Paris is a city of romance, sidewalk cafes, art, fashion, and culture, making it the ultimate tourist destination. The Notre Dame Cathedral is just one of the many majestic churches and cathedrals in Paris, but is particularly famous for its stunning French Gothic design. Notre-Dame de Paris, translated as ‘Our Lady of Paris’, is also one of the first buildings to use a form of architecture called the flying buttress, making it a haven for architecture enthusiasts.
With 13 million visitors per year, the cathedral sees more tourists than the Eiffel Tower! As the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, it is considered to be one of the most well known Catholic churches in the world. Exploring the monument is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and requires thorough planning and guidance. This guide should help you with just that!
What Makes Notre Dame Cathedral a Must-Visit?
The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris was built in the 12th century, and took nearly 300 years to complete. As one of the finest (and first!) examples of French Gothic architecture, it is famous for the fierce-looking gargoyles that serve as column supports, and its 13th century stained glass windows, that allow light to fill the interior of the cathedral.
It houses some of Catholicism's most important relics, like the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, upon which Jesus Christ was said to crucified. Over the years, the Notre Dame Cathedral suffered various degrees of damage, especially during the French Revolution and the Second World War. Today, it is one of the most important monuments in France, and is also free to visit!
How to Beat the Notre Dame Queue
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in France, queues are bound to be long and stressful at Notre Dame, especially since the church itself is free to enter. To ensure that your visit is hassle-free:
- Try to visit the cathedral early since crowds begin to form around 10 AM.
- Avoid the cathedral on Catholic holidays like Easter, since the church will naturally be stuffed.
- Though entry to the church itself is free, entry to the crypt and the Notre Dame towers are not – book your Notre Dame Paris tickets ahead of your visit time!
- The climb up the tower is around 387 stairs, but the view is definitely worth it. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes!
- As is the case with every crowded tourist location, the area around Notre Dame Paris is rich with pickpockets. Watch your valuables carefully!
Notre Dame Paris Tickets
The Notre Dame Cathedral is free to enter, which means that more often that not, it is completely crowded, leading to hours of waiting. With tickets that include audioguides or with guided tours, you can skip the line of those waiting to enter for free and explore the cathedral in peace.
The Notre Dame Towers have narrow paths, which can lead to staggered entry. By purchasing skip the line tickets, you can skip the line of people that have entered for free and are waiting to enter the towers, and head in directly.
Notre Dame Cathedral: Priority Access with Audio Guide
Notre Dame Cathedral 1 hour Guided Tour
|About||Skip the line of those entering the church for free, and directly enter and explore the Notre Dame de Paris with an audio guide.||Get an hour-long tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral with a local English-speaking guide.|
Notre Dame Cathedral Tour with Skip The Line Towers Access
Notre Dame Towers Skip The Line & Île de la Cité Tour with Host
|About||Skip the line, and directly enter the Notre Dame. Get a panoramic view of Paris from the Notre Dame Towers.||Enjoy a guided tour of the Notre Dame de Paris, including the Towers, followed by a walking tour of the Île de la Cité.|
Highlights of Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame Exterior
The exterior of the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris is particularly interesting because it is one of the first buildings to make use of external supports called flying buttresses. The iconic façade is complemented by beautiful statues and its famous gargoyles that also serve as column supports.
Notre Dame Interior
The inside of the cathedral consists of vaulted ceilings and stained glass panels, allowing colored light to filterinto the cathedral. Two of these rose windows are found in the transept. The North rose window depicts the Old Testament figures surrounding Virgin Mary, and the South rose window depicts Christ surrounded by angels and saints. Be sure to catch a glimpse of Notre Dame’s giant organ as well.
Notre Dame Towers
These 68m tall, intricately designed towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral became famous through Victor Hugo’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, and are a great place to take in splendid views of the Seine and Paris. You will also get to admire statues of demons and carrion birds, as well as the infamous 13-ton bell, also called Emmanuel.
Notre Dame Crypts
The Archeological Crypt of the Notre Dame Cathedral is a treasure trove of knowledge for those who want to delve deeper into the mysteries of the cathedral and the city of Paris. It contains parts of the medieval wall that once surrounded Paris, and lots of information about the origins of the cathedral and the Gallo-Roman places of worship that stood on the foundations of the Notre Dame.
To visit the Notre Dame de Paris though public transport, use Metro line 4 to reach Cité, where the cathedral is located. From the Right Bank of the river, the line 1 station Hotel de Ville is easily accessible. From the Left Bank, use the line 10 station Maubert Mutualité.
Notre Dame Hours
Mon-Fri: 8 AM - 6:45 PM
Sat-Sun: 8 AM - 7:45 PM
Some Rules to Keep in Mind
- Flash photography and tripods are not allowed inside.
- No luggage is authorized inside the cathedral for security reasons.
- Respect the spiritual surroundings of the cathedral by keeping silent and behaving appropriately.
- Climbing the stairs to the top of the Notre Dame is definitely worth it - is the best place to take in stunning views of the city, check out the famous Emmanuel bell, and also see some grumpy-looking gargoyles and chimera statues!
- Don’t miss the Great Organ, the largest organ in all of France, specially preserved at the Notre Dame!
- Visit the Treasury of the Notre Dame to view objects and items like chalices, crowns, manuscripts, and even the coronation robe worn by Napoleon.
Notre Dame Cathedral Facts
- The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the first Gothic Cathedrals to be built in France.
- The cathedral is the setting for Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Its cultural significance is deeply rooted in Parisian history – it was used as a storage warehouse for food during the French Revolution.
- Story has it that in 1804, Pope Pius VII was invited by Napoleon to come to Notre Dame so that he could be crowned emperor. However, Napoleon decided to seize the crown instead, and crowned himself at the very last minute!
Notre Dame Cathedral Reviews
Breath taking, to say the least. Everything about the visit was spiritual and I’m not even Catholic.
NatHarell, TripAdvisor, June 2018
We enjoyed walking around the cathedral and it is mind boggling how they built this cathedral without the technology we have today. It is an artistic masterpiece. Walk by at night and see it lit up from top to bottom. More inspiring at night
Wendy H, TripAdvisor, June 2018
See what others have to say about Notre Dame de Paris on TripAdvisor.