Visiting the Eiffel Tower is a dream come true for many. It’s one of the top bucket list landmarks to visit in the world. And while you can marvel at its beauty and impressive architecture from the bottom, going up the Eiffel Tower is just part of the experience. There is so much to see from the Eiffel Tower, and getting to the top is a must, especially if you’re visiting this iconic landmark for the first time.
So how do you get to the second floor of the Iron Lady? Well, there are two options — the stairs and the elevator. And with guided tour options for each, we leave it up to you to decide the better route to take.
To help you choose, here are the pros and cons of taking the stairs versus the elevator up the Eiffel Tower.
Taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower
When visiting the Eiffel Tower, we’re lucky to have the option of either taking the stairs or the elevator. While not everyone can make the climb, if you can, it might be worth considering.. It’s a unique experience you just can’t get with an elevator ride.
While the Eiffel Tower has 1,665 steps from the bottom to the top, you only have to climb 674 stairs to reach the second floor. You then have the option of taking an elevator to the summit. Stairway access is found at the tower’s South Pillar.
The pros of climbing the stairs at the Eiffel Tower
Taking the stairs at the Eiffel Tower is the equivalent of taking the scenic route on a road trip. Here are the top reasons to climb the Eiffel Tower.
1. It’s great exercise.
It’s always good to get a little cardio workout on vacation. And in Paris, in between all those pastries, it’s especially welcome. Climbing the stairs burns lots of calories — more room for pain au chocolat!
Don’t worry. There are small platforms where the stairs switch directions. You can stop for a breather if you need to.
2. It’s immersive.
You’ll get to experience the Eiffel Tower in a way you just can’t when taking the elevator. It’s quite extraordinary to get up close and personal with the tower’s architectural support system as you climb.
3. It saves money.
That’s right. Climbing the tower’s stairs will save you a little cash. Whether you book a guided climbing tour or go on your own, the climbing ticket is a few euros cheaper than the elevator option.
4. It’s what Gustave would recommend.
When you climb, you’re scaling the Eiffel Tower as its creator, Gustave Eiffel, originally intended. Even though elevators were invented, he took dignitaries up by way of the stairs and thought everyone should choose this route.
5. It’s better for photos.
You can take in views of Paris throughout the entire climb. It’s such a unique way to see the city as it unfolds below you farther and farther away with each step.
Love photography or just making people jealous on Instagram? You can also snap interesting photos of the landscape through the frame of the tower itself.
6. You can visit the first floor.
The elevator takes you directly to the second floor, bypassing the first floor. But the first floor is fun to visit, too!
It has a transparent floor that you can stand over and look through. It also has a slightly different and naturally closer view of the city.
The cons of climbing the stairs at the Eiffel Tower
There are always pros and cons to every decision and that includes climbing the Eiffel Tower stairs. Here are some of the cons which may make you decide on an elevator tour instead.
- Climbing flight after flight of stairs can be quite strenuous, and you should make sure you’re in good physical health before deciding to take this climb.
- It can take 30-45 minutes just to get to the second floor.
- Tours are rain or shine, and you’ll certainly be exposed to the elements on your climb.
- If you have little kids with you, this may not be the best option.
As you can see, the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to taking the stairs to the Eiffel Tower’s second floor. Now, let’s compare that to taking the elevator.
Taking the elevator up the Eiffel Tower
If you don’t feel like or can’t climb nearly 700 stairs, taking the elevator is your best bet. It’s also the quickest way to get to the top and ideal if you have a foldable stroller with you, you can enjoy access all the way to the top of the tower — the summit can only be reached by elevator, although it’s a different elevator than the one you’ll take to the second floor.
One important note is that wheelchairs are accessible up to the second level but not to the summit.
The pros of taking the elevator at the Eiffel Tower
Lifts have been in service almost as soon as the Eiffel Tower first opened in 1889. Today, there are three elevators. They’re located at the east, west, and north pillars, and they travel between the ground level and the second floor with two elevators that go from the second to the third level.
Here are a few of the pros of taking the elevator:
1. It’s faster.
No doubt about it. The elevator zips you up to the second floor a lot quicker than you huffing it there yourself. That means your total visit time will be shorter. We allow 1.5 hours for our elevator tour of the Eiffel Tower vs. 2 hours for our guided climb.
If you’re short on time, the elevator is the way to go.
2. It’s less strenuous.
This sounds obvious, but think about a couple of things here. If you’re headed to a nice Parisian dinner after your Eiffel Tower tour, you might not want to break a sweat. A ride up the elevator is definitely a pro in this case.
If you’re recovering from any medical issues that make you slightly less fit for climbing, the elevator will also be easier on your legs and back.
And as I mentioned above, if you have especially young kids — or even teens more habituated to surfing the web than scaling monuments — you might want to consider ditching the stairs.
3. It’s part of the history.
Yes, Gustave Eiffel favored climbing and you can see the interior structure of the tower as you climb, but the elevators are part of history, too. Two of the original elevators are still in service, which is truly remarkable. Wouldn’t it be amazing to ride in one of the historic lifts?
4. You can enjoy the view as you ride.
The elevators are enclosed in glass so you will be able to see the tower’s architecture as you ascend. It’s a slightly different view than what you see from the stairs, and it certainly goes by faster, but it makes the ride so much more engaging than it would be if enclosed.
The Cons of Taking the Elevator at the Eiffel Tower
While there are very few cons to taking a lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower, here are a few reasons why you may want to choose the stairs instead:
- As with most things of convenience, taking the elevator is a bit more costly than trekking up the stairs.
- You’ll miss out on some of the structural and city views by taking a lift.
- You don’t get the bragging rights of saying you climbed the Eiffel Tower
Booking an Eiffel Tower Guided Tour
When booking your tour, whether it’s the Eiffel Tower Guided Climb or the Eiffel Tower Elevator Tour, an expert guide will lead you and share tips along the way. Your tour includes a trip to the second floor, which is filled with exhibits as well as dining options and shops. You’ll also be able to take in panoramic views of some of Paris’s other iconic attractions, like the Seine and the Arc de Triomphe, from this vantage point.
If you’re intent on making it to the top, and we think you will be, you can upgrade either tour to include the summit for an extra fee. That journey, as mentioned above, is always by elevator. There are stairs to the summit, technically, but they’re not open to the public.
The summit isn’t always open. Eiffel Tower staff close the summit from time to time for various reasons, so even if you book a ticket to the top, you might not be able to see it. Rest assured that climbing or taking an elevator to the second floor is still the most classic Paris experience, so you’ll get the essentials even if you can’t make it to the third floor.
Now the question is, do you want to take the stairs or the elevator?