Named for its unique placement and ties to the nearby military school, the Parc du Champs-de-Mars (translated: “Field of Mars) was first opened in 1870 (Paris Info). Located in the 7th arrondissement, it is now a public park area dedicated to the leisure and people-watching for which the city is so well-known. As for its purpose, use of the vast space has evolved greatly over the years. Its most modern transformation occurred shortly after the park’s construction in 1765. At that time, the École Militaire (France’s military training and education headquarters) needed a large, open space for practicing drills and formations (PARIScityVISION). With the esplanade’s construction, the capital of France now had a main area for which many national gatherings—varying from celebrations to political demonstrations—would take place.
Similar to the Trocadero Plaza, one of the most attractive features of the Champs de Mars park is its spectacular perspective of the Eiffel Tower. The expanse of public space makes it a popular picnicking and lounging destination for families, groups of friends, and lovers alike.
Because of its surroundings, I did not expect it to be as overrun with tourist activity as other Eiffel Tower viewing points had been. Instead, I presumed that the area would be a more popular among the locals as a casual place to come together, in the way that hundreds of Parisians gather to relax on the banks of the Seine on a nice day. While these predictions are more or less true on an average weathered day, they were quickly proven wrong when considering the time of day. On evenings when it was pleasant and clear, it seemed as though the whole city turned out to watch the tower’s night show—tourists and locals alike.
Like most monuments, the Eiffel Tower is lit up by way of hundreds of lights and projectors (Official Eiffel Tower site). The lights go on at 9 pm, right when the sun tends to set in the spring and summer months. On the hour, 20,000 lightbulbs flash and sparkle, in addition to the backlights and projectors for 5 minutes all evening. The ultimate light show occurs at 1 AM, wherein all the golden backlights turn off, and the lightbulbs sparkle one last time. Over the last few weeks, I returned to the Champ de Mars on various evenings to observe the locals and tourists as they watched and interacted with the lit-up tower, as well as its hourly light show.
Since the light show was only added to the tower in 1985, current copyright laws may prohibit me from sharing actual images of the light show to this website (The Insider). However, I was able to capture the way it sounds—kind of. The audio attached to this story is an ambient sound recording of locals and tourists lounging at the Champ de Mars park, right as 20,000 light bulbs brilliantly marked the first five minutes of the hour.