Les illuminations

The Eiffel Tower’s Illuminations

Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris.

Unveiled on the 31st December 1985, invented by Pierre Bideau, an electrician and lighting engineer, it consists of 336 projectors equipped with high-pressure, yellow-orange sodium lamps.

This form of illumination, which has been met with unanimous, worldwide success, was the starting point of a nocturnal revival of monuments, in Paris as well as in the cities of France and the world.

The beams of light, directed from the bottom towards the top, illuminate the Eiffel Tower from the inside of its structure. Since 1958, by replacing the 1,290 working projectors that illuminated the Tower from the outside, they have been highlighting the fine metallic structure of the monument and illuminating the areas used by late-night visitors until the closing of the Tower to the public. In addition to the aesthetic aspect, it is equally necessary for the security of the late-night operation of the Tower.

Illumination projectors

The projectors are turned on in under 10 minutes. This is activated upon nightfall by the sensors.

In 2004, they were replaced by projectors with an electrical power of 600 watts as opposed to the previous 1KW, i.e. an energy consumption saving of around 40%. Their improved output of light preserves all the beauty of the overall appearance.

In June 2007 the 336 light bulbs were replaced with duplicates.

Illuminated Eiffel Tower from the Champ-de-Mars

The Beacon and Sparkles for the "Countdown to the Year 2000"

On 31 December 1999 at the approach of midnight, the entire world will discover the beacon and the Tower's sparking lights.

The beacon, sending out two light beams with a reach of 80 kilometres, is composed of 4 "marine" motorised projectors. They are operated by automatically piloted computer programs. Since their rotation sweep is 90°, they are synchronized to form a double beam in a cross that pivots around 360°.

The xenon 6000 watt lamps were chosen for their longevity, around 1,200 hours. The lamps are cooled to prevent overheating and a heating system is activated when the temperatures drop below zero Centigrade whilst the lights are off.

This beacon resonates the image of Gustave Eiffel's Tower itself as a universal and symbolic landmark.

The sparkling lights are superimposed over the golden lighting. Made up of 20,000 light bulbs (5,000 per side), they bring the monument to life for 5 minutes every hour on the hour once the Tower has been lit up until 1 am.

To finalize the show, the gold lights were shut down and only the sparkling lights performed, five minutes of magic never seen before, breathtaking.

20 000

Light bulbs

The number
An exceptional installation

Installing the lights is about as impressive as the lighting itself :

  • 25 mountain climbers for the 5 month installation
  • 40 kilometers of strings of light and electrical cords
  • 40,000 joints and 80,000 various metallic parts weighing 60 tons 
  • 230 enclosed lighting fixtures and electrical boxes
  • 10,000 m² of safety nets
  • 120 kilowatts of power
  • Budget total: 4.55 million euros HT
A modernization in 2003 for 10 years

The glittering light installation of the year 2000 was not made to last and was replaced in June 2003 by another lighting installation meant to weather a period of 10 years.

The beacon, sending out two light beams with a reach of 80 kilometres, is composed of 4 "marine" motorised projectors. They are operated by automatically piloted computer programs. Since their rotation sweep is 90°, they are synchronized to form a double beam in a cross that pivots around 360°.

The xenon 6000 watt lamps were chosen for their longevity, around 1,200 hours. The lamps are cooled to prevent overheating and a heating system is activated when the temperatures drop below zero Centigrade whilst the lights are off.

This beacon resonates the image of Gustave Eiffel's Tower itself as a universal and symbolic landmark.

The sparkling lights consume very little energy

The 20,000 light bulbs each have a low power of 6 watts and light up randomly, as each bulb is separate from the others. Furthermore, the transition of the duration of the sparkling from 10 to 5 minutes an hour in 2008 has made it possible to reduce the energy consumption and above all to extend the life of the installation by several years.

Sparkling Moments in the History of the Eiffel Tower

Throughout the course of its existence, the Eiffel Tower has been host to lighting effects of a festive nature. Through continual renewal of its sources of artificial illumination, the Tower has benefited from the latest innovations in lighting equipment from the very beginning – from gas to electricity, incandescent lamps to neon, passing from sodium to high-pressure, and most recently LEDs.

