For most people, a first trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. This iconic structure has been the city's best known symbol since the late 1800's. Today, it is one of the most visited places in the world.
My family visited the Eiffel Tower on a rainy day in June. We showed up without a ticket – which was risky – but we arrived early and the weather probably helped keep the crowds down. It all worked out, and we picked up a lot of first-hand tips for making the most of a visit to the Eiffel Tower with kids.
There is more than one “right” way to visit the Eiffel Tower. Here are some tips to help you pick the best one for your family.
DIY vs Tour
It's not hard to plan your own visit to the Eiffel Tower. However, if you're worried about crowds and long lines, and perhaps want a richer experience at the Eiffel Tower, consider booking a tour.
My family preferred the less-expensive DIY approach, while my sister's family chose Viator's Paris in One Day Sightseeing Tour on their first Paris trip. Their tour included an expert tour guide, lunch in a restaurant on the Eiffel Tower's first floor and two hours of free time at the Eiffel Tower. Unlike us, they waited in no lines at all.
We arrived about 30 minutes before the Eiffel Tower opened and waited in the security line. Then we waited for about 10-15 minutes in the ticket line. Lines could be much longer, depending on the time and season of your visit.
Click the red button below to learn more the Paris in One Day Tour, and other Paris tour options from Viator. Keep reading for more DIY tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower.
Stairs vs Elevator
I had heard from a couple of sources that walking 700+ stairs to the second floor and then taking the elevator to the top was a great way to savor the Eiffel Tower experience. Plus, we'd save a few euros and perhaps a little time in line. You can't reserve tickets for the stairs in advance, and this was my plan until the last minute.
There are three elevators and one line for the stairs – one at each leg of the tower. After we cleared security, we found that wait times for the stairs and elevator were pretty much the same.
I'm overweight and found the 400+ stairs to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral to be challenging the day before. I was not at all certain that I'd make it up the Eiffel Tower's stairs in a reasonable amount of time. I chickened out and announced, “We are taking the elevator.” I have no regrets.
If you take the elevator from the ground, you will disembark on the second floor. Everyone takes another elevator all the way to the top. You cannot walk the stairs beyond the second floor. We noticed that lots of people lingered on the second floor before taking the next elevator up. If you arrive first thing in the morning, take the elevator to the top right away and work your way back down. We found the top to be uncrowded, but not for long.
No matter how you go up, you have the option to take the stairs down from the second floor. That's what we did. We found interpretive signs along the way and plenty of places to stop and savor the experience.
If you know that you will take the elevator all the way up, buy your tickets in advance at https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/rates-opening-times. This could save you a lot of time in the ticket line.
Most families will want the “Lift entrance ticket with access to the Summit.” That's the top of the Eiffel Tower. It's less expensive to ride or climb to the 2nd floor only, but why go to the Eiffel Tower and not pay a few more euros to go all the way to the top?
You will need to select a specific date and time when you buy your tickets online. Timed tickets do sell out. Book at least two weeks in advance during peak season to get the most options.
Sales are final, so if you miss your reservation, your ticket will be invalid. Another downside of booking in advance is that you can't guarantee the weather. It could be perfect, or it could be pouring rain. We visited on a gray day, which was not ideal, but Paris and the Eiffel Tower look good in all kinds of weather. It is usually windy at the top, regardless of the weather.
Don't forget that the Eiffel Tower is lit up at night. We are early birds, and missed seeing the lights, but I imagine that it's fantastic. If your family likes nighttime activities, you can visit the Eiffel Tower until midnight most nights.
The Eiffel Tower has three floors. You'll find restaurants and shopping on the first floor. Book a tour or make reservations if you want to eat in an Eiffel Tower restaurant. The first floor also has a glass floor in one spot, so you can take an unnerving look through your feet at the ground far below. You could miss the first floor entirely unless you make a point to visit on your way down. It's larger and less crowded than the other floors.
The second floor is where you'll switch from the first elevator or stairs to the second elevator. You'll find gift shops and a snack bar here. Most people consider the views from the second floor to be better than at the top, because it's above the city, but you're still close enough to see the details.
The third floor is the top floor of the Eiffel Tower. It's fairly small, but has restrooms and a tiny gift shop. I have a minor fear of heights, and the elevator ride made me feel a bit anxious as we rose rapidly upward and watched the iron structure fly by. However, I felt completely secure once I stepped out at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
There are gift shops on every floor of the Eiffel Tower filled with t-shirts, hats, miniature replicas, postcards and other items. They are great places to shop if you want official souvenirs from your visit. I bought a Christmas tree ornament to add to our collection.
Vendors sell cheap key chains and miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower outside the secure perimeter and at other tourist sites, like the Louvre. Prices vary, but are generally affordable and negotiable. This is where my teenage daughter bought matching key chains for herself and her friends.
There are two restaurants and one snack bar in the Eiffel Tower. The restaurants are located on the first floor and reservations are recommended. If you book a tour, it may include a prix fixe lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel.
At the time of our visit, a secure perimeter was under construction around the base of the Eiffel Tower. Visitors can no longer walk right up to the tower without going through an airport-style security check. You do not need a ticket to get through security, but expect lines.
Signs warned us that the Eiffel Tower is a favorite place for pickpockets to hang out. We did not feel unsafe at any time, and had no problems. However, it pays to pack light, and keep wallets, electronics and other valuables out of easy reach.
Best photo ops
The best place to get photos of the Eiffel Tower is not on the Eiffel Tower. You're just too close. Save some time to walk around and get photos outside the secure perimeter. Plan to spend some time at one or both of the public parks on either side to get photos of your family with the entire Eiffel Tower in the background. We were hungry for lunch, so we rushed through this part. In hindsight, I wish I had a lot more photos!
Visiting the Eiffel Tower was a check on my family's bucket list, and one of many highlights of our Paris trip. I hope our experience helps you to plan a great trip for your family. Happy travels!
Good to Know
Where: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, Paris. The Eiffel Tower is easily accessible by most forms of transporatation.
When: The Eiffel Tower is open every day except July 14 and 15. Hours vary seasonally, but you can usually visit from about 9 AM through midnight. Peak season is June to September.
How Much: Ticket prices vary, depending on age and the type of ticket you purchase. An adult ticket (age 24+) via elevator to the top is 25 euros. No charge for kids under age 4.
How Long: 2-4 hours. Consider purchasing tickets or booking a tour in advance to avoid long lines.
Amenities: Restaurants, gift shops, restrooms