How to Enjoy the Eiffle Tower Light Show? | Timings, Best View Points & More
The Iron Lady's Illuminations
Visiting the Eiffel Tower at night is an experience completely different from visiting the structure during the day. And, an even more magical experience is catching sight of the Eiffel Tower post-sunset.
Every evening, the Eiffel Tower shines bright in a golden hue and sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, as its beacon shines over Paris. It truly is a sight to behold, making a night in Paris even more magical.
Why View the Eiffel Tower Light Show?
When Does the Eiffel Tower Lights Go Up?
The Eiffel Tower is open from 9 AM, however, the Eiffel Tower lights and beacon go up only after sunset.
It all begins with the Eiffel Tower's golden light switching on within 10 minutes of it getting dark, automatically, thanks to its light-sensitive twilight sensors. The structural lighting is taken care of with the help of 336 1kW high-pressure sodium lamps, with the help of a system that dates back to 1985. These lamps ate changed every 4 years.
The beacon at the top of the Eiffel Tower also comes to life at dusk. The beacon is made of 4 marine-type projectors, each on one side of the tower. Each takes a turn to complete a 90° rotation, creating the illusion of a 360° rotating beam. If the skies are clear, the rays from the beacon can reach as far as 80 km.
The star of the show might be watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. Every evening, after dusk, the tower in its golden hue is covered by sparkling lights for 5 minutes at the start of each hour. At 1 AM, the tower sparkles for the last time that night, and this time, the golden lighting and the beacon are switched off. This effect is created with the help of 20,000 6W bulbs that flash successively at a very fast rate.
How to Enjoy the Eiffel Tower Illumination?
While at the top of the Eiffel Tower you might be able to enjoy some of the best views of Paris, you will definitely need to climb down to get a full view of the Tower in its glory. And if you are trying to get a good look at the tower, the best time to go is post sundown so you can enjoy the sight of the Eiffel Tower adorned in lights.
Since the Tower lights up automatically 10 minutes into the city turning dark, you enjoy the Eiffel Tower lit up in its golden hue at any time after dusk. However, the sight you want to catch is that of the Eiffel Tower sparkling.
The Eiffel Tower light show takes place on the hour, every hour from sundown till 1 AM, with the lights sparkling for a full 5 minutes. However, the best show of all is the final one at 1 AM.
Unlike the other shows when the sparkling lights are superimposed on the yellow structural lights of the tower, at 1 AM, the yellow lights and the beacon are shut off and you get to witness the white lights twinkling against the dark silhouette of the tower. Best part? This show lasts for a full ten minutes!
Where to Catch Best Views of the Eiffel Tower Light Show?
You can head to the Trocadero or a number of rooftops in Paris or find a spot along the banks of the Seine River to enjoy this sight. Make sure you get to your viewing location early enough to get a good spot.
Visit Eiffel Tower at Night
How Does the Eiffel Tower Light Up?
The monument’s illumination, both the structural lighting and sparkles, as we know it today, was designed by electrician and lighting engineer Pierre Bideau. However, all three of the lighting systems work in extremely different ways.
Eiffel Tower Illumination
The structural lighting system of the tower consists of 336 projectors that have been fitted with high-pressure, yellow-orange sodium lamps. These lamps are directed from the bottom to the top and light up the Eiffel Tower from the inside. The new system allows for the tower structure to be highlighted while having the surrounding areas to be illuminated. The projectors turn on automatically with the help of sensors within 10 minutes of nightfall.
Prior to 1958, 1,290 projectors illuminated the structure from the outside and it was replaced by the current system in 1958. Until 2004, the tower used 1kW lamps, which were replaced by projectors with an electrical power of 600 watts. In 2019, the four 2000W projectors that were used to light up the antenna of the tower were replaced by LED variants. In 2020, the 28 projectors that illuminate the steps along the four pillars were replaced. As a result of these efforts, the lighting only accounts for 4% of the monument’s annual energy expenditure. The sodium lamps that are changed every 4 years by a team of SETE technicians, with the last replacement taking place in 2019.
Eiffel Tower Beacon
There is a beacon located at the summit of the Eiffel Tower. It was installed as soon the tower was constructed in 1889. The lantern was placed on a platform supported by four semi-circular metal arches that were joined together at the top. The lantern sat on two levels, each of which was surrounded by a small balcony. You could access it using a spiral staircase, followed by a ladder, which was housed in a cylindrical glass cage. Above this, stood the lantern, topped by a dome. With the ability to reach 80 km on a clear evening, this was considered the most powerful beacon in the world.
