clouds disperse.
General Admission Doesn’t Include the Summit
Not all tickets include summit access; you’ll have to get one of the higher-priced tickets to go all the way to the top. Summit-access tickets occasionally sell out in advance, which is when going with a tour operator may be your last ditch effort to secure summit tickets.
Aside from amazing panoramic 360-degree views of Paris, the third floor features a restroom, Gustave Eiffel’s office, and the Champagne bar.
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Re-Entry Isn’t an Option
You can stay at the Eiffel Tower an indefinite amount of time until closing hour. Take your time and enjoy the view because re-entry isn’t allowed.
Expect Lengthy Lines When Descending
Even if you have skip-the-line admission tickets, you won’t have the same time-saving privileges exiting the tower as you did when entering. There’s a single descending elevator queue in each floor, the longest of which is at the top floor.
Best Time for Eiffel Tower Photography
Arrive well before 9:00 a.m. for photos of the Eiffel Tower without the hordes of people in your shot. And for a classic shot of the tower, hop off the Metro a few stops early and visit Place du Trocadero, where you can snap a sweeping full-length photo of the tower.
Nighttime Light Show
Nighttime visitors to the Eiffel Tower get a five-minute luminous spectacle every hour on the hour. Operated by 20,000 lightbulbs, these light shows start at dusk.
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When buying Eiffel Tower admission tickets online, you’re required to select a time slot for your visit. The Tower’s website warns that visitors must appear at the pre-selected time: “If you’re more than 30 minutes late, you may not be allowed in.”
Download the App
Smartphone users can now be their own tour guide with any one of the many handy apps out there, including the official Eiffel Tower app, which currently seems to be available only on Android. The app features an hour-long audio tour, interactive maps, practical information, and more.
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Patricia Magaña was pleasantly surprised to find that Paris indeed lives up to its hype. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels for more travel everything (and pics of her cute kittens).
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.