The Eiffel Tower: French emblem and symbol
On arrival in Paris, tourists who have never previously set foot in the French capital dream only of one thing: admiring the place nicknamed “the Iron Lady”. At over 300 metres high, for 40 years after its completion it was the tallest structure ever built.
The Eiffel Tower has dominated the Parisian horizon for more than 130 years, with a fame and attraction that seems never to dim — quite the contrary, in fact. Although it is now admired around the world, its beginnings were rather more difficult.
The eventful history of the Eiffel Tower
The iconic symbol of France and Paris actually has its roots in… the United States! For the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, a team of American engineers imagined constructing a tower that was more than 300 metres tall. Their project was quite different to the Eiffel Tower that we know today. The project ultimately never came to fruition, but it inspired others, including the Eiffel company, which specialised in large metal structures, specifically iron, and gave its name to the tower.
Two engineers can be considered the ‘fathers’ of the Eiffel Tower: Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier. Gustave Eiffel‘s role in this project was to bring it to the attention of French political leaders, and to obtain their consent to construct the tower for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (International Exhibition) in Paris. This exhibition was important as it coincided with the centenary of the French Revolution, and the Republic wanted to make it an unforgettable event.
It took two years, rather than the one year originally planned, to erect the structure from 1887 to 1889 and give Paris its unique landmark.
Opposition to the Eiffel Tower
While today Paris wouldn’t be Paris without the Eiffel Tower, responses to the plans for the 300-metre structure were not initially unanimously favourable. Many cultural icons, such as Emile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, and Charles Gounod, opposed the project. Guy de Maupassant, who despised the edifice, regularly ate lunch in the Eiffel Tower‘s first floor restaurant as it was the only place in Paris where he could eat without seeing the metal structure he hated so much.
And you can still eat lunch or dinner in the monument today. There are two restaurants inside the tower. On the first floor is the “58 Tour Eiffel” (58 refers to the number of metres between the restaurant and the ground), and on the second is a gourmet restaurant called “Le Jules Verne“, which has a star in the famous “Michelin Guide” and is now headed by chef Frédéric Anton, who took over from Alain Ducasse.
Today, the Eiffel Tower remains the undisputed star of landmarks, and it’s not surprising that it is the most-visited monument with an entrance fee in the world.
Obviously, our Tootbus Paris buses make an essential stop at the Eiffel Tower. The iconic Paris Tour stops there to allow you to enjoy the Iron Lady’s majesty.