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The Eiffel Tower Celebrates Its 125th Birthday Today

Mar 31, 2014 2:00 pm

Skift Take

The tower is the most visited paid-for monument in the world and plays a large part in attracting tourists and making France the most visited country in the world.

— Samantha Shankman

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Lauren Manning  / Flickr

The Tour Eiffel viewed from the museum by the river. Lauren Manning / Flickr


To mark the Eiffel Tower’s 125th birthday, here is a selection of fascinating facts about the attraction.

1. Completed on March 31, 1889, the tower was the world’s tallest man-made structure for 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.

2. It is 324 metres tall (including antennas) and weighs 10,100 tonnes.

3. It was the tallest structure in France until the construction of a military transmitter in the town of Saissac in 1973. The Millau Viaduct, completed in 2004, is also taller, at 343 metres.

4. It is possible to climb to the top, but there are 1,665 steps. Most people take the lift.

5. The lifts travel a combined distance of 103,000 km a year – two and a half times the circumference of the Earth.

6. Victor Lustig, a con artist, “sold” the tower for scrap metal on two separate occasions.

7. During cold weather the tower shrinks by about six inches.

8. Gustave Eiffel, the engineer and architect behind the tower, was also involved in a disastrous attempt by the French to build a canal in Panama, and his reputation was badly damaged by the failure of the venture.

9. Eiffel also designed interior elements of the Statue of Liberty.

10. He died while listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

11. Since its opening almost 250 million people have visited the tower.

12. Today the tower welcomes almost 7 million people a year, making it the most visited paid-for monument in the world.

13. Its construction took two years, two months and five days – 180 years fewer than Paris’s other great attraction, Notre Dame.

14. During the German occupation, the tower’s lift cables were cut, and the tower closed to the public. Nazi soldiers then attempted to attach a swastika to the top, but it was so large it blew away and had to be replaced with a smaller one.

15. In 1944, as the Allies approached Paris, Hitler ordered Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, to demolish the tower, along with other parts of the city. The general refused.

16. Repainting the tower, which happens every seven years, requires 60 tonnes of paint.

17. The tower was the main exhibit at the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair), held to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution.

18. One attendee at the 1889 World’s Fair was Sir John Bickerstaffe, Mayor of Blackpool. So impressed was he at the new attraction, he has a similar tower built on the English seafront.

19. The tower appears in the 1985 Bond film A View to a Kill. There is a scene in the Jules Verne restaurant, and a fight in the stairway.

20. Semolina Pilchard climbs the Eiffel Tower in the Beatles song I Am the Walrus.

21. There are a number of other replicas around the world, including one in Las Vegas and one at the Window of the World theme park in Shenzhen, China.

22. The tower played a part in the Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne, in 1914. One of its transmitters jammed German radio communications, hindering their advance.

23. It was originally intended to stand for 20 years before being dismantled, but its use as a wireless telegraph transmitter (in cases such as the one above) meant it was allowed to stay.

24. French car manufacturer Citroen used the tower as a giant billboard between 1925 and 1934 – the company name was emblazoned on the tower using a quarter of a million light bulbs – and was recorded as the world’s biggest advertisement by the Guinness Book of Records.

25. In 2008 a woman with an objects fetish married the Eiffel Tower, changing her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel in honour of her ‘partner’.

26. The tower comprises 18,000 metallic parts, joined together by 2.5 million rivets.

27. To mark the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s completion the British Virgin Islands has launched a special tower-shaped $10 coin.

28. A number of aviators have flown an aircraft under the arches of the tower. In 1926 Leon Collet was killed after a failed attempt.

29. The tower sways around six to seven centimetres (2-3 inches) in the wind.

30. Gustave Eiffel kept a small apartment of the third floor for entertaining friends. It is now open to the public.

31. The Eiffel Tower and Margaret Thatcher share the same nickname – La Dame de Fer (“The Iron Lady”).

32. In 1960 Charles de Gaulle proposed temporarily dismantling the tower and sending it to Montreal for Expo 67. The plan was rejected.

33. The names of 72 engineers, scientists and mathematicians are engraved on the side of the tower, each of whom contributed to its construction.

34. In the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the tower is toppled by an airstrike.

35. There area five billion lights on the Eiffel Tower.

36. Ever wanted to build your own Eiffel Tower? There’s a LEGO set for that – number 10181 (it contains 3,428 bricks).

37. It costs €15 to take the lift to the top.

38. The majoirty of visitors (10.4%) are French, following by Italy and Spain (8.1% each), USA (7.9%), Britain (7.4%), Germany (5.8%) and Brazil (5.5%).

39. In 1905 a local newspaper organised a stair climbing championship at the tower. A M.Forestier won, taking three minutes and 12 seconds to reach the second level.

40. Pierre Labric cycled down the stairs of the tower in 1923. He won a bet, but was arrested by local police.

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