The Eiffel Tower at 125

Even with a century-and-a-quarter behind her, the Eiffel Tower remains the jewel of Paris.

2014 marks the 125th anniversary of the famed Eiffel Tower. It’s one of the world’s most iconic structures—couples kiss beneath it and locals dine in its shadow. But have you ever wondered just how it came to be?

In 1889, the city of Paris was host to the Exposition Universelle—World's Fair—to honor the 100th anniverary of the French Revolution. Accompanying that event was a contest to design a monument which would be centrally located on the Champ-de-Mars and serve as the entrance to the Exposition. The winning entry was submitted by Eiffel et Compagnie and designers Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel and Maurice Koechlin—the same pair who collaborated on the metal structure for the Statue of Liberty just a few years before.

At its inauguration on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world, measuring nearly 10,000 feet high. (It remained the tallest building until New York’s Chrysler building topped it in 1930).

The Eiffel Tower was intended to be temporary, but when plans were made to dismantle it in 1909, city officials granted it a new life as a radiotelegraph station. It aided in intercepting enemy communications during World War I and escaped the destruction of Nazi occupation during World War II. And despite such early detractors as French novelist Guy de Maupassant (who was said to have eaten meals inside the tower because it was the only table where he could eat and not see the tower in the skyline), the tower has become one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

Today, it is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the world, drawing an estimated 7 million visitors each year and keeping more than 500 people employed.

Get there:
The Eiffel Tower is open daily, 9 am-midnight, from June 15 to Sept 1. During the off-season for travel (the rest of the year), it is open daily 9:30 am to 11 pm. Elevator times vary, so check the schedule online. Tickets vary in price and are available for purchase online. For elevator to second floor: €9/adults age 25 and up; €7.50/ages 12-24; €4.50/ages 4-11 or the disabled.

Slideshow: The Eiffel Tower at 125