 

  • 1889: For the evening of the Tower’s inauguration, 10,000 gas street lamps accented the steeple and platforms. Two projectors on the Tower top lit up the other Parisian monuments below. These blue-white-red beacon lights were considered the most powerful in the world.
  • 1900: Electricity arrives. 5,000 lamps spotlight the framework and decorative arches of the Tower.
  • 1907: A six-meter tall giant clock is installed on the second floor giving time in illuminated numbers.
  • 1925-1936: It was André Citroën who brought the first decorative lighting display to the Tower, composed of 250,000 colored lamps. As an ad campaign, the name Citroën sculpted in lights adorned three sides of the Tower, visible 30 kilometers away.
  • 1933-1934: A 15-meter clock in diameter (offered by Citroën) tells time with light-beam minute hands.
  • 1937: For the Art and Technique Exhibition, an enormous chandelier containing 10 kilometers of fluorescent tubes was installed on the first floor. Thirty naval spotlights point in air so as to wrap the Tower in white light, while the Tower’s lattice work takes on gold, blue and red reflects.
Citroën illumination
Citroën illumination
The Citroën's giant clock
  • 1958: 1,290 spots are installed on the grounds of the Champ de Mars so as to light up the Tower from below.
  • 1978 Christmas: The Tower becomes a Christmas tree with the arrangement of 30,000 lamps installed on the monument.
  • 1985 New Year’s Eve: Inauguration of the new lighting system, the final phase of a comprehensive restoration program, initiated by the city of Paris in 1980. It was to become the permanent gold-toned lighting system still in place today. This golden light is comprised of 350 high pressure sodium bulbs.
  • April, 5th 1997: The 1,000 days to the new millennium countdown display is placed on the facade of the second floor facing Trocadero.
  • 2000 - New Year’s Day: for the "Countdown to the Year 2000" and its unforgettable pyrotechnic event, the Tower unveils its 20,000 sparkling lights and displays a new beacon. The sparkling lights, always planned to be short-lived, were taken down on the 14th July 2001.
  • June, 21th 2003: The Eiffel Tower is once again covered in diamond-sparkling lights that are displayed every hour on the hour for five minutes, from dusk until 2 am (1 am in winter).
  • January, 24th-29th 2004: Celebration of Chinese New Year: the Eiffel Tower is dressed in red! For the Chinese New Year celebrations, a clever set of exterior projectors bathed Paris’ most famous monument in scarlet light. This began on Saturday 24th January at the end of a parade organised on the Champs-Elysées, during an illumination event in front of the French and Chinese Ministers for Culture and the Mayors of Paris and Peking. The display was left in place until the morning of the 29th January (5 days) and could be seen every evening from 5 pm to 7.30 am! This red lighting effect on the Eiffel Tower was produced in collaboration with EDF.
  • May, 9th 2006: The Tower Turns Blue for the 20th Anniversary of Europe Day
  • From September, 7th to October, 20th 2007: Rugby is Honoured, for the occasion of the World Rugby Cup hosted by France, the Eiffel Tower adopted the colours of rugby 
    From the bottom to the second floor, the Tower was bathed in green light, to represent the pitch, with two vertical beams of light and a cross-bar for the goal. A giant ball with a span of 13 metres was suspended from the second floor, approximately 80 metres from the ground bearing the official logo very clearly lit up. Lastly, a giant 120 m2 screen was set up on the first floor facing the Seine to display the results of the matches. Visitors from all over the world and Parisians alike could also enjoy the sparkling lights and the beacon, which continued to function throughout the whole operation.
  • From June, 30th to December, 31st 2008: The Eiffel Tower in European colours. 
    To celebrate France’s Presidency of the European Union (1st July – 31st December 2008), the Eiffel Tower, in cooperation with the Mayor of Paris, paid homage to Europe. Every evening at nightfall, the Tower was decked out in blue light, decorated with 12 yellow stars to represent the European flag. The sparkling lights continued to glitter for the first 5 minutes of every hour.
  • From October, 22nd to December, 31st 2009: The Tower celebrates its 120th birthday by offering a light show every evening.
2000 New Year's Day illumination
The Eiffel Tower in European colours
Eiffel Tower's 120th birthday illumination