Outside the cathedral is a monument to Charles the great, the first king of the franks and considered the father of modern France. The statue was created in 1878 and shows the king on horseback lead by two lords.
Notre-Dame has been the focal point of Paris for centuries, as a grand Catholic cathedral on the original island where Paris was founded, Ile de la Cite. It's style is French Gothic and the sculptures, stained glass and architecture is superb. The flying buttress supports on the outside at the back were cutting edge technology in the medieval period and copied widely when it was realized that they solved the problem of supporting the weight of higher walls. Construction began in the late 12th century and continued into the mid 14th century. During the French Revolution, it was de-consecrated and many of the artworks destroyed but it has since been renovated and restored to its former glory and is one of the top tourist attractions in Paris.
Notre-Dame is also still a working church and Mass is said several times daily and frequently on Sunday. All the services are in French aside from the 11:30 Sunday Mass when it is partially in English. Entrance to the church is free and it's open every day of the year until just after 6 p.m.
The interior is dark and cool, with light streaming through the beautiful stained glass windows, and lit with low key electric lights. You can climb up the tower (for a fee) to get a view of Paris from the top but the door to the south tower is on the outside of the building. You can also visit the crypt and the treasury (also a fee). You can rent an audio guide and there are often free tours as well.
There are bells that mark the hours, one of which dates back to the 17th century but most are newer. They are now run by electric motor rather than by hand and each bell is named. Emmanuel is the oldest.
There is so much to see inside, and such beautiful art and sculpture. Even filled with tourists, the cathedral feels peaceful and cool and is a nice place to stop for a break and recharge your batteries.
Most recent visit May 2016
Although many of the figures that you can see from street level on the lower part of the cathedral are true gargoyles, decorative waterspouts used to preserve the building by diverting the rain water away from it, the more photographed figures on the upper levels are grotesques or chimères since they do not function as waterspouts but are still referred to by most people as gargoyles. These famous "gargoyles" don't have any function besides gazing over Paris and forcing tourists to work off a bit of the rich French food by climbing 387 steps for a better view of them.
Climbing to the top of Notre Dame is really the only way to get a good look at these gargoyles, they are located on the Galerie des Chimères (Grand Gallery) that connects the two towers. The climb is broken down into three stages, the 1st stop in a gift shop where you can purchase tickets if you don't have the Museum Pass, the 2nd stop at the Galerie des Chimères and the 3rd stop at the top of the south tower. No elevators to help you out here! Read the signs at the entrance, on two of our visits the 3rd stop wasn't open while we were there, hmmm, did someone decide not to go to work those days? Or maybe a very specialized employee strike?
I was a extremely disappointed to see mesh on the 2nd and 3rd levels making it really hard to take photos of the "gargoyles" or of the view from the tower, I have more than enough photos from previous visits but 1st time visitors really were struggling to get good photos. I assume this is to keep people from launching things from the tower. There are a few holes in the mesh, large enough to get a camera lens through, but it really made getting photos difficult.
The current gargoyles on the Galerie des Chimères are not original to the building, they date to the restoration started in 1845 by architect Viollet-le-Duc. Incidentally, Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame was written in 1831 before the renovation by Viollet-le-Duc and one of the original illustrations I saw had a couple of gargoyles on that level, did his illustrations inspire the addition of these gargoyles? Or were these just replacements?
Access to the towers of Notre Dame is included on the Museum Pass but you can't use the Museum Pass to skip the line like you can at other attractions as only so many people can go up at one time. If you get there and a long line is already formed, one of you can hold the place in line while the other tours the interior. I used to think it was best to arrive 1/2 hour before it opened and queue up but on our most recent visit at 1 or 2 pm, the line was shorter than any I recall in the morning.
Went to information desk at front of church asking direction to toilette. The Madame gave bogus (intentionally wrong?) direction. No wonder why they haven't won any wars since the 18th C - travel tip = do exactly opposite of direction given by a Frenchman.
The cathedral has been built for the wish of the bishop Maurice de Sully starting from 1163. The works were less than a century long, but during the following decades some parts of the church were modified or repaired. Most important works took place during the XIX century as the church during the french revolution had been seriously damaged. All the statues, particulary the ones of kings and queens were destroyed or beheaded.
Open from 8 untill 6.45 pm
This structure was made famous after Victor Hugo published 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. The Cathedrale was designed by Maurice de Sully and erected between 1163 and 1345 and then restored by Viollet-Le-Duc. All road distances are calculated from the "zero kilometer" point located on the square in front of Notre-Dame.
The cathedrale boasts a West Rose Window, South Rose Window, Galerie des chimeres (the famours gargoles) and the the beautiful flying buttresses. There is no fee to visit the interior of the cathedrale.
The cathedral towers are open daily and is a must for any visitor. Climb the 387 steps of the steeple where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the flying buttresses, Ile de la Cite, the spires and gargoles as well as the Emmanuel Bell which is the cathedrals largest bell.
There is an admission charge of 8.50€ for adults and the tower visit is managed by the National Monuments Center. For operating hours and more information about visiting the tower check out their webiste.
Although I had been to Paris many times I had never climbed the steps to the top of the tower, so during a recent visit I decided to climb the stairs and reward myself with the famous views and the gargoyles.
What can I say about Notre Dame that hasn't been said already?
It's wonderful both inside and out, very famous for its huge rose windows and carvings outside the cathedral.
You can climb all the steps in the tower to the top...but you'll have to be keen, as the queues to do this always seem to be extremely long.
2014: it's not as dark inside the cathedral any more, and doesn't seem as common as before to be pickpocketed here.
Also, the crypt beside Notre Dame is very fascinating (though I have seen more detailed ones elsewhere). To see the original level of Paris, is probably the most interesting aspect of it.
The cathedral was made famous by Victor Hugo's novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”. Work started on Notre Dame in the 12th century and was completed in the 14th; following damage caused during the French Revolution the cathedral was restored during the 18th century. The cathedral is awe inspiring to view with its Gothic style and magnificent rose windows.
Sunday to Saturday: 8:00 am to 6:45 pm
July 1982, updated April 2015
The most monumental facade and most famous of world tourism is certainly the west front with its two towers. It is recognizable between all the cathedrals of our old continent.
The less preferred side is the one on the north bordering the rue du cloître Notre-Dame.
One that is preferred by many visitors is the façade on the south that can be seen from the banks of the Seine. This is the best view, the favorite of painters and photographers.
The apse exterior of Notre Dame as seen from the Quai de la Tournelle also has many fans among the specialists of the best angle of view.
I tried to combine with my picture the two towers and the south facade. My small digital camera can not avoid the barrel distortion of the towers but is so much lighter in my pocket than my former non digital one with a much better lens!
A special advice: If you plan to visit Notre-Dâme and Sainte-Chapelle (and you must!), start in Notre-Dâme. The stained glasses in the cathedral are very beautiful, but after seeing the wonders of Sainte-Chapelle they may seem banal.
Each thing has its epoch, its concept, and comparisons are often unfair.
It is always a pleasure the visit to this cathedral, one of the oldest and biggest of early French Gothic. In each detail we may find in our memories references of the old stories that made the history of France and western culture.
This was my fifth or sixth visit, but not the last. I hope!