23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true

Here are twenty-three interesting Eiffel Tower facts we didn't know about and even less expected. Some of them are quite shocking.
Christopher McFadden
  • Who built the Eiffel Tower?
  • How many steps must you climb to get to the tower?
  • What's at the top of it? Let's find out.

Since her inauguration in 1889, the Eiffel Tower has seen some of Europe's most pivotal historical moments. Here are the 23 interesting Eiffel Tower facts you might not know. 

1. Who built the Eiffel Tower?

The Eiffel Tower, as the name might suggest, was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel's engineering company, Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel. Contrary to popular belief, however, Eiffel has very little to do with the tower's design and construction.

Two of Eiffel's senior engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, designed the tower. The tower's design came about after discussing a suitable centerpiece for the 1889 Paris Exposition.

This exposition was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Eiffel would later acknowledge that the tower's design was inspired by the Latting Observatory built in New York CityTower in 1853.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
The Eiffel Tower was inspired by the Latting Observatory in New York.

2. The Eiffel Tower was to be taken down in 1909

The Eiffel Tower was originally constructed for the 1889 Paris Exposition. It was explicitly intended as the grand entrance to the Exposition and was not meant to be a permanent feature of the Parisian skyline.

After its official inauguration in March of 1889, the tower was supposed to stand for 20 years and be dismantled in 1909. This was the total time limit awarded to Eiffel for his permit to build it.

Once ownership reverted to the City of Paris, the original plan was to dismantle it. Part of the original competition rules was for the winning structure to be easily dismantled. But as it provided an excellent radio antenna, it could remain standing after the permit's expiration.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
The tower in its early days of construction.


3. Over 250 million people visited the Eiffel Tower

In 2019, The Eiffel Tower was one of the world's most popular paid monuments. According to statistics, around 7 million tourists visit the famous tower annually.

Others have estimated that almost 300 million people have visited the Eiffel Tower since it opened in 1889. It is also estimated that around 25,000 visitors ascend the tower every day.

This volume of tourists inevitably results in long queues. You can buy tickets online to avoid long waiting times, of course.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Graph of average visitors to the tower per year.

4. The Eiffel Tower never capitulated 

In June of 1940, the Nazi war machine triumphantly entered the streets of Paris to begin their rule over the city with an iron fist.

Before the tanks and soldiers arrived, almost two million Parisians managed to flee. Those who remained were to begin their long period of underground resistance with a tiny but significant act of defiance.

The cables to the lift of the Eiffel Tower were severed so that Hitler would need to climb the steps to reach the top of the tower. But the embarrassment for the Nazis wouldn't end there.

German soldiers also had to climb the tower to hoist a swastika over it. This was very large and blew away only hours later. This was later replaced by a much smaller one. The Tower remained closed during the Occupation, and the lift was finally repaired in 1946. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Photograph of senior National Socialist party members in front of the tower.

5. The Eiffel Tower was 'sold' by a con artist

The Eiffel Tower was once "sold" by a con artist to a scrap metal dealer. The con man in question was one Victor Lustig, and his actions would forever label him as "the man who sold the Eiffel Tower." 

He initially hit on the idea for the con when reading an article about the dilapidation of the Eiffel Tower in 1925. At this time, maintenance for the tower he had become very expensive and a nuisance for the city.

Seeing an opportunity, he forged some official credentials, met some scrap dealers, and tricked them out of a large sum of money. He even managed to do it a second time before fleeing to the U.S. to avoid arrest.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
This man actually sold the tower.

6. The Eiffel Tower should have stood in Barcelona

The Eiffel Tower was initially intended to be built in Barcelona, not Paris. The Spanish rejected the tower's design for the significant gain of the French.

Of course, in hindsight, this has proved a very costly mistake for Spain. It would be interesting indeed to see Barcelona as the home of this now iconic monument.

The Eiffel Tower is estimated to be worth around 400 Billion Euros. This is about six times that of the Colosseum in Rome and more than the Tower of London. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Barcelona was almost the home of the Eiffel Tower.

7. The Eiffel Tower grows in the summer

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower varies in height by around 15 cm throughout the year, depending on the temperature? This should be no surprise considering the tower is made up almost entirely of metal.

So as the average temperature fluctuates throughout the year, does the tower's height as the metal expands and contracts? Not just that, but the top of the tower might also shift away from the sun by as much as 18 cm due to thermal expansion on the side facing it. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
The Eiffel Tower from below.

8. Eiffel Tower and hot air balloons do not mix

Inventor Franz Reichelt killed himself when trying to test his design for a parachute. He was an Austrian-born tailor who lived in France during the turn of the century.

