15 Monumental Facts About the Eiffel Tower

iStock.com/narvikk
iStock.com/narvikk

On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower opened to the public. Below are some things you might not know about the beloved monument.

1. The tower was built as an entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair.

A vintage postcard of the Eiffel Tower
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, Paris hosted the 1889 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). Hoping to be considered for the high-profile project, artists from around the nation sent in plans for a structure to mark the entrance to the fair on the Champ-de-Mars, a public greenspace in the center of Paris.

2. It was designed and built by the firm Eiffel et Compagnie.

The commission was given to the consulting and construction firm owned by Gustave Eiffel, a bridge builder, architect, and metals expert. Eiffel also worked in the early 1880s on the Garabit Viaduct, a bridge in the Massif Central region that was, at the time, the highest bridge in the world. Prior to landing the World's Fair project, he also helped design the Statue of Liberty.

3. Gustave Eiffel rejected the initial design.

The tower's main designer was one of Eiffel’s employees, senior engineer Maurice Koechlin. Engineer Emile Nouguier and the head of the company’s architectural department, Stephen Sauvestre, were also consulted. After viewing Koechlin's initial sketches—which Eiffel felt were too minimalist—the architect instructed Koechlin to include more details and flourishes in his redesign. Eiffel approved the final design in 1884.

4. The project required lots of metal (and lots of manpower).

Three hundred steel workers spent two years, two months and five days, from 1887 to 1889, constructing the Tower. They used more than 18,000 individual metallic parts, 2.5 million rivets, and 40 tons of paint.

5. Its original height was 985 feet.


Getty Images

Upon its completion in March 1889, the Tower measured 300 meters (985 feet) high. Surprisingly, this measurement isn't static: Cold weather can shrink the Tower by up to six inches.

6. It was the tallest structure in the world until 1930.

For 41 years, the Eiffel Tower stood higher than any building or structure in the world—until it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building in New York, which topped out at 1046 feet. Just a year later the Empire State Building became the tallest in the world at 1454 feet with the spire. In 1957 an antenna was added that increased the Tower’s height by 67 feet, making it 6 feet taller than the Chrysler Building.

7. A 300-member committee protested the tower.


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Led by author Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas, Jr., and hundreds of other artists and intellectuals, a petition opposing the project was signed and sent to the Parisian government. They called the Tower “useless and monstrous,” but their protests fell on deaf ears.

8. The tower was an immediate hit.

Despite the petition, the 1889 World’s Fair was deemed a great success, thanks largely to the Tower's imposing presence. Nearly 2 million people visited the Eiffel Tower during the Fair and spent $1.4 million on tickets, making the 1889 Fair one of the few to actually turn a profit.

9. It was only supposed to stand for 20 years.


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The Eiffel Tower was never intended to stand over the Champ-de-Mars permanently, and was scheduled to be dismantled in 1909—that is, until someone realized that its apex was the perfect place for a telegraphy antenna. During the First World War, at the Battle of Marnes in 1914, the wireless telegraph transmitter helped jam German communications.

10. It moves!

Eiffel, a renowned expert on aerodynamics, published “The Resistance of the Air” in 1913. He and his team designed the Tower to withstand even the strongest winds, and never sway more than 4.5 inches.

11. There are three levels.


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The 7 million people who visit the Eiffel Tower every year can now travel to three different sections of the Tower at three different heights. The first level is 189 feet high and includes an observation area, a reception room named after Gustave Eiffel, souvenir shops, an art show, a restaurant (58 Tour Eiffel) and a transparent floor. The second floor, at 379 feet, includes another observation area and Le Jules Verne restaurant. The top level offers amazing panoramic views at 905 feet high and a champagne bar, where you can grab a glass of white or rosé (just expect to pay up to $25 per glass).

12. Some weird events have taken place there.

The tower has drawn its share of daredevils (Pierre Labric, the future mayor of Montmartre, was arrested for cycling down its stairs in 1923) and overly-enthusiastic admirers. In 2007, a woman with an "objectum sexual" married the tower and changed her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel.

13. The tower gets a fresh paint of coat every seven years.


Getty Images

About 60 tons of paint are needed to freshen the monument, which is owned by the City of Paris and operated by a public utility called the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE). More than 500 people work for the SETE, as tour guides, security, in the post office, and in the Tower’s restaurants, shops, and boutiques.

14. The tower was closed during the German occupation.

French resistance fighters cut the cables for the Eiffel Tower’s lifts so Nazi officers and soldiers had to climb the stairs, and the monument was closed to the public during the occupation from 1940 to 1944. Hitler actually ordered the military governor of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, to destroy the Tower, along with the rest of the city; fortunately, his order wasn’t carried out.

