Notre Dame Cathedral
The medieval Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most popular Paris attractions, with something for all ages. The kids will love spotting the world-famous cheeky gargoyles, and inside you can admire the spectacular rose windows. Built in the mid-14th Century, it’s one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the world, and thanks to Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it’s one of the most recognised churches in the world.
Inside Notre Dame Cathedral
When it comes to stunning stained glass, you’ll struggle to find anything more beautiful than the medieval rose windows. The huge round window in the south transept is nearly 13m across. When the sun shines through the vivid panes of glass, it positively glows. Then you turn on your heels and you’re greeted with another, equally special window in the north transept.
Enjoy a Quasimodo-eye-view of Paris
The bell towers that rise from the banks of the Seine were the home of the fictional Quasimodo. You can buy a Notre Dame Cathedral ticket that allows entry to these towers, but be prepared to hike up lots of stairs. There are over 400 spiralling steps to the top of the North Tower, but at the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the city streets.
If you’ve still got enough energy, you can also climb the 380 steps to reach the top of the South Tower. This is home to Notre Dame’s biggest bell, ‘Emmanuel’. Originally installed in 1685, it was spared when the majority of bells were melted down to make cannon balls to fight the French Revolution. It’s one of the oldest and largest bells in Europe, weighing a whopping 13 tons, and is normally only rung on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.
Outside the cathedral
Don’t forget to look up when you’re standing outside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, the gargoyles and chimeras that grace this impressive building are a well-known feature. From the top of the bell towers you’ll get an even closer view of these fantastic beasts, which add to the rich décor and splendour of the building. If you’re not sure how to tell the difference between them, take a closer look. The gargoyles actually serve a very practical purpose funnelling water away from the building to reduce water damage to the stones. The chimera, on the other hand, are purely decorative.
Head under the ground
After climbing the towers, you can head down into the ground to the archaeological crypt. Here you can discover both medieval and ancient Roman ruins, and get a better insight into the Paris of the past. The entrance is just across the road and down some steps from the main entrance of the cathedral.
This Gothic chapel was built as a shrine for a supposed relic of Jesus’ Crown of Thorns. With 15m windows, the upper level gives you the illusion that it’s made only of stained glass.
Admission to Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral is free. But you need to buy tickets if you want to gain entry to the towers or crypt. To find out more about the sights inside the cathedral, hire an audio guide on your way in or take a guided tour.
The closest metro stop is Cité on the Metro 4 line. It’s also a relatively quick and pleasant stroll from other landmarks like The Louvre and Pompidou Centre. The walk to the Eiffel Tower is a little further, but scenic, taking you along the banks of the Seine.
Mass is held at the main alter on Sundays. Arrive at least 10 minutes before the scheduled services to get a seat. Masses are also held throughout the week. Get the latest details at the Paris Notre Dame official website.
Around Paris Notre Dame Cathedral
After your visit, spend some time in the square outside the cathedral to enjoy a picnic or a spot of people watching in the sunshine. Then walk to the park behind Notre Dame, Square Jean XXIII, to get views of the whole building, another great spot for taking your photos.