The Eiffel Tower is one of the best-known landmarks in the world, and near the top of many travelers’ wish lists of things to see in their lifetime. It’s also one of those rare destinations that intrigues children just as much as it does adults! But how to structure a visit and make it fun for the whole family requires some basic knowledge and a plan.
Before you buy tickets or invest in a tour of the Eiffel Tower, you must first familiarize yourself with the structure of the building. There are three levels that visitors can experience:
Level 1: Home to shops and restaurants. I always advise visiting this level on your way down and out of the tower, as it is the least interesting and impressive. If moods or energy levels are beginning to wane, it’s the level you’d want to skip anyway.
Level 2: This is arguably the most important level. Many people actually prefer the view from this spot, as it is low enough for other Parisian landmarks to be recognizable without binoculars. While still crowded, it won’t feel nearly as tightly packed as the summit will. You can spot Level 2 easily from the ground below — it’s the platform right before the tower begins to narrow.
It’s possible (though not advisable for families with young children or mobility concerns) to take the stairs to the first two levels. But most visitors will prefer the elevator.
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Summit: This is the top of the tower. It is sometimes called Third Floor or Top as well. It’s only reachable by a long elevator ride (fun to get video of the ride up!), and it will feel tight and very windy. The view from here is sometimes quite dizzying, and it feels similar to the view from an airplane when things on the ground start to get really fuzzy. I prefer the view at Level 2 because you can actually identify what you’re seeing, but for many families, getting to the summit is quite a thrill. If you have a family member who is really uncomfortable with heights or crowds, they should wait at Level 2 for the rest of the group to make their descent.
The Eiffel Tower is not an attraction where you’d want to just wing it. The lines to get in stretch all around the base of the tower, and in the summer, the timed elevator rides are often completely booked up. There are several ways to buy tickets in advance.
Book directly on the Eiffel Tower website. If your family’s only goal is to go up the tower and then carry on with your day in Paris, just book a timed entry ticket via the tower’s website. Customers choose which level to visit (Level 2 alone, or Level 2 plus Summit), the desired date and a specific time slot. Then an email is sent with your tickets. Don’t be late! Families who miss their time slot won’t be allowed up.
Tickets are typically released about three months in advance (though this summer, it was only about six weeks in advance). Set a reminder to buy your tickets when the booking window opens up, and check back daily if they’re not yet on sale. Summer dates often sell out within days of becoming available. Cost is around 16 to 25 euros per person, depending on the level. Plan to spend 60 to 90 minutes at the Tower.
Use a ticket broker. Sites like Viator sell entry to the tower, and this can work well if your preferred date is showing as sold out on the tower’s website. You may pay a bit more in fees, but that’s better than disappointed children.
Book a restaurant table. Dining reservations at 58 Tour Eiffel (Level 1 and more family-friendly) or Jules Verne (Level 2 and very upscale) include your lift ticket to the corresponding level. Be advised that lunch and dinner are only served at specific seating times.
Hire a guide. Many of Paris’ private guides offer tours with a guide that go up the tower. For families with an interest in history, architecture and building, this is a really enjoyable way of experiencing such an iconic structure. Most tours last approximately two hours. This is another hack if you miss the booking window on the tower’s website, as guides sometimes have access to additional tickets. Pricing will be considerably more to see the tower with a guide (at least 50 euros per person, typically). Ciao Bambino Family Travel Advisors can help you book vetted kid-friendly guides as part of our Connect with a Travel Advisor page.
Arrive via Place du Trocadero. This is the most impressive view of the tower and the best angle at which to grab photos. After visiting the tower, the kids can burn off energy playing in Champ de Mars, a public green space on the opposite side from Trocadero. Be sure to have some cash on hand to pay for a carousel ride or ice cream so you can linger with this amazing backdrop a little longer.
Pack light. All visitors to the tower go through airport-style security with bag searches. There are some restrictions on what you can bring. Large bags are not allowed, and there is no luggage storage onsite. Strollers that don’t fold up are also not allowed. That said, dress appropriately: Other than in very severe weather, the Eiffel Tower operates rain or shine. It will be quite cool and windy at the various viewing platforms.
Go later in the day. Book your tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower for the afternoon. Then you’ll have time to play and have dinner before capping things off with a view of the tower’s impressive twinkling light show once dusk hits. The tower is lit up for about 5 minutes at the top of every hour.
Be aware of your surroundings. The base of the tower and the surrounding area are fairly popular with pickpockets, who take advantage of the crowds of tourists gawking upward.
There’s no replacing an Eiffel Tower experience, and no trip to Paris is complete without at least seeing this iconic structure from below. But if the crowds or heights, or the lack of ticket availability, have you seeking other options for incredible views of Paris, here are a few ideas.
Arc de Triomphe: Most families will try to see this French monument during a trip to Paris anyway. Head to the top for a fun and exciting view of the city streets as they spread out from the arch in wagon-wheel style. You’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the crazy traffic patterns on the roundabout immediately below.
Montparnasse: While it appears to be a nondescript modern office building that could be found in any major city around the world, this tower has an observation deck that is a great alternative view of the city. Even better, you’ll have an amazing place to observe what you came to see: the Eiffel Tower itself!
Sacre Coeur: This recognizable basilica in Montmartre is a favorite stop for a final day in Paris. Challenge the kids to climb the steps to the entrance, and the reward will be an amazing view of the city and all you’ve experienced together as a family, spread out before you.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Nicole Wiltrout except where noted.
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