During the 1890s and 1900s, the age of aviation began with hot air balloons and airships becoming ever more popular. Franz, like many other budding inventors, got caught up in the hysteria surrounding this exciting technology development field.

By around 1910, there was a growing concern about safety for air travel, with many looking to increase the survivability of pilots and passengers alike. Functional fixed-canopy parachute already existed by this time, with other examples that were proven to work from high altitudes.

What was needed was a design for low altitude. Colonel Lalance of the Aero-Club de France offered a 10,000 Franc reward for anyone who could develop a parachute that weighed less than 25 kg. Reichelt thought he'd nailed it with his design and decided to test it from one of the world's most iconic monuments.

9. You will climb 1,665 Steps to get to the third level

If, like the Nazis in WW2, Parisians decide to cut the cables to the lift, it's a pretty long walk up the tower. In total, there are around 1,665 steps that need to be climbed to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

But this official figure will only get you from the ground floor to the third level. You can only officially climb the Eiffel Tower by foot up to the second floor.

Ascending the staircase to the first floor takes around half an hour, depending on your age and fitness, of course. Of course, you might just get distracted by the views or the majesty of the tower itself. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
There are many steps inside the tower.

10. The Eiffel Tower is married

So boys and girls, the Eiffel Tower is not on the market. This might sound obvious; after all, it's a tower of metal, but this didn't stop one Erika La Tour from starting a relationship with it.

She even married the tower in 2007. She is a self-described "objectum sexual" whose heart has been stolen by the famous Parisian landmark. However, the Eiffel Tower is not her first romantic attachment to an object. She had previously fallen in love with Lance (which was a bow), with which she became an archery champion. 

11. The Eiffel Tower uses 20,000 light bulbs at night

Anyone who has seen the tower by night can attest to how impressive it looks lit up. But have you ever wondered how many light bulbs it takes to light up the tower? According to official statistics, the Eiffel Tower uses around 20,000 light bulbs. It is also illegal to publish any photographs of the Tower when lit at night. This is because, according to EU Copyright Law, the lighting design is a work of art in and of itself.

Thus anyone who publishes photos will need to seek the permission of the Société Nouvelle d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel. Of course, this is likely to be very difficult to enforce.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
The Eiffel Tower at dusk.

12. The paint on the Eiffel Tower weighs as much as ten elephants

The elephant, as everyone knows, is the only global standard for measuring the weight of paint. So how many elephants worth of paint are there on the Eiffel Tower?

You might be surprised to hear that all the paint on the tower weighs in at around ten elephants. The paintwork also needs to be reapplied regularly to keep it in good condition and stave off the oxidation of the metal structure.

The entire tower has been re-painted about 18 times over the tower's lifetime, an average of once every seven years or so. It has also changed color several times over this period from red-brown to the bronze it is today, 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Painting the tower consumes alot of paint.

13. You will find Gustave's penthouse is at the top

Gustave Eiffel had his private apartment at the top of the tower. During its design, Eiffel demanded that he have a small living space at the top. 

The members of the public can now visit this, but during his lifetime, no one else would've been allowed to see it. Interestingly during his lifetime Gustave was constantly offered small fortunes to rent out the private space for a single night.

He constantly refused but would entertain guests of his choosing from time to time. A notable guest being one Thomas Edison.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Mannequins of Thomas Edison and Gustave Eiffel at his private apartment atop the tower.

14. London tried to get its own Eiffel Tower and failed

While many celebrated the tower's opening in 1889, others envied Eiffel's work and vowed to outdo him as quickly as possible. And so it was in 1891 that a railway entrepreneur, Edward Watkin, decided to build a similar structure to surpass it in height in London.


After all, Brittania could not be outdone by their oldest of rivals, France. The tower was marketed as the "Great Tower of London" but was also known as Watkin Tower. But the tower proved to be very unstable and was never completed.

What was built was finally demolished in 1907. Wembley Stadium now occupies the site it stood on. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Historical presentation of Wembley Park with Watkin's Tower.

15. A grueling project: 300 Workers over two years

The Eiffel Tower's construction was no small feat. It took around 300 workers to assemble the 18,038 pieces of wrought iron and 2.5 million rivets. Completing the assembly took two years, two months, and five days, a testament to French engineering.

Each of the 18,000 pieces was explicitly designed and traced out to an accuracy of a tenth of an mm. All the pieces are held in place with rivets, each needing a four-man team to install. One heated it, another had it in place, a third shaped the head, and the fourth beat it with a sledgehammer. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
There are around 2.5 million rivets used on the Eiffel Tower.

