The Most Photogenic Building in the World

Updated: May 7, 2019

As I’ve said in other Paris blogs, the first place I ever went outside of America was Paris, and the city holds a special place in my heart due to that. On this first trip, the first thing I did upon arrival (other than sleep off that first, unpleasant experience with trans-Atlantic travel) was go to the Eiffel Tower. I had just turned 16 and was with my father, who had spent a year in Germany as a child and wanted to show me around Europe now that I was old enough to appreciate it. He kindly allowed me to choose the first thing we did and I immediately said “the Eiffel Tower.” I mean, my goodness. I was in PARIS. What else was I going to say??

It is an amazing structure. To this day, I have never tired of admiring the Eiffel Tower. It is disgustingly photogenic. Sure, it was controversial when it opened (there’s that famous story of the man who insisted on eating inside it every day so that he could avoid looking at it), but I’ve loved it since the moment I first laid eyes on it. That morning, we walked along the river towards the tower and it was so exciting as it grew nearer and larger. Holy moly it is large. It doesn't seem that big in pictures!

Now, my father is, uh, a bit of a penny-pincher. To put it mildly. We both wanted to climb the tower, but he didn’t want to spend the money for the elevator (I don’t remember what the prices were in 2005, but in 2019 it would cost an adult and a teenager €19,50 to take the elevator to the second floor, while the stairs cost €12). You have to take the elevator to the top floor, so that was out of the question due to cost. But Dad was willing to pay for the stairs, so we climbed the 300+ steps on that hot, humid late-June day. In addition, we hadn’t really eaten since America. This was perhaps not our best decision. But it was still a good climb (and I was definitely singing The Beatles “I am the Walrus" line to myself about this very feat). The views 100 feet above the ground were lovely, and we spent about 45 minutes up there admiring the city and squinting at the horizon at the various landmarks that were marked on the informational signs all around the sides.

The tickets we had would have also taken us to the second floor but, well, we hadn’t eaten for two days and it was hot. We decided instead to go back down and find food. But it left a mark on me. As I said, it’s a magnificent piece of steel. It is my favorite building in the world to photograph, but at the same time, pictures do not do justice. It’s hard to understand just how large and impressive it is until you’re actually there.

I’ve since been up the tower twice. The first was my first time in Paris as a solo adult. I was in Paris for a work event, and had one free evening. You can bet that I spent that free evening in line to buy a ticket for the top floor of the Eiffel Tower. It was a cool October evening, and slightly drizzling. While in line, I made friends with a nearby trio of middle-aged Americans who were in town on vacation. We stayed together through both elevator rides (you take one elevator to the second floor, then get into another line to go all the way to the third floor 900 feet above the ground). I was 21 at the time, and in 2019 costs that trip up costs €14,50. However, I am now nearly 30, so for a "full adult", it is €17 to go to the top (for anyone in the family travel market, the cost for kids 4-11 is €8, and free for anyone younger).

Due to the darkness and rain, the line didn’t take too long. We got to the top, admired the City of Lights from above, and then all headed off for dinner together. One of them then walked me back to the metro, and kindly snapped a picture of me at Moulin Rouge. It pays to make friends while traveling solo!

And finally, the last time I went up was in 2015 with my mother during her first trip to Europe. She is not nearly the penny-pincher Dad is, so it was never a question that we wouldn’t take the elevator to the top. This was my first time seeing Paris from 900 feet up in the daytime, and I was weirdly scared of the height. I’m not scared of heights, I’ve never been concerned elsewhere. But that day, I was freaked out and spent most of the time hiding in the gift shop where I couldn’t see outside. Mom had no such reaction and snapped lord knows how many pictures.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Paris six times, and it is one of the few cities that I will re-visit again and again for the rest of my life. I love Paris. I’m not sure I will go back up the tower (though might be good to try and see the 900 foot views without being scared!), but I will always seek the tower out from the ground.

Best Views

There are many places to see the best views of the tower. Even with all my trips to the city, this is not remotely a complete list. But, in no particular order:

1. Across the river from the tower is the Palais de Chaillot, with its nearby square/park. This spot is famous world-wide for having these views (every famous person, including Hitler unfortunately, has had their pictures taken in this square). The square itself offers great, raised views, while the park below is a lovely setting through which to walk to (or from) the tower.

2. I will someday write a blog about the Arc de Triomphe, but for now let me say that the view from the top provides my favorite views of the city. It’s only 160 feet (48 meters) above the ground, so it's still easy to see the beautiful architecture of the nearby buildings. A lot of people assume the Eiffel Tower has the best views, but from the Arc you can actually see the Eiffel Tower! Pro-tip: if you arrive at sunset, you can see the tower twinkling above the dusk-washed neighborhood.

3. The River Seine offers many walking and boat options from which to see the tower from a more unique, sunken view.

4. Next to the Jardin des Tuileries is Place de la Concorde, France’s largest square (where both King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads) provides a fountain-filled foreground view with the tower rising behind it.

5. And, of course, Champ de Mars, the long green in front of the tower that is perfect for picnics and strolls. Many a lazy afternoon have been whiled away lying on this grass.

6. The Passy metro station has amazing views of the tower - easily the best views I've seen on any metro system anywhere in the world. My personal Instagram has a video of what you can expect.

There are many more places in which to admire the tower. It’s the tallest building in Paris, so you can see it all over the place. I once had a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is just down the river from the tower (directly across the river from Place de la Concorde). The view of the tower from their windows was absolutely eye-popping. It's one of the more jealous moments I've had in my professional life, knowing that there are offices in this world with such spectacular views.