The Eiffel Tower from Below: The Underground Eiffel Tower Tour
A new survey has revealed that more Britons have visited the Eiffel Tower in France than Big Ben or Buckingham Palace and that the Paris monument holds the distinction of being the most visited tourist attraction the world. Last time we visited, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and witnessed magnificent views of the city from high above. Now a new underground Eiffel Tower tour explores la Tour Eiffel from subterranean levels, where visitors can explore the Champ de Mars secret military bunker and experience the little-known lair even Parisians don’t get to see. Why not try something different next time you visit Paris and sign up for an underground Eiffel Tower tour, an interesting and educational experience for the whole family.
Secret Eiffel Tower war bunker
The Behind-the-Scenes Eiffel Tower Tour allows visitors to head below street level into a secret wartime military bunker, which has rarely been seen by the public. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower was used to house communications equipment for the army and an evacuation route was built underground, with several secret corridors and tunnels. In case the German army advanced, the tunnels were an escape route and lead from the bunker into the River Seine. Walking down here is a narrow and dark experience but a worthwhile one, especially interesting for children.
Today the bunker is used for storage and houses the air conditioning system that powers the Tower’s restaurants and gift shop. Wartime secrets are revealed during this tour, with several accounts of World War II, when Paris fell to Nazi occupation in June 1940. The French resistance army cut the cables of the Eiffel Tower lifts, preventing Hitler from hanging a swastika flag from the top of the structure. Without any working transportation to the top, he would have been physically unable to climb the 1710 stairs to drape the Nazi flag from the upper level.
Hidden rooftop terrace
As with any of the Eiffel Tower’s guided tours, we advise that you book ahead. This particular tour runs at 10am and 5pm Central European Time on Wednesday and Saturday in both French and English. Tickets can be purchased online from a wide variety of internet travel companies and is about 90 minutes in length, as well as including a queue jump to the second floor of the Tower which we didn’t manage to visit on our first trip to the Eiffel Tower. The views of the city from the top floor were spectacular but we didn’t have time to witness the second level, which includes a room designed by Patrick Jouin and a world-famous restaurant. Alain Ducasse’s Le Jules Verne offers fine cuisine and panoramic views of Paris from its rooftop terrace.
Normally reserved for Eiffel Tower employees, this tour gives you the chance to explore a part of the Tower that is usually off-limits to the general public. There are also several restaurants around the Eiffel Tower which offer a wide variety of great food and cater for all budgets. The Eiffel Tower gift shop is a great place to purchase a memento of your trip so remember to bring plenty of Euros for souvenirs for friends and family. For those who want to shop in the surrounding area, a tip is to bring with you a credit/debit card instead of cash and you should not be charged more for making an electronic payment in Euros than in your own country.
Hydraulic lifts underground
In a recent blog post, one of our top tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower was to go in early Spring or late Autumn. This way you can escape the crowds and the weather is a little cooler, meaning now is the perfect time of year to plan a trip. The Behind-the-Scenes underground Eiffel Tower tour gives visitors an opportunity to walk around the Tower’s underground engine room and witness first-hand the powerful machinery that powers the Tower’s hydraulic lifts. Still fully functioning, the lifts are said to be more efficient than the modern electric elevators which form the spine of the main Tower. The hydraulic lifts have been in operation since 1899 and at its base lies beautiful and archaic infrastructure hidden from Parisians above ground.
If you like what Paris has to offer below ground, guided tours also visit the French capital’s underground Catacombs which contain millions of corpses from the 18th century. Extending for nearly 300 kilometres, the Catacombs house skulls and leg bones in its walls and several tours explore the ghostly tales of those who perished from plagues, the French revolution and the guillotine.