Things You Shouldn’t Miss while Visiting the Notre Dame
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the top Paris’s sites. Of all famous city’s landmarks, it is the oldest. You can find the grand religious structure in the geographical and historical center of the French capital. Most people admire the cathedral’s design and overwhelming proportions. But, there is a lot to see if you have certain knowledge and know what to look at. So, continue reading, and by the end of the article, you will admire this outstanding structure much more than you do now.
The Notre Dame (Our Lady) Cathedral operates daily from 7:45 am to 6:45 pm (7:15 pm on weekends). The admission is free of charge, but bringing luggage inside the structure isn’t allowed.
The right portal serves as the entrance, the left as the exit. The cathedral is wheelchair accessible, but note one thing. Since the right portal has a slightly higher step, disabled people should use the left portal to get in and out.
The Our Lady Cathedral is the Catholic Christian place of worship. However, everyone is welcome to come to visit regardless of their religion. Dress code is flexible, but you should still dress with respect and avoid coming in the shorts, bikini or halter tops.
A restroom for the public use is available in front of the structure.
Best times for a visit
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the top Paris’s sites. Of all famous city’s landmarks, it is the oldest. You can find the grand religious structure in the geographical and historical center of the French capital gets crowded from around 10 am onward. Hence, if a peaceful tour of the cathedral’s interior is your goal, arrive before that time. Crowds don’t play a major role if you wish to admire the church’s exterior.
Even if you arrive later, don’t worry. Long lines do form in the square in front of the building, but you will hardly stay in place for long. Even if the sinuous queue is over 100 meters long, you probably won’t wait excessively long more often than not.
Seasonal fluctuations in the numbers of visitors are less than negligible. However, avoid visiting this architectural jewel during big religious celebrations (Easter and Christmas) because of immense overcrowding. But, if you don’t mind that, you are likely to enjoy a great concert and the cathedral’s exceptional acoustics.
Available tours, tickets and services
Albeit entry to the Cathedral of Notre Dame is free, consider booking some of available insightful guided tours or other services. Notre-Dame Cathedral Guided Tour is a perfect introduction to first-time visitors, which places the grand cathedral in the historic context. To appreciate the Our Lady Cathedral and other landmarks as part of Ile de la Cite, book Ile de la Cite Half-Day Tour. Both tours save your time and get you past the lines. In addition, you will climb the towers during these guided tours, which you can’t access for free (€10).
In case that you plan to visit other landmarks (the Arc de Triomphe, for example) and museums of Paris as well, consider purchasing Paris Museum Pass. The pass entitles you to climb the towers of Notre Dame on your own. However, it doesn’t include the fast-track entry.
For a self-guided tour, you can rent an audio guide. These take you through a 35-minute course of the Notre Dame’s architecture and history. The rental price is €5 and guides are available for rent from 9:30 am (1 pm on Sunday) to 6 pm.
The Towers of Notre Dame operate:
- From 10 am to 5:30 pm from October to March.
- Between 10 am and 6:30 pm from April to September.
In July and August, the towers operate until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The last admission to the towers is 45 minutes before the closure.
History of the cathedral in a few words
The Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, is an extraordinary example of the Gothic architecture. It stands on the ground occupied by the Temple to Jupiter during the Roman era and a “magnificent church” afterward. That church succeeded the temple in the 6th century. But despite its epithet, the church didn’t pass the test in magnificence worthy of the parish church of the kings of Europe. Thus, the Our Lady’s construction began in 1163, which was the time when the Gothic style started to spread.
The Notre Dame was completed in 1345. It was ruined during the French Revolution (by the end of the 18th century) and saved from demolition by Napoleon Bonaparte’s crowning in 1804.
Grandeur of the Notre Dame, Paris
Besides immense proportions, the marvelous design of Paris’s Notre Dame is obvious from afar. The spire that extends skyward, the elegant towers and many pinnacles were made to delight. And when you come nearer, a myriad of other eye-catching details suddenly emerges.
Our Lady’s exterior
The west façade is the most photographed part of the Notre Dame. As you can see, its twin towers are without spires, which is highly unusual for a Gothic structure, yet seldom noticed. The façade has 9 sections, divided horizontally by galleries and vertically by pilasters. On the base level, friezes and sculptures flank three portals, which are topped by the Gallery of the Kings. The statues of the gallery represent the Old Testament kings of Israel and Judaea.
Examine the Last Judgment scene of the central portal. Jesus Christ passes sentences while an angel and a devil are directing good souls and sinners to Heaven or Hell. Furthermore, pay attention to the left portal. This one’s called “the Portal of the Virgin”. The central artwork in the arch illustrates the death of the Virgin. To the left of the portal, you can see two angels, a king and a person carrying his head. The beheaded figure is Saint Denis, the patron saint of France.
Above the central portal you can notice a statue of the Virgin and Christ (as a child) between two angels. Now, take a closer look at the towers. You will notice strange creatures adorning the “Gallery of Chimeras.” These grotesques spoke to the congregation in the Middle Ages as loud as the internet speaks to us today. The religious authorities reminded people that creatures from Hell are out there. Consequently, they should seek protection from the Church.
On other sides of the cathedral, you can see majestic “flying buttresses.” They look attractive, but their real purpose is to support the height of the structure. Thanks to them, Gothic structures are so high. They relieve the pressure on the walls, which allowed masons to place large windows. So, credit flying buttresses for the existence of exquisite stained-glass windows.
Notre Dame’s interior
Once inside, you’ll direct the attention to three rose windows. The west rose window, partially blocked by an organ, depicts monthly labors. The north rose window conveys stories from the Bible’s Old Testament, with the Virgin and Christ in the center. The main theme of the south rose window is the triumph of Jesus Christ.
Another feature of the cathedral’s interior is its height. With the support of flying buttresses, the Gothic structures could afford to be exceptionally high. Such a feature symbolizes closeness to God.
In the apse (a semi-oval section at the back), an outstanding woodwork illustrates the life of Jesus Christ.
As for the aforementioned Great Organ (there are two other organs in the cathedral), it is the largest one in France. Stop by on Sunday to hear its music.
Finally, try to climb 387 steps to access the upper parts of the towers. There, examine popular gargoyles (the Gallery of Chimeras) up close and experience marvelous views of Paris.
While the square next to the west portion of the Notre Dame is usually crowded, Square Jean XXIII (facing the apse’s exterior) is a peaceful place. During the evening, come to the western square to attend great street performances. For an insight into Ile de la Cite’s development throughout numerous centuries, visit the Crypte Archeologique on the other side of the square.
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL
|NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL|
|Address||6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France|
|Station||Cité / St-Michel Notre Dame / St-Michel Notre Dame|
Quai of Montebello /
Small bridge /
|SkipLine Pass||Skip the Line: Guided Tour of Notre Dame Cathedral Towers|
|Hotels near Notre Dame||Featured hotels near Notre Dame Cathedral|