15. The iconic structure is beloved by filmmakers.


EON Productions/MGM

James Bond chased an assassin through the Tower in A View to a Kill. A murder-mystery called The Man on the Eiffel Tower was released in 1949 and starred future Penguin Burgess Meredith. A scene from The Lavender Hill Mob, which featured future Oscar winners Alec Guinness and Audrey Hepburn, was filmed there. Hundreds of other films have used the Tower as a prop, or a backdrop.

Eagle Creek's Durable Caldera Line of Suitcases Can Digitally Track Your Travels

Eagle Creek's Caldera line of bags comes in both black and green.
Eagle Creek's Caldera line of bags comes in both black and green.
Eagle Creek

I always have a little anxiety when I check a suitcase for a flight. What if it gets damaged, or worse—lost?

Eagle Creek is taking on both challenges with its new Caldera line of suitcases. Thanks to a polycarbonate back shell and a body made of recycled Cordura poly that is tear-, abrasion-, and water-resistant, the bags are lightweight but tough.

They’re also full of smart details: reflective, water-resistant zippers; a proprietary system that keeps the handle from being crushed; personalizable rubber side handles; side straps with aluminum hardware that can be tucked away; and a “coat keeper” that allows you to secure your coat to the top of the bag as you’re rolling through the airport.

The Eagle Creek Caldera Wheeled Duffel.
The Eagle Creek Caldera's "coat keeper" in action.
Eagle Creek

But the thing that really got me excited about the Caldera line is TripSync. Each bag in the Caldera line is equipped with an NFC chip that allows you to report your bag if it’s lost and tracks your trips for a cool digital reminder of where you've been.

Eagle Creek sent me the 100-liter wheeled duffel to test, and I brought it along with me on a trip to Israel. I wasn’t able to check out TripSync (which was still in beta at the time of my trip) but here’s how it works: First, if your phone requires it, download an app that will read the NFC chip. Then, hold your phone near the luggage tag, which will launch a video describing the features of your bag and how to care for it. (There’s also a handy diagram that will tell you which Eagle Creek packing cubes you need, and the way to orient them, to get the most space out of your bag.)

After the video, you’ll sign up for an account. Don’t forget to register your bag—it’s the only way you can report it as lost if it goes missing. You may also need to adjust your settings to allow TripSync to get your location so it can accurately track your travel.

Before you check your bag or hop on the plane, scan your bag and make sure you’re logged in, then click “start trip.” After that, you’ll need to scan your bag and click “add stop” or “end trip” to log your travels. (These steps are important—the bag isn’t actively being tracked by GPS, so trip length is based on the points you log and determined by “the most direct path between the points,” according to Eagle Creek’s website. “The total miles traveled between each point you create become your total miles traveled for that one trip.”)

If you need to report your bag lost, you do so by logging in and clicking the “report lost” button. When someone finds the bag, all they need to do is scan it with their phone to contact you; none of your information will be revealed. When your bag is back in your hands, you can mark it as found.

Eagle Creek Caldera luggage.
If your bag gets lost, whoever finds it just has to tap their smartphone on the ID tag and you'll be contacted.
Eagle Creek

Though I wasn’t able to try TripSync, I was still impressed by the physical features of the bag. The bag is durable as promised, and spacious—I had plenty of room for everything I wanted to bring, with space to spare for souvenirs. (The suitcase is also expandable via a zipper, but I didn’t have to use that feature this time.) Thanks to the sturdy handle and rugged wheels, the bag handled great both empty and when it was fully loaded, both on smooth streets and uneven terrain. And as a person who struggles with what to do with her coat when wheeling all of her luggage through the airport, I found the coat keeper to be especially helpful. I can’t wait to take the bag on another trip to try out TripSync for myself.

If you’re not in the market for a carry-on or checked suitcase, Eagle Creek also has a Caldera backpack as well as a convertible bag that can be both worn as a backpack and rolled like a traditional carry-on suitcase.

The bags come in black and green; they start at $279 for the backpack and go up to $569 for the four-wheeled 100L model. You can buy them on EagleCreek.com.

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10 Enchanting Places That Align with the Vernal Equinox

A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On Thursday, March 19, the vernal equinox heralded the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Ancient civilizations built calendars and observatories to track the movements of the stars and mark this monumental time. Now, people still partake in a variety of traditions and rituals to honor the day when light and dark become equal. To take your celestial celebrations to the next level, here are 10 places that align with the spring equinox.

1. On the vernal equinox, a massive snake appears on the temple at Chichen Itza.

Legend says that on the spring and fall equinoxes, the Maya city of Chichen Itza receives an otherworldly visitor: Kukulcan, the feathered serpent deity. On these days, a shadowy snake slithers down the side of the god's namesake pyramid. As the temple darkens, a single strip of light stretches from the top of the northern staircase to the snake head resting at the bottom, creating the illusion of a wriggling reptile.

