You might think you’ve heard all there is to know about the Eiffel Tower, which turns 125 today. But you might be surprised at some of the quirky things we’ve unearthed in its history:
1. The Eiffel Tower was built in two years, two months, and five days—a record back in the late 1880s. It was officially completed on March 31, 1889.
2. It was only supposed to last for 20 years. Gustave Eiffel had it built specifically to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
3. It hasn’t always been brown. It was briefly painted yellow in 1889, and from 1954 to 1961, it was painted a brownish-red color.
4. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Eiffel Tower acted as a billboard—three of its sides held advertisements for Citroën automobiles. No other brand has ever used the monument as an advertising medium.
5. The French originally hated it. A number of high-profile creatives and architects signed a petition to protest the tower during its construction. They called the tower “useless” and “monstrous.”
6. It played a crucial role in the First World War, during the Battle of the Marne in 1914. Signals would actually be sent out from the top of the tower, directing the French troops to the front line.
7. In 1889, the French newspaper Le Figaro actually set up a printing press on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
8. The Eiffel Tower shrinks. Seriously, it’s been measured. In the winter it is approximately four to eight inches shorter.
9. Welcoming around seven million visitors each year, it’s the most visited monument in the world that you have to pay for. (The Empire State Building only draws around 3.5 million visitors each year).
10. Every night, every hour on the hour the tower is covered in golden lights and will sparkles for five whole minutes while the Eiffel Tower’s beam lights up the city. The best place to see the light show is from is Place du Trocadéro.