The Rusting Eiffel Tower Gets a Paint Job; Critics Say Much More Is Needed

Eiffel tower

Rust is visible on a pillar of the Eiffel Tower March 8, 2021, before the 20th campaign of painting and stripping was begun, in Paris, France. Chesnot/Getty Images

In May 1889, the Exposition Universelle, or Paris World’s Fair, introduced millions of visitors to what was called the “300-meter Tower,” a large puddle iron structure at one end of the Champ de Mars. Although many important figures in the arts and literature, such as Charles Garnier and Guy de Maupassant, had protested its construction, the tower was a success, welcoming more than 2 million visitors its first year. Today, that number is more than 6 million a year, and the structure we’re referring to is, of course, the Eiffel Towel, named for its famed engineer, Gustave Eiffel.

With all the traffic on three visitable levels today — restaurants, bars and shops — it’s no surprise the Eiffel Tower requires maintenance. However, the real culprit in its need for upkeep is coming from the air — the effects of oxidation, pollution and even bird poop. Like other great landmarks, the cost of maintaining the structure is a high one. To get it ready for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, a $60 million (50 million euro) renovation project was launched, according to France 24.


There have been questions about whether the efforts will be enough. Relying on confidential reports, a 2022 article in Marianne contended that the Eiffel Tower is in a terrible state and its planned maintenance leaves a lot to be desired. Although it needs “full repair,” cites The Guardian, “it is being given only a cosmetic makeover” for the Olympics.

According to the official Eiffel Tower website, it gets a complete paint job every seven years, a frequency recommended by Eiffel himself, and a course of action said to give it eternal life. The process consists of stripping, cleaning, applying rust-proofing and then painting the tower.

Before getting into what is and is not going to be done, let’s get a better understanding of the structure itself and why it’s in the condition it’s in.