As the summit underwent renovations so did the beacon. In 1957, when the broadcasting mast was installed, the beacon was removed and replaced only in 1999. The design for the beacon took a new form this time round. Four motorized projectors that would work in perfect synchronization were installed on each side of the monument. Operated by micro-computers, the projectors take turns to complete a a 90° rotation on opposite sides of the tower. Each projector covers a quarter of the horizon and then returns to its original position, in perfect unison giving the illusion of a rotating beacon. In 2017, the beacon was 6,000W xenon lamps.
Eiffel Tower Sparkles
The Eiffel Tower was fitted with 5,000 metal casings housing 20,000 xenon lamps. These lights have been overlaid on the golden light for 5 minutes at the beginning of each hour starting from dusk until 1 AM. Each of these lamps light up randomly, to create the sparkling effect, one that was inspired by how camera flashes appear.
Every year, a team of SETE technicians and rope-access specialists change 300 to 400 lamps. Going in the vein of energy efficiency, the lights are have a low power of 6W and they consume only around 8800kWh/year, which accounts for only 0.4% of the monument’s annual energy consumption. Until 2008, the lights used to sparkle for 10 minutes and this was reduced to 5 minutes as an effort to reduce the energy consumed as well as extend the durability of the installation. However, at 1 AM, the structural lights and the beacon goes off and the sparkling light goes on for 10 whole minutes.
Why Does the Eiffel Tower Light Up?
Apart from the obvious reasons of aesthetics, the Eiffel Tower lights up every day as part of helping with the security as the Tower operates during late night. They also act as a source of light for nearby surrounding areas light.
Is Taking Photos of the Eiffel Tower Light Show Illegal?
Photographing the Eiffel Tower at night is not illegal. In fact, anyone can take photos and share them. However, this is not the case for professional photographers. As per the European Union Law, the copyright stays intact for 70 years after the death of the creator and hence, the tower's lighting and sparkling lights are still protected by copyright. Professionals need to request prior authorization from Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) and may be subject to a fee.
Timeline of Eiffel Tower Illumination
- 1889: The Eiffel Tower is inaugurated and 10,000 gas lamps are installed to accent the steeple and platforms. Two blue-white-red beacon light projectors were installed on the Tower.
- 1900: With the advent of electricity, 5,000 lamps are installed to spotlight the framework and decorative arches of the Tower.
- 1907: The second floor gains a six-meter tall clock that shows the time using illuminated numbers.
- 1925-1936: As part of an ad campaign for André Citroën, 250,000 colored lamps were used to spell out the name 'Citroën' across three sides of the Tower. This was to be visible from 30 kilometers away.
- 1933-1934: A 15-meter clock was installed on the E of the Citroën. It had light-beam minute hands to indicate the time.
- 1937: A chandelier made of 10 kilometers of fluorescent tubes was installed on the first floor for the Art and Technique Exhibition. This year also sees the addition of thirty naval spotlights that point in air.
- 1958: 1,290 spotlights are installed on Champ de Mars to light up the Eiffel Tower from below.
- 1978: 30,000 lamps were installed for Christmas.
- 1985: The new lighting system featuring 336 yellow-orange sodium lamps, designed by Pierre Bideau, was put in place giving the Eiffel Tower a permanent golden hue.
- 1997: On 5 April, a countdown for 1,000 days to the new millennium is displayed on the facade.
- 2000: As part of the countdown to the year 2000, 20,000 sparkling lights and a new beacon were installed.
- 2001: The sparkling lights were taken down on the 14 July 2001.
- 2003: The sparkling lights return to the Eiffel Tower on 21 June.
Detailed History of the Eiffel Tower Lights
The Tower was installed with lights right from its inauguration in 1889. At the time, electricity was still a thing of the future and gas was the only option. Ten thousand gaslights inside opalescent glass globes were installed to light up the tower. At night, spotlights were used to illuminate tower from the ground. A beacon was installed at the top on a platform supported by four metal arches that joined at the top. The beacon was encircles by a glass rotunda topped by a small dome. Additionally, there were two mobile spotlights that could be moved around Eiffel's office located on the upper level of the third floor, erected on rails.
Post Arrival of Electricity
With the advent of electricity in 1990s, gaslights that adorned the tower was replaced with electric bulbs. During the 1925 World Fair, the brand name Citroen was lit up on three sides of the facade using 250,000 multicolored lamps. They continued to light up the tower until 1936, with a clock erected in the E of Citroën in 1933. Andre Granet, one of Eiffel's grand son-in-law, was inspired during the 1937 World’s Fair, to light up the tower’s internal structure, under the first floor and between the four pillars. Thirty spotlights lit up the Tower from the exterior. In 1958, these lights were replaced by 1,290 small lights positioned all around the Tower.
