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 are 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.
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.
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.
There is a beacon located at the summit of the Eiffel Tower. It was installed as soon as 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 around. 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 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.
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 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 to reduce the energy consumed as well as extend the durability of the installation. However, at 1 AM, the structural lights and the beacon go off and the sparkling light goes on for 10 whole minutes.
Photographing the Eiffel Tower at night is not illegal. 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.
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 the 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 encircled by a glass rotunda topped by a small dome. Additionally, two mobile spotlights could be moved around Eiffel's office located on the upper level of the third floor, erected on rails.
With the advent of electricity in the 1990s, gaslights that adorned the Tower were 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 grandson-in-law, was inspired during the 1937 World 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 the lights originally 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.
A. The Eiffel Tower lights go up automatically within 10 minutes of nightfall and stay on 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 is illumination. The lights illuminate the nearby areas and help 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. It spotlights purely to 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. Yes, you can visit the Tower at night as it open until midnight.
A. Go to the lower level of the second floor right before the hour strikes so you can enjoy a view of the sparkling lights covering the entire structure.
A. It is not illegal to photograph the Tower at night for personal purposes.