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Notre Dame Cathedral

View of Notre Dame from the Seine river.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Must-See Masterpiece of Gothic Architecture

6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris

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In case you were wondering whether a trip to Notre Dame is really worth it, the answer’s yes. But don’t take my word for it — French author Paul Claudel said that he found his faith in God while standing behind one of the church’s pillars on Christmas Day and Victor Hugo