PARIS (AFP) – The Eiffel Tower is set to inaugurate a new glass floor on Monday that is turning the heads of the millions of tourists who flock to Paris’s best-known landmark every year.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo will later Monday officially open the renovated first level of the most visited paying monument in the world, which visitors could begin enjoying last month.
The works aimed to turn the formerly dowdy and draughty space into as big an attraction as the viewing platform near the top of the 325-metre (1,070-foot) tower, at 276 metres.
From a height of 57 metres, visitors look down through solid glass, while the sensation of walking on air is further heightened because the glass safety barriers around the edge have been inclined outwards. Previously the first floor was the least visited part of the tower, but its operators hope tourists will now linger on their way down for more breathtaking views of Paris.
The 30 million euro (US$37.5 million) refit, which took two years, includes a display relating the life of the 125-year-old tower on seven screens, as well as a conference room.
The city of Paris, which holds a majority stake in the monument, charged architects Moatti-Riviere with creating a space that would show off Gustave Eiffel’s impressive original ironwork and make it fully accessible for disabled visitors.
The renovation provided a chance to install wind turbines and solar panels to generate part of the tower’s energy, and the toilets will be run partly on rainwater. “We wanted to set an example,” said Jean-Bernard Bros, the president of SETE, the operator of the tower, which had a turnover of 73 million euros ($91 million) in 2013.
The “Iron Lady” attracts around seven million visitors a year, of which 85 per cent are foreign tourists. Some 12.5 per cent come from France, followed by Americans (8.5 per cent), Britons (7.1 per cent), Italians (6.7 per cent) and Germans (5.7 per cent).