I don't mind souvenir vendors at all. Everyone has a living to make and this is their livelihood. However, I have to admit that there is an overkill of souvenir vendors leading to and in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower!
If you walk to the Eiffel Tower from the Palais du Chaillot, you will see so many sidewalk vendors that it will blind you. Each and every one tries to get your attention so if you're not interested in buying anything, please do not meet their eyes. Otherwise, you stand to become an object of their affections. :)
The souvenir vendors don't have actual stalls either. They put their goods on the bare sidewalks. So tread carefully too. I'm sure if you happen to accidentally squash their goods, you will pay for them. The sidewalks are large, but when there are lots of crowds (as usually is the case) space is at minimum. You have to be careful not to run into other tourists as well as to be careful not to step on the vendors' wares.
Prices are so-so and I'm sure you can bargain with them. Lots of Eiffel Tower keychains, scarves, mini monuments, etc.
Unique Suggestions If you're not interested in buying any souvenirs keep walking and don't stare as you may be perceived as being interested in buying something.
If you have plenty of time to see Paris, by all means see Notre Dame, but if your visit is limited, you may want to see other more beautiful architectural structures such as Sacre Coeur. Also, the Eiffel Tower is okay for about 15 minutes, but it's not worth standing in line or paying the fee to go up the tower. While the Louvre is a great museum, beware of overcrowding, particularly for the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, which if you really want to see, are probably best seen in the early hours when the museum is not overflowing with visitors.
Unique Suggestions The Eiffel Tower is best admired from afar, particularly with the spectacular view from Sacre Coeur, which actually overlooks the inferior Tower.
I was amazed at the sheer volume of souvenir sellers at the tower, they were so in-your-face and their goods were'nt particularly out of this world either.
Unique Suggestions If you dont want what they are selling, be firm and say so....again and again....
Fun Alternatives If you go early, you might be able to avoid it
Yes, the Eiffel Tower is an amazing piece of architecture. But get underneath its phallic spike and everyone tries to sell you a keychain with a tiny replica dangling from the end. For ten euros. And your French companions try to make you buy one. And then, because the elevator is so crowded, you get to climb up several flights of stairs to see the beautiful view across Paris...and more kitschy souvenirs. Maybe my experience was soured because I was being stalked around the tower by some dude named Ab-Dalle and his creepy Mafia-esque sidekick. Hhmph.
Unique Suggestions Chill out, take the elevator to the top, and grab some coffee at a small second- or third-floor cafe.
Fun Alternatives Or, if you're hippie like me, you could just take a blanket and some bongoes and hang out on the Notre Dame green.
There are loads of street vendors around and under the Eiffel Tower, just look straight ahead and don't make eye contact if you are not interested! The stuff they are selling does not look worth having! There are also many people wanting to draw your caricature, who pester you every few steps it seems!
When traveling to Paris there are several things to look out for. One of my favorite scams is the vendors trying to draw characteristics of you and your loved one in front of the Eifel Tower. The scam goes like this... You are asked by a man to let him draw a picture of you for special pricing. You will naturally decline and then he will insist you let him draw your girlfriend/wife and he will do it for free and then he will do your at half price. So sucking your partner in by flattery you proceed to sit and let the man and his partner draw you and loved one. During the entire drawing he will talk to you and pretend to be one of the coolest men you have ever met. Once the drawings are completed he shows them to you and proceeds to reference his price list, that is never in plain view. He then charges you 1/2 price for the man's picture which comes out to 45 EURO and proceeds to tell you that your lady friend's picture will cost you only child's price. You will then become irate and insist he said for free and he will reply " Nothing is for free, bust be bad English for me". Don't have the money to pay the man? (75 EURO/$100) Don't worry! He will have his partner escort you to the local ATM. Don't fall for it, just keep walking to the tower and and enjoy the visit.
Watch out for constant African hawkers trying to sell you crap at ridiculous prices. If you need some tack to take back with you then bargain them down by walking away if they don't accept your offer.
Ruins the area for strolling around though
Unique Suggestions Get used to ignoring people if they are hassling you to buy
The horrid lines for the eiffel tower may leave you waiting for hours to get on the lift. There's a better (and tastier) alternative
Unique Suggestions make a reservation at the restaurant on the Eiffel tower - you won't make it to the top, but the view is fantastic, the food is suprisingly delicious, and you don't have to wait in line to take the elevator!!! The restaurant is called Altitude 95, and reservations are required. call 01 45 55 20 04
It was hard to enjoy the tower with vendors constantly badgering me. They would follow me with all kinds of odd trinkets that could be bought elsewhere in the city for much less.
Unique Suggestions Ignore the vendors and keep moving.
That metal tower in the background. Hard to not find.
Unique Suggestions Expect to wait in a long line.
Expect to have incredible, breathtaking views.
Perhaps choose to eat in the restaurant Jules Verne (take the private elevator in the south pillar). Reserve first-- 33 (0)1 45 55 61 44. Bring lots of money.
Fun Alternatives visit virtually: http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/uk/
Hmm... usually it's necessary to wait looong (more then 1 hour) to enter Eiffel Tower.
And then on the second level additional waiting (I was waiting about 40 min.) to enter the lift to the top.
Imagine: number of visitors in 2001 - 6,103,987 (= approx. 16,723 each day)
But believe me it's worth of such inconveniences.
Unique Suggestions Better come at 8.30am-9.00am - much less people.
Fun Alternatives Go to the top of Montparnasse building or go to La Défense and get the lift to the top of La Grande Arche de La Défense - but it's not the same.
When you visit the Eiffel Tower, there are so many beggars and pickpockets in the centre. It is like Traffalger Square with the pidgeons. Never give them any money. The women generally have babys and toddlers that they have drugged. They can get quite aggressive when you tell them where to go.