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18 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Eiffel Tower

02/03/2016 09:53am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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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 mid-June through early September 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 (mid-June through early September) and drastically cut back to 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. the rest of the year.

Admission Costs

Eiffel Tower ticket costs vary wildly. Adults over the age of 25 willing to take the 704 stairs to the second floor pay 7 euros, those aged 12 to 24 years pay 5 euros, and children 4 to 11 pay 3 euros. Admission tickets with elevator access to the second floor cost 11 euros, 8.50 euros, and 4 euros, respectively.

Third-floor admission tickets via the elevators cost 17 euros for adults over 25, 14.50 euros for those 12 through 24 years old, and 8 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 disabled persons and their companions, groups of 20 or more, and French job seekers. Stair-access tickets are not sold online.

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, 58 Tour Eiffel, and vertigo-inducing see-through floor.

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 five dining options inside the Eiffel Tower.

The LeJulesVernel requires reservations and proper attire. The 58 Tour Eiffel on the first floor offers a "chic picnic" lunch menu from 41.50 euros and dinner from 85 euros. It's advised reservations also be made 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 at both the first and second floors.

Lastly, toast your time at the iconic monument while at the summit's Champagne bar (open midday through 10:00 p.m.). A glass of bubbly costs between 12 and 21 euros.

To reserve a table at the dine-in tower restaurants, visit Les Restaurants de la Tour Eiffel.

You'll find gift shops located on the first and second floors.

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.

When planning a visit, check out the Eiffel Tower's calendar for peak and off-peak visit periods.

There's a Way to Skip Admission Lines Altogether

Ticket lines during the busy peak season can extend 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.

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 every effort.

And, 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 weary 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

General-admission tickets, which sell for 11 euros, do not include summit access. Top-floor-inclusive tickets cost 17 euros. 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 Eiffell's office, and the Champagne bar.

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.

Descending Also Has Lengthy Lines

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 Lightshow

Nighttime visitors to the Eiffel Tower get a five-minute luminous spectacle every hour on the hour. Operated by 20,000 lightbulbs, these lightshows start at dusk.

Be Timely

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. Android- and Apple-friendly, the $2.99 app features an hour-long audio tour, highlights the tower's and the panoramas' points of interests, and narrates the monument's history.

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Read the original story: 18 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Eiffel Tower by Patricia Magaña, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.