Eiffel Tower, France’s iconic building situated at the heart of the capital Paris, is, without doubt, France’s most recognizable landmark. It’s also arguably France’s most celebrated. Its architectural fame, however, is on a global scale, spanning oceans, continents, and time. This is ironic. When it was first built, as an entrance to the International Exhibition of 1889, to celebrate 100 years after the politically seismic French Revolution, many critics viewed the 300-meters tall structure as a celebration of uselessness. It was built for no meaningful purpose. Guy de Maupassant, the famous literary critic and arguably the best French short stories author of all time, described it as, “an ungainly skeleton..which just peters out into a ridiculous thin shape like a factory chimney.” And Ronald Barthes, the famous philosopher, described it as an ”utterly useless monument.”
Critics were however told to hold their horses, probably to look at the glass as half full. The tower would be demolished after 20 years anyway. But while time heals all wounds, it also changes perceptions and perspectives. Public opinion began to slowly shift. Today, Eiffel Tower is the quintessential image of Paris, even of France itself.
Why Visiting Eiffel Tower & taking the tour May Be Worth It
First, over six million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year. That means one thing: something draws them to this impressive technological feat. Then the Eiffel Tower is the most Instagrammed tourist destination in the whole of Europe. Again, lending weight to the aesthetic value of “The Iron Lady,” as the tower is fondly referred to, in reference to the metal used in its construction. And if beauty is in the enamored eye of the beholder, several eyes have seen what they perceive to be beauty in this impressive pyramidal structure.
There’s some sobering philosophy of life in the story of the Eiffel Tower. It’s that people, places, or things should not be appreciated only according to the utilitarian value—or their commercial potential. We enjoy looking at the glowing beauty of a sunset, not for its dollar’s worth, but for beauty’s own sake. Standing at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, catching a glimpse of the towering edifice, and remember that $1.5 million was sunk in its construction, imprints in the soul, that the price of beauty is not to be reckoned in dollars; not in francs.
Confucius might have been thinking of the Eiffel Tower when he said that “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” The firm, flawless skin; well-toned and textured, is almost the quintessential mark of beauty. But if you look well, or long enough, a wrinkle radiates its own warm, magical charm—and charisma—that’s glowingly ethereal. You can go to the Eiffel Tower and simply marvel at its 1,000-feet height. To admire its dizzying height, to look at how small you are in its towering presence, is an experience that’s gloriously sublime.
Mounting the tower’s lofty height, rapidly whisked by the elevators, and seeing the metal bars moving in split seconds in a dizzying panorama, is a thrillingly dramatic adventure. Travelers can also opt for the stairs, and climb exactly 674 steps to the tower’s second floor. That’s about 40 minutes, the distance it takes to drive from downtown Manhattan to New Rochelle, New York. The tower has three viewing spots. The first level, perfect for viewing much of Paris’ Haussmannian architecture, beautifully cast in the radiant Parisian skyline, is 190 feet above the ground. The second level, 376 feet above the ground, now stunningly brings the entire city to view. But the third and last viewing spot, set dizzyingly about 900 feet above the ground, is the ultimate experience. From here, when the sky is blue and clear, one can even see Belgium. Down below, buildings look almost like dots.
● Eiffel Tower's Greatest Significance: It's the tallest structure in France.
then again, here's Why Visiting Eiffel Tower May Not Be Worth It
Still, you can be tempted, like Guy de Maupassant, to view the Iron Lady as an ungainly skeleton, or just a colossal mass of dull metal framework. Then Paris is hands-down beautiful and gorgeously interspersed with many magnificent attractions. So why grope in the light of a candle when the sun is gloriously shining all around? Take the food scene for instance. Paris has an impressive culinary reputation, with world-famous cuisine, legendary chefs, and luxuriously elegant restaurants.
There’s the Louvre, the world’s most-visited museum, and 130 other fascinating museums, where one can explore practically everything and anything. Even for buildings, one can argue that there are many other architectural marvels that completely dwarf the Eiffel Tower in both beauty and grandeur. There’s Notre Dame cathedral, considered one the finest representations of Gothic architecture. In its presence, 800 centuries calmly stare at us. There’s the Sainte-Chapelle, the Arc de Triomphe, the Centre Pompidou, and hundred others, which are arguably fuller representations of all that is beautiful and elegant.
Still, there are few better spots to watch the Parisian sun bow out—like from the top of the Eiffel Tower. In the end, to each his own.