In 1985, when the tower went through a restoration campaign, the lighting system was also overhauled. Designed by lighting engineer Pierre Bideau, this system utilizes 336 sodium-vapor lights that were installed inside the structure, allowing the tower itself to become a source of light. This is the system that continues to exist today, albeit with some modifications. In 2004, the power of the spotlights was reduced from 10001 to 600W. On 1 January 2000, 20,000 sparkling lights were placed on the Tower’s structure. While they were taken down in 2001, they were back up a year later. While originally the lights sparkled for 10 minutes, this was reduced to five minutes every hour to save electricity. The beacon on the summit was replaced by the four spotlights that we can see today sweeping a quarter of the horizon giving the illusion of a beacon that turns around the summit.
Prominent Eiffel Tower Light Shows
Over the many decades, the Eiffel Tower has decked itself in lights of varied hues to mark important events in history. They have relied on external installations and spotlights from the Pont d’Iena for this. Here are some of the prominent special light shows that have been conducted icer the years.
- 24- 29 January 2004: As a part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, the Eiffel Tower gets decked in red.
- 9 May 2006: The Eiffel Tower turns blue to mark the 20th anniversary of Europe Day.
- 7 September to 20 October 2007: The tower adorns the colors of rugby as France hosts the World Rugby Cup.
- 30 June to 31 December 2008: Celebrating France's Presidency of the European Union, the Eiffel Tower takes on the blue light with 12 yellow stars that represents the European flag.
- 22 October to 31 December 2009: Every evening a light show is held to mark 120 years of the tower.
- 28 May to 2 June 2013, and 15-16 June 2013: To mark the Nelson Mandela International Day, the Tower takes on the colors of South Africa.
- 30 September 2015: To mark the Paris Fashion Week 2015, every evening sees a light show on the theme, “fashion loves Paris".
- 13 June 2016: Following the Orlando Nightclub shooting, the Eiffel Tower lights taken on the colors of a rainbow flag.
- June-July 2016: For each match of the 2016 European Football Championship that was held in France, the tower took on the colors of the country that received the maximum support on social media.
- 19 July 2016: Following the Nice truck attack, the tower paid tribute to the victims of the attack by taking on the colors of the French flag: blue, white, and red.
- 4 November 2016: Green lights marks the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.
- 3 February 2017: The colors of the Olympic Games along with the inscription "Paris 2024" marks Paris’ successful bid to host the games.
- 28 September 2017: Eiffel Tower celebrates 300 million visitors.
- 15-17 May 2019: Bruno Seiller puts on a show to mark Eiffel Tower’s 130th anniversary
- October: Each year, the Eiffel Tower takes on hue of pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
As spectacular as these light shows are, in the event of a tragic incident, the Eiffel Tower turns of all its lights as a form of morning, which is as powerful and poignant as seeing the lights dance off the tower.
- If you want to combine visiting the tower along with seeing the light show, visit around sun-down. This way you can see the tower lit up from the inside and see the tower illuminated from the outside after your visit.
- The best place to photograph the illuminations is from the fountains at the Trocadero, just on the other side of the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower.
- The best time to see the Eiffel Tower lights is at 1 AM, without a doubt. Unlike the shows put up the rest of the day, at 1 AM, the yellow lights and the beacon are shut off and the white lights take on the centerstage for a full 10 minutes.
- If there are any important events taking place during your visit to Paris, try to see the Eiffel Tower show around then, because the Tower celebrates it with a unique show.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eiffel Tower Lights
A. The Eiffel Tower lights go up automatically within 10 minutes of nightfall and stay in till 1 AM. The sparkling lights are superimposed over the golden lights of the Tower for 5 minutes at the beginning of each hour until 1 AM.
A. The tower lights up for two reasons, one being the aesthetics. The second being illumination. The lights illuminate the nearby areas and helps with the security of the late-night operation of the Tower.
A. The Eiffel Tower lights turn on automatically with the help of nightfall sensors.
A. While it may seem otherwise, the Eiffel Tower's illumination consumes very little energy. The Tower’s nightly golden glow only accounts for 4% of the monument’s annual energy expenses. In 2004, the Tower reduced the electrical consumption of its spotlights by 40%. The duration of the sparkling was reduced from 10 to 5 minutes an hour in 2008 to reduce the energy consumption as well. Today, the sparkling lights consume approximately 8800kWh/year, which represents 0.4% of the monument’s annual energy consumption.
A. In spotlights purely with the purpose of illuminate the monuments of Paris. However, by 1947, the beacon came to be used for air navigation.
A. The beacon is made of four motorized projectors that send out two light beams that reach 80 kilometers with a rotation sweep of 90° in perfect sync so it looks like they pivot 360°.
A. The Eiffel Tower beacon has a range of 50 miles (80 kilometers).
A. It is not illegal to photograph the Tower at night for personal purposes.