Eiffel Tower: beat the crowds!
Iconic monuments are cliched. They represent the soul of their city and country as much as an I ❤ NY tee reflects New York spirit. They're also a huge hassle to get to. But can you really pass up the opportunity to squeeze in a visit to the Eiffel tower when in Paris?
In answer to this conundrum, here's the anti-tourist tips for enjoying the Tour Eiffel, (almost) crowd free and in pure French laid-back style.
We stepped out of the metro station just a bit before sunset, which meant we got to see the tower slowly light up as the sky darkened. The queue will still be long at this time, so make a beeline to the lush lawns surrounding the tower, and chill out with the rest of the crowd. We enjoyed a baguette bought from our neighbourhood's boulanger, as a busker strung out some sweet music. Food, exceptional views and street music? Tres chic.
If you haven't bought your tickets online here (you should, you'll avoid a lot of queue!), you'll want to keep in mind the two ticket offices at the feet of the Tower. The line to go up starts to get thinner as night falls - try to go up as late as possible, but leave plenty of time to tour the tower at leisure. Check out the opening hours here and plan accordingly.
I've found that the sweet spot is somewhere between 8pm - 9pm - touristy families will be long gone, lovey-dovey couples will be dining, and you'll have the tower almost to yourself.
Breathe it all in!
Another advantage of timing your visit just right is that you'll have all the time in the world to really appreciate the beauty that is the tour Eiffel. Built by Mr. Eiffel himself in 1889, the tower was meant to last for only twenty years, yet over the years it has become the country's symbol internationally.
Its intricate ironwork and sheer size are quite a sight to see and the epitome of 19th century craftsmanship. I used to think it was overrated until I got the chance to get really close to it - the symmetry is simply stunning.
Don't fall for tourist traps
This one goes without saying. Once you actually make it up to the tower, you'll find there are dozens of souvenir shops, together with a five-star restaurant at the first floor and a number of snack shops on the higher levels. Don't even think about shelling out five euro for a tiny cold sandwich, or fifteen euro for a miniature Eiffel. Trust me, you don't need it, and if you really want it, wait until your feet are touching solid ground again - you'll find cheaper prices, I promise.
Fun fact: Did you know that Gustave Eiffel had a small apartment at the very top of the tower! He lived there with his daughter once the tower was completed. Definitely an apartment with a view!
Instead of shopping, walk around the perimeter of the tower at every level and wander at the stunning panorama before you - Paris is at your feet!
From Montmartre to the Arc de Triomphe, the Montparnasse to the Seine, Notredame to Les Halles, Paris is all around you, waiting for you to ooh and aah as you spot famous landmarks you'll have already seen at a slightly lower level. Can you blame me for getting snap happy? ;D
Wrap up warm!
Unless it's noon in mid-August, an evening 324m above ground will have you shivering. We went on a beautiful wintry day, and by the time night fell it was absolutely freezing up there, not to mention windy. Scarves, gloves, a good coat - you'll be needing them.
No, I'm not repeating myself. Once you get down from the tower, find yourself a good spot where you can see the tower in all its beauty. Make sure you're close to the hour, say, 9.59pm or 10.59pm. Get ready for five minutes of glittering lights before you!
And there you have it, the anti-tourist way of visiting the most touristy landmark of them all. Do leave a comment below with your thoughts, I'd love to read them!