Ihatetheeiffeltower

Confession: Why I Hate the Eiffel Tower

Can you picture Paris without the Eiffel Tower? I can. And so can many Parisians.

The truth is that I don’t really like the landmark and – while I’m blowing your mind – here’s another confession: I lived in Paris for 6 months without even so much as one step on the steel metal icon.

I know, I know.

“But why Emily? What has the Eiffel Tower ever done to you?”

In truth, nothing. The tower is not really what I dislike so much as the American or tourist perception of it.

Unfortunately, many Americans romanticize the Eiffel Tower in part because of some really sneaky myths that have been floating around cinema, photography, and art for years. But I think it’s finally time to debunk them and replace them with some better Parisian ideals, so here we go:

Myth: The Eiffel Tower is in the center of Paris

I know, you’re gasping for breath. You cannot fathom a Paris without the Eiffel Tower in the center, but the Eiffel tower is actually not Paris’ central monument – Notre Dame is.

ParisArrondissementsMap

If you look at a map of Paris, you can see that the neighborhoods or arrondissements spiral outward around a little island in the middle of the Seine called, “île de la cité.” Historically, this island was the original Paris, and Notre Dame sits right in front of its “gound zero.”

You can actually go stand on the “center of paris” point in Paris right in front of the old cathedral, but you wont see the Eiffel Tower anywhere near you. Why’s that? The Eiffel Tower is actually off to the southwest corner of the city in the 7th arrondissement.

“But you can still see it from anywhere in Paris, right?” Nope.

Myth: The Eiffel Tower is really REALLY tall

There’s this idea that everywhere in Paris has a grand view of the Eiffel Tower. This is just silly.

Knowing that the Eiffel Tower is not in the center of Paris is half the story, but the other half is just that the Eiffel Tower is not that tall.

New York’s skyscrapers dwarf the tower. And its thinness makes it even more transparent – kind of just like a little pokey in the Paris skyline.

Here’s the view of the Eiffel Tower from 4 stories up at the Centre Pompidou:

view-centre-pompidou

View of the Eiffel tower

Is that a giraffe or…?

So if this is the view you get from 4 stories up in almost the center of the city, just imagine how frequently you see the Eiffel Tower on your daily jaunt about Paris.

Myth: It has the best views in the city

The panorama I used for the cover photo of this post is taken from Sacre Coeur in the 18th Arrondissement. I think this view is infinitely more breathtaking than the Eiffel Tower’s. Other friends of mine have preferred the view from atop Notre Dame, the Tour Montparnasse, or the Centre Pompidou.

I have yet to hear from anyone who prefers the view from the Eiffel Tower’s observation deck after viewing Paris from any other location.

Perhaps the only thing I’ve enjoyed about the snapshots taken from atop the Eiffel Tower is that you can’t see the Eiffel Tower in them… of course, as I mentioned before, that’s true of most anywhere in Paris (outside of Hollywood).

Myth: It is romantic

I can’t count the number of engagement photos I’ve seen taken at the Eiffel Tower, but the reasoning has always escaped me.

Gustave Eiffel never intended for his tower (and yes, he called it his tower) to be romantic. It was a statement of strength and power; he compared it to egyptian pyramids.

The most romantic minds in Paris were actually sternly against the tower:

“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection… of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower…” -Committee of Three Hundred (including Charles Garnier, Guy de Maupassant, and Adolphe Bouguereau)

Taking Paris to New Heights

To be totally fair, I don’t really hate the Eiffel Tower intrinsically. The real reason I don’t like it is because it distracts tourists from the parts of Paris that I really love — it creates a fictional Paris that is nothing like the one I wish to share with the world.

Maybe the Parisians enjoy this. Keeping their beautiful city hidden behind the shadow of a massive metal structure, drawing all the tourists to it like some sort of fly-catching light-trap.

tourists-eiffel-tower

But if you’ll entertain me for a moment, I’d like to share with you just 3 of the many Parisian landmarks you’re unlikely to find in a cinematic representation of the city, but landmarks that I’ll argue are just as worth your time.

Marché des enfants rouges (which I mention as a top destination for the foodie on a budget) is also one of my favorite unconventional Parisian landmarks. It exemplifies so much of what I love about Paris: food, artisans, community.

La Pagode is one of Paris’ most stunning arthouse movie theaters. Japanese gardens, silken walls, and 19th-century Japanese style grace this gorgeous cinema on rue de Babylone. It’s not only a fitting tribute to Paris’ cinematic legacy, but also full of history.

la-pagode-julien-hausherr-paris

Photos by Julien Hausherr, via HiP Paris

The Institut du Monde Arabe and the Mosquée de Paris are almost too special independently to be grouped together, but they both represent a large population of Paris that is often underrepresented in the media. The Institut is an architectural masterpiece that could make the Eiffel Tower look like chicken scratch and it also houses some of the most amazing exhibits on Arab countries. The Mosquée nearby offers incredible ethnic cuisine in the same theme.

Institut du Monde Arabe

Photo via Flickr ©Perry Tak

So the next time you gaze lovingly at a picture of the Eiffel Tower in a guide book, longing to slap on a béret, grab a crêpe, and walk up to the observation deck, I hope you’ll remember that that tower is just a little speck of dust in Paris’ vast cultural landscape.

How do you feel about the Eiffel Tower? How about a popular landmark in your own town? Let me know in the comments!

Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. In art history class I remember our professor telling us how protested the Eiffel Tower was within Paris. But for other reasons it is not on my list of “things to do & see.”
    I hate standing in long lines and the closest I’d like to get to it is upon the grass before it and have a picnic otherwise I shrug at the thought of venturing to the top.
    Love your post and will be keeping your suggestions in my back pocket.
    My sister and I are heading to France next year in August/September.

    Murissa

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      Funny you should mention picnic-ing on the lawn – I did enjoy that and actually ended up getting recruited to join a “nerf gun” war with a few parisians that day. I had originally planned to go up the tower, but after meeting those parisians and hearing their opinion, I decided to just hang out with them for the rest of the day!

      Lucky you heading to Paris next year! I’m so glad you like the suggestions — I’m happy to provide more if you are looking for anything specific. Definitely let me know how the trip goes! *so jealous*

      Reply
  2. Melissa says:

    I agree that climbing the Eiffel Tower is not worth it, but I do love the way it looks in the skyline. There is something about seeing a peek of it through buildings on a hazy day that I love. But otherwise, don’t spend hours there, you are right.

    On a side note, I love the Mosque. What an oasis from the city (and wonderful tea and pastries).

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      That’s a great note about the skyline… I didn’t have that feeling about the Eiffel Tower, but I do have a similar feeling about the Mountains in CO — when they peak through the buildings, it kind of orients me. I can see why that would appeal to you in Paris!

      Oasis is a great word! Definitely describes it. And I agree – I think everyone should have tea there!

      Reply
  3. allison b-t says:

    i definitely agree with this post. while in paris we went to the site of the tower but decided it wasn’t worth it to wait in line for hours to go up. in the end, yes, the views from the centre pompidou were wonderful and i don’t feel like i missed out on anything at all.

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      I think you chose wisely! Save your $$ for an extra meal or some French shopping, n’est-ce pas?! :)

      Reply
  4. Connie Weiss says:

    I had no idea that the tower (who shall not be named because Emily hates it) wasn’t in the center of the city!

    I’ll gladly go to Marché des enfants rouges, it sounds like my kind of place!

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      Haha! It’s like Voldemo– I mean “he who shall not be named” – I love it!

      Re: Marché — Definitely check that out when you go to Paris — it’s an absolute gem and the people are incredibly nice!

      Reply
  5. Galley says:

    When i spent a day in Paris in 1986, I was surprised how pricey it was to go to the top. I paid it, knowing I might never get back there.

    Reply
  6. Zoe says:

    Great article. I am a student who has just moved to Paris to do a BA in French Studies and I’m about to disgust you but I have the perfect view of la Tour Eiffel from my little studio in the 17th. And I LOVE IT. For me, the Eiffel Tower is my guilty pleasure, not because its the Eiffel Tower but for me it symbolises so many things that have kept me sane in my first year as a Parisian. I am originally from South Africa so yes I have traveled through hemispheres to be where I am and it’s for that reason that I love being able to see the Tower everyday. It reminds me of why I am here and where I am. It’s light house- like spotlight acts as a beacon of hope and guidance when I feel lost or discouraged. And besides, who doesnt like the sparkles it shows off every night? However, I have never been up it. I try and advise people to stay away from the ascend to save money and time, and have indeed suggested places like Les Tours de Notre Dame, Tour Montparnasse (simply because it means you dont see that horrid building) and Montmartre for a better view. As it is, my studio has this view but almost in the same breath, has a too-close-for-comfort view of another monstrocity, formerly Hotel Concorde Lafayette, now Hyatt Regency and let me tell you, I’d rather have 100 Eiffel Towers in my way than one of it. I do agree with you on the hidden gems, my personal faves being the general cartier of le Marais as well as the charming little île de la cite, home to the cutest market of flowers and birds, and fantastic buskers and good food. For me, there is so much to see in Paris, people shouldnt waste too much time on the obvious. I havent visited half of the “to do” things in Paris for point of enjoying other more intimate things. But for me, La tour Eiffel is my rock.

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      I can definitely understand how the tower as a part of the skyline gives you personal pleasure — your idea of the lighthouse reminded me of Daisy’s green light in the Great Gatsby (and Fitzgerald lived in Paris for a while… coincidence?!?)

      I also see your point about other “distracting” structures in the Paris skyline that are even worse on the eyes. I think if others looked at the Eiffel Tower in your way — that is, with a sense of personal significance and an attachment to it because it’s in one’s on quartier (I have great attachments to many of my views from the Marais, as well!) — it would actually be deserving of its iconic status! Unfortunately, the people that usually seem to attach themselves to the E.T. are those that haven’t ever lived in Paris (vacations don’t count).

      The way you describe the Tower’s significance in your life… it’s definitely a neighborhood gem! And to your point, even then, it’s not exactly worth the trek to the top.

      Reply
  7. Dallas says:

    Love this post. I’ve always been more impressed with Notre Dame than the Eiffel Tower. I think most of the Eiffel Tower’s mysterious popularity has come from Hollywood and some photographers that seem to be a part of some secret contract to make the tower look pretty in photographs. What bothers me more than people going up to the observation deck are when people choose to eat in the restaurant in there. Why eat in a (not-so-good) tourist trap when you can find much better restaurants just by walking around the neighborhoods? I hope to God if I ever get engaged, it won’t be at the Eiffel Tower.

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      Secret contract! Yes! It really must be… I can’t seem to figure out another explanation for how this happened. Did they all just happen to live in the 7th and have no finances for metro passes??

      Re: Food. Agreed. Most definitely! Unless they are calling in special chefs for a private dinner (which they do, usually it involves the president of France and millions of dollars, though).

      Also, as a Francophile, I have always feared that my future love will wrongly assume that the Eiffel Tower is my favorite spot in the world and choose to pop the question there. EEK! Let’s hope he reads this post 😉

      Reply
  8. I lived in the banlieu for several months and never went up it. In fact it wasn’t until I was showing a friend round Paris a few years later that I did go up it. Once was enough. I have been to Paris probably 20 times, and I wouldn’t waste a precious moment on the tower whereas I am happy to spend a couple of afternoons out of a week’s stay in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont.

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      Parc des Buttes Chaumont! Another great (often overlooked) Paris gem! It is definitely something I could have included in this post as an alternative site, but if I mentioned them all, this post would never end… there really is just TOO much greatness in Paris to waste it standing in line for a staircase!

      Reply
  9. Martin says:

    Yes yes yes! The Eiffel Tower is so overrated! I much prefer just wandering around Paris and stumbling upon nice things/protests! The Parc de Luxembourg is one of my favourite places in Paris – sitting by the fountains in the middle with a good book watching all the BoBos go by…

    Reply
    • emilygrossman says:

      I love the Jardin du Luxembourg! It’s simply gorgeous in every season, though I am partial their fall arrangements. People watching is definitely the preferred French sport — much better than hiking up Eiffel Tower stairs — plus, you can bring wine!

      Reply
  10. Aldo says:

    Thank you for this page, Emily, (and this wonderful site). Is it possible to misrepresent a city more than the dark and brutish Eiffel Tower misrepresents the bright and charming city of Paris? I don’t think it is. I do hate it intrinsically. Surely the true home of such a boy’s toy gimmick is Las Vegas or Dubai? For me, there is nothing else in the exquisite city centre of Paris quite as ugly except for perhaps some metro stations.

    My grand plan, you may say my fine plan, is to persuade Paris to sell the Eiffel Tower to the Qataris; thus raising a few hundred million Euros to spend on renovating the Metro. Ça serait bien. Please use your contacts to make this happen very soon. Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Lesly says:

    Stop Hating OMG!!. in our generation you can travel and be a tourist.

    Reply
  12. x says:

    This article is bad, and you should feel bad.

    Reply

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