16. The Eiffel Tower Was Described as "useless and monstrous"

This might seem strange since it is a rather elegant structure, but it has had its critics throughout the ages. Novelist Guy de Maupassant was a prime example.

He often described it as "useless and monstrous." He would often dine out at the restaurant at the tower's base so he didn't have to look at it.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Guy de Maupassant despised the Eiffel Tower.

17. The Eiffel Tower Shares its Birthday with Nintendo and Hitler

When the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in 1889, two other major things happened. This was the same year that Nintendo and Adolf Hitler were born. An interesting year indeed.

Nintendo can trace its roots back to 1889 when the company produced handmade Hanafuda cards. Hanafuda cards are Japanese playing cards that made the small company a profitable organization then.

Nintendo would later move into the toy industry in the 1960s and start developing computers in the 1970s, and the rest is history. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
The Tower of 'Tendo.

18. The Eiffel Tower Almost Moved to Montreal

In a secret deal between Charles de Gaulle and the Mayor of Montreal, the Eiffel Tower was almost moved to Canada in 1960.

The plan was to transfer the iconic monument to Montreal for the Universal Exhibition 1967. Thankfully for Paris and France, the tower owners vetoed the decision and overruled De Gaulle's decision.

The move was to be temporary, and the Eiffel Tower would serve, as it did almost 80 years before, as a landmark for the Exhibition.

The operating company vetoed the decision because they feared the French government would refuse permission to restore the tower to its original location. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Charles de Gaulle during WW2. Source: Rama/Wikimedia Commons

19. The Eiffel Tower's lifts travel 103,000km every year

Being the most visited paid-for monument in the world, the lifts to the top are busy all year round. It is estimated that the lifts travel a combined distance of 103,000 km a year.

That's two and half times the circumference of the Earth. Interestingly, two original lifts are still in service on the Eiffel Tower. They are carefully preserved to this day.

Given their heavy-duty use, the tower lifts are constantly checked by technicians. These chaps start them up early in the morning before the public arrives and keep them under close surveillance whenever the Tower is open.

The Eiffel Tower elevator operators handle the smooth flow of visitors.

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Diagram of the original lifts.

20. The Eiffel Tower helped the Allies during WW1

During WW1, the Eiffel Tower was used to help Allied forces to jam German communications. It was pivotal as a wireless telegraph transmitter during the 1914 Battle of Marne.

In this battle, it helped turn the tide of the battle in favor of the Allies; over the next five years or so, the tower would also become a communications hub for listening in on German transmissions.

It was also used to help dispatch emergency reinforcements and confuse German zeppelins that tried to hone in on its signal. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Zeppelin over the tower.

21. Hitler wanted revenge for the lifts

As funny as the act of defiance was during 1940 of cutting the lift cables, it almost cost France the tower in the dying days of the war.

Adolf Hitler ordered its destruction as the Allies approached Paris in the Summer of 1944. He ordered General Dietrich von Choltitz to raze the Eiffel Tower and the rest of the city.

Thankfully the General disobeyed, thinking that he had gone mad. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Dietrich von Choltitz.

22. The Eiffel Tower and its many replicas

Around the world today, there are more than 30 replicas of the Eiffel Tower. From London to Las Vegas, even in Lahore, Pakistan, you can find scale replicas of this iconic monument.

The half-scale model of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel tower was originally meant to be a full-size duplicate—it just happened to be too close to the airport for comfort. Another interesting replica can be found in Tokyo, Japan.

The Tokyo Tower, as its known, is the second-tallest structure in Japan. Construction began in 1957 and was finished within a year.

It is easily spotted because of its size and vibrant red and white paint scheme. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
Paris Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.

23. Building the Eiffel Tower was safer than you'd think

Occupational hazards were fatal during the industrial age. Deaths on large scale-projects were a common occurrence. For this reason, Gustave Eiffel put safety a high priority during the construction of the tower.

To this end, his company assembled wooded scaffolding around the structure during construction. They also used creeper cranes that moved up the tower as construction progressed.

Other safety measures put in place included guards and screens. As a result, only one person died in constructing the Eiffel Tower. These measures likely saved many more of the 300 crew from being killed.

Quite remarkable, given the times and scale of the project. 

23 Eiffel Tower facts you'll be surprised to find out are true
1888 construction progress.

And that's your lot for today.

Now you'll be able to surprise your friends and family with your new-found Eiffel Tower facts. We've covered topics like who built the Eiffel Tower and who is married.

Have we missed anything? Let us know.

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