The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks and many go to Paris every year just to see it. For a tower that wasn’t supposed to be a permanent fixture of the city, that’s a pretty good run. It has stood for more than a century and it still pulls over 7 million visitors per year. At the time it was built, it was also the world’s tallest structure that humans had built. It remained the tallest structure in the world for over 40 years and was the tallest structure in France for 80 years.
Many people use the elevator to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but you can choose to use the steps to ascend to the top as well. Because there are 1,665 steps, however, it would be quite a workout. The elevator is used so often that the total distance it travels is more than 100,000 kilometers. In comparative distance, that’s enough to go around the world at the equator 2.5 times.
The man behind the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, was also part of a French attempt to build a shipping canal in Panama. The Americans eventually succeeded where the French failed, but Eiffel was ruined by the failure. His reputation was never the same again, but the Eiffel Tower still stands as a strong testament to his work. So do these fun facts about this popular structure.
1. It Was Sold For Scrap… Twice
Victor Lustig was one of the best con men that ever lived. He was one of the world’s greatest imposters who was finally caught by the Secret Service in 1935 with counterfeit bills and printing plates in his possession. He was known for selling money boxes that could print out perfect $100 bills and could sell them for over $40,000 at a time. His most notable accomplishment, however, was selling the Eiffel Tower to French scrap companies not once, but twice.
Lustig was able to do this because it was widely known at the time that the Eiffel Tower was supposed to be demolished. It was actually scheduled for demolition in 1909, but with radio becoming a new technology in homes, it was transitioned to become an antenna instead. Considering it weighs 10,100 tons, that’s a lot of scrap metal and that’s where Lustig would strike. He would use the greed of someone against them.
2. The Tower is Surprisingly Flexible
When it gets cold outside, the tower will contract. When it gets warm, it will expand. At the height of its contraction in cold weather, the Eiffel Tower actually shrinks by about 6 inches. This means if you go up the stairs in the cold, you will have the equivalent of 1,664 steps to take instead of the full amount.
When it gets hot outside, the tower also tends to lean just a bit. The total lean can be as much as 17 centimeters.
That flexibility really irritated the Nazi party when they occupied Paris during World War II. Once the city was under their control, they attempted to attached a large swastika to the top of the tower and they cut the cables of the elevator so the top wasn’t easy to access. The swastika was so large that it just blew away. In the end, a rather small swastika stood there through the occupation.
3. The Nazi Military Governor Was a Rebel
As Germany began to experience losses in World War II with the advance of Allied troops, Hitler demanded that the military governor of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, demolish some of the key parts of Paris. To his credit, the general refused Hitler’s orders, including the demand to get rid of the Eiffel Tower before Allied troops reached the city.
Although his refusal of orders is disputed by some, what is true is that the man was only the military governor of the city for 24 days. Yet in that time, he became known as the Savior of Paris by some. After being released from an Allied prison camp, he reportedly visited the hotel that had become his headquarters. As the story goes, he stayed 15 minutes, saw his room, and then left the city for good.
4. The Tower Once Sold Advertising Space
With a tower so prominent and large in the middle of a great city, many businesses were keen to have a large advertisement placed somewhere on the tower. It was Citroen, a French car manufacturer, that eventually won the rights to advertise their brand on the tower. From 1925 through 1934, 250k light bulbs were used to have the company name placed on the tower. This advertising is still listed as the world’s largest advertisement by the Guinness Book of World Records.
20k light bulbs are still used to this day to light up the Eiffel Tower at night.
It’s also the only world landmark that has had an official wedding. The wedding happened in 2008 and the woman who married the Eiffel Tower changed her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel so that she could honor her new partner. If a spouse’s habits are hard to manage some days, imagine what it takes to manage 2.5 million rivets. It’s also interesting that the tower in this marriage takes the role of a man, but it is nicknamed “The Iron Lady.”
5. Eiffel Lived On His Tower
Although the Eiffel Tower is often viewed as a tourist attraction, Eiffel actually called the tower home for some time. He kept a small apartment on the third floor of the tower and often used it to entertain his friends. That apartment, like much of the tower, is open to the public.
During a tour of the tower, a visitor might also see some names engraved on the side of the tower. There are 72 names that are on the Eiffel Tower and they are in tribute to the mathematicians, scientists, and engineers that made the construction of the tower possible.
You can still be entertained at the Eiffel Tower if you want. Alain Ducasse has a gourmet restaurant that is on the second floor of the tower. It won’t be the cheapest meal that you’ll ever have if you dine there, but it will be one of the most amazing views you ever have and one of the best meals you’ll ever have the privilege to enjoy.
6. There’s a Lot of Paint
It takes 18 months to completely paint the Eiffel Tower because it is so large. The paint helps to prevent the tower from corroding because of the elements, so it is a necessary job to do every 7 years. To complete the task, over 60 tons of paint are used by workers. What makes this unique, however, is that to get an even look, workers use three different colors of paint.
7. People Have Been Killed
Because of the design of the Eiffel Tower, a number of inventions or stunts have been tried. Numerous airplanes have attempted to fly through the arch, but one of the attempts resulted in a crash that killed the pilot. In another infamous incident, the invention of the coat parachute was tested from the tower and Franz Reichelt, who jumped from the first floor, was killed when the parachute didn’t deploy as anticipated.
8. The Design Was Initially Hated
When the desire to build something unique for the World Fair came about for Paris, hundreds of proposals were considered. The Eiffel Tower was obviously picked as the best proposal, but it wasn’t a popular choice. Dozens of prominent French professionals presented the city council with a formal protest over the decision. Calling the tower a “black smokestack,” the concern was that this “ridiculous” tower would crush the elegance of the other landmarks that Paris had to offer.
Much of the public dissent for the tower faded in 1889 after Thomas Edison visited the new landmark. He wrote in the guestbook that he had the greatest admiration for the engineers who had created the tower.
9. There Are Numerous Eiffel Towers
The Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas might be one of the most famous duplications of this Paris landmark, but it was far from the first. The Nevada replication is the largest replica, however, that exists in the world today. The first replica, however, was built in Lancashire just 5 years after the completion of the Paris tower. Called “Blackpool Tower” it stands about 7 meters shorter than the Las Vegas tower.
There are two additional cities in the United States, both that are also called Paris, that have smaller replicas of the tower. Two replicas have also been built in China, there’s one in Prague, one in Russia, and there’s even one in Tokyo.
The Eiffel Tower was also the inspiration for the World Federation of Great Towers. It was formed on the towers centennial birthday and is the oldest of the towers in the group. The tallest tower, however, is the Burj de Dubai, which stands over 800 meters tall.