An eyeful of the Eiffel: Google’s time machine invites you to opening of the world’s most-visited monument


posted Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 3:33 PM EDT

Pop quiz: Which famous monument is about to celebrate its quasquicentennial anniversary (that's 125 years, if you're not a fan of pseudo-Latin), for its first four decades was the tallest manmade structure in the world, and remains its most-visited, paid monument to this day?

If you said the Eiffel Tower, you've hit the nail on the head -- and you can celebrate with a tour of your own, completely free of charge and without ever leaving the comfort of your desk! France's most-recognized structure has become the latest monument to be visited by the folks at Google, and not only will their Street View cameras take you all the way to the top of the tower -- you'll also get a free history lesson courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute.

Google's Street View cameras have toured the Eiffel Tower. Here, the view from the 2nd Floor level. We won't spoil the top-floor experience for you, but it's even more spectacular!

Google has quite an array of cameras on offer for its Street View project, and although some heavy lifting up flights of stairs was involved, it opted to use the Street View Trolley camera for the Eiffel Tower, rather than the Trekker camera used recently for its tour of Japan's Battleship Island. The result is some truly breathtaking footage that -- if you're anything like us -- will make you want to visit Eiffel all the more. (Although it's doubtful you'll get the crowd-free experience Google's cameras received when you visit in person!)

Google's imagery includes original plans for what was soon to become the world's tallest man-made structure -- a record it would hold for more than four decades.

As cool as the Street View footage is, the archival documents scanned and shared for the Cultural Institute are even more impressive. Among more than 50 images are original plans for the structure, as well as period photos from around the time of the Eiffel Tower's opening. Some of these do a great job of conveying the sheer awe at what was an amazing technological feat for its time.

The Eiffel Tower's instantly-recognizable base under construction.

Eiffel might be dwarfed by the buildings that have been built in the 125 years since its opening, but it's not too difficult to put yourself in the shoes of those there on opening day, eager to tour the world's tallest manmade structure -- even though the elevators wouldn't be in service for almost another two weeks. And your feet will thank for for having received that experience without climbing all 1,710 stairs to the top!

Early visitors were clearly enthralled by the tower, a technological marvel for its time.

Enjoy traveling the world without leaving your deskchair? How about a trip to the George Eastman House for a look at some classic photos, or a visit to Battleship Island in Japan to see what the world will look like after mankind? And Google has also been up the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's current tallest manmade structure -- find out how they got their footage.

(Via MashableEiffel Tower image courtesy of Mauricio Lima / Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.)