2. A beam of light illuminates a petroglyph within Arizona’s Boulder House each vernal equinox.

The Boulder House in Scottsdale, Arizona, looks like a strange home wedged amid a jumble of rocks. But it’s actually a modern house built around a sacred Native American site. The Empie family, who bought the parcel of desert land in the 1980s, commissioned architect Charles Johnson to transform the cluster of 1.6-billion-year-old boulders into a functional house. Johnson crafted a unique structure, incorporating the rocks into the house’s foundation and preserving the prehistoric carvings. On the equinox, sunlight pierces between two boulders in the unusual abode, striking a spiral petroglyph on the wall to create a dazzling piece of home decor.

3. On the vernal equinox, a group of Moai on Easter Island stare directly at the sunset.

Seven Moai gaze face toward the horizon
On the equinox, these Moai stare directly at the setting sun.
abriendomundo/iStock via Getty Images

People aren’t the only ones who pause to watch the sun slip beneath the horizon on the first day of spring. On Easter Island, at a sacred site called Ahu Akivi, a line of seven Moai—the island’s giant, mysterious heads—gaze directly at the point at which the sun sets in the sky on the equinox.

4. Each vernal equinox, light drenches a petroglyph-filled cairn at Loughcrew.

The hills of Loughcrew, one of Ireland’s four main passage tomb sites, are crowned by 5000-year-old megalithic structures. At dawn on the equinox, sunlight fills Cairn T, a passage tomb carved with astoundingly well-preserved examples of Neolithic art. As the light dissolves the darkness, the cup marks that dimple its walls and the symbols adorning its back stones blaze into view. The illumination lasts for about 50 minutes, giving observers ample time to take turns squeezing into the cairn.

5. On the vernal equinox, light streams through one of the Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples.

The Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples on Malta’s southern coast are archaeological wonders. They were built between 3600 and 2500 BCE and are believed to be among the world’s oldest freestanding stone buildings. Not much is known about the people who created these megalithic masterpieces, though it’s clear they constructed one of the temples with an eye to the heavens. On the equinox, the sun streams through the South Temple’s main doorway, flooding the structure’s major axis with light.

6. On the vernal equinox, the sun sits directly atop the main temple at Angkor Wat.

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat would be a magical experience any day. Crowds hush as colorful hues paint the world’s largest religious structure with a gilded glow. Dawn at Angkor Wat is even more special on the equinoxes. Then, the sun rises behind the main temple before briefly seeming to balance on its tip like a fiery halo.

7. On the spring equinox, the sun rises through the entrance to Stonehenge Aotearoa.

Stonehenge has inspired replicas around the globe—including as far away as New Zealand. Stonehenge Aotearoa, which opened in 2005, was built by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. The structure is an astronomical tool for observing the local skies, and blends modern astronomy with ancient starlore. If you stand in the center of the circle on the Southern Hemisphere's vernal equinox, you can watch the sun rise directly through the Sun Gate, two carved pillars that flank the entrance to the henge.

8. The shadow of the intihuatana at Machu Picchu disappears at noon on the equinox.

A curious stone structure stands atop a temple at Machu Picchu. It’s one of the rare surviving intihuatanas that wasn’t demolished by the Spanish conquistadors. This “hitching post of the sun” is believed to have been an astronomical tool. At noon on the equinox, the granite pillar’s shadow briefly vanishes. Unfortunately, the invaluable object now looks a bit battered. In 2000, a crane toppled into the intihuatana during the filming of a beer commercial, smashing part of it.

9. At sunrise on the spring equinox, the sun bursts through the door of a temple at Dzibilchaltún.

Sunrise at Dzibilchaltún
Each equinox, the sun appears within the door of the Temple of the Seven Dolls.
renatamsousa/iStock via Getty Images

Though now reduced to a medley of ruins dotting the jungle, Dzibilchaltún was once the longest continually inhabited Maya administrative and ceremonial city. The star attraction here is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, a building named for the mysterious human-like figures discovered inside. At dawn on the equinox, the sun shines through the temple’s main door. It’s believed the sacred structure was aligned with the equinoxes to mark the beginning of the planting season and the end of the harvesting season.

10. The 'Woodhenge' at the Cahokia Mounds aligns with the sunrise on the equinox.

During the Mississippian cultural period, Cahokia's population exceeded that of London. In addition to giant pyramids, the North American city also featured circles of wooden posts, since dubbed “Woodhenge.” The wooden markers were likely used to track the sun’s movements. One of the posts aligns with the equinoxes, as well as with the front of Monks Mound. On sunrise on the equinox, it looks as though the sun is emerging from the enigmatic earthwork.

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