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The History of the Eiffel Tower

When you picture France, the first thing that pops into your head is likely the elegant metal monument that dominates the skyline of Paris, the Eiffel Tower. While the structure is now infamous on a global scale, the story of how the Eiffel Tower came into existence is much more complicated than that. Its construction was highly contested at several periods in time and it was almost not completed. Now the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of France and welcomes millions of visitors each year.

In October of 1886, French construction designer Gustave Eiffel was appointed an honorary citizen of the United States for his contribution to the Statue of Liberty which was gifted to the USA by France as a champion of freedom following the American Revolution. Eiffel had been responsible for designing the internal framework of the Statue of Liberty, which was regarded as highly advanced engineering at the time for its durability to withstand extreme weather events. The American authorities were confident it would stand for hundreds of years.

Gustave Eiffel and his famous monuments (the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty) Credit:

Following Eiffel's incredible success off the back of designing a monument for the USA, his fellow French colleagues urged him to design a monument for the Paris World's Exhibition in 1889. Eiffel did not believe that the design of a temporary moment for the exhibition was worthwhile, and felt that an underground metro would more beneficially serve the people of Paris. He believed that the metro was modern and would ease the transportation difficulties that were faced by many Parisian citizens.

The Paris World's Fair 1889 was to exhibit the great industrial advancements of iron and steel structures at that time. Eiffel decided to scrap the metro idea and worked towards designing a monument for the city of Paris. He proposed a temporary 300-metre-tall metal structure that would become the Eiffel Tower.

Early-stage prototypes of the tower were regarded as ugly by Eiffel's colleagues, and the tower was speculated to be 'a wart on the face of Paris'. However, Eiffel's intelligence, attention to detail, and likable personality saw him persevere to complete the tower's design despite these criticisms.

During the presentation of his finalised prototype when Parisian authorities raised their concerns that the tower would scare visitors away from Paris, Eiffel took this as an opportunity to highlight what France could gain from the tower. He proposed that the contrary would occur, that people would flock from all over the world to see the incredible statue. Gustave Eiffel claimed that the tower was not simply to be a feature of the country, it was to embody all the France represents. The tower would represent national pride, reclaim independence and stand for the freedom of the French people forever. It was designed especially to withstand strong winds and storms, the curvature of the tower absorbing the wind and channeling it upward.

Eiffel's critics were swift to raise concerns that the tower was to be built next to a bed of water, which would increase the difficulty and risks during construction. This did not phase Eiffel, however, as he was actively involved in the design and construction of a bridge over the Bordeaux river 20 years earlier. Eiffel's solution was caissons, a watertight retaining structure that allowed the construction of a stable foundation for the tower to be built on.

Rough sketch of the construction plan for the Eiffel Tower. Credit:

Gustave Eiffel's design for the A-shaped tower won the competition to be showcased in the Paris World's Exhibition for 1889. He immediately got to work, organising labourers and materials. Despite Eiffel's commitment to the safety and security of his workers - which he had demonstrated at the building of the Bordeaux bridge in 1860 when he rescued a worker from drowning - there were concerns that the caissons were dangerous and working conditions were poor. This led to Eiffel's workers going on strike even before the first level of the tower was completed.

Following the worker's strike, the board of Paris refused the completion of the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel's determination and drive once more shone through and he promised the men that he would double their wages when they completed level one of the tower, which he said would take two weeks. Eiffel had an amazing crowd presence and an ability to muster strength and encouragement in his group of workers. From that moment on, Gustave committed to seeing through the completion of the tower's construction, even if he were to be in debt for the rest of his life.

A ticket to the Paris World's Fair 1889. Credit: Wikimedia

The tower was indeed built to completion and its formal inauguration at the 1889 Paris World's Exhibition was an enormous success. From this day, Gustave Eiffel would go down in history as one of the world's greatest construction designers.

The Eiffel Tower is comprised of 18038 pieces of metal and 2.5 million bolts. There are 1665 steps to the very top of the tower. Since its opening on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower has had close to 300 million visitors. It has attracted people from all over the world and represents the charm and beauty of the city in which it stands. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited monuments in the world today.

The 2021 movie 'Eiffel' is an incredible depiction of the history of the Eiffel Tower, and features an amazing cast including Emma Mackey and Romain Duris.

Eiffel movie (premiered 2021)

The Eiffel Tower is now also fitted with the Madame Brasserie restaurant, offering a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience in the world-famous monument. There are plenty of options to choose from, including a variety of drink and dessert packages. You could have the opportunity to dine at one of the most exquisite restaurants in the world, overlooking the beautiful city of Paris.

If you'd like to see the Eiffel Tower in all its beauty, look no further than France Travel Solutions. French-born Maud Dunne is the founder of France Travel Solutions, and her expertise in tourism and group tours means she is truly qualified to provide you with your dream trip to France. Maud is on a number of tourism boards and has incredible connections with tourism managers all over France.

If you've been looking for a sign to book a small-group trip to France with a tour guide who knows the ins and outs of the country, you can learn more by visiting the France Travel Solutions webpage or by registering your interest here. We can't wait to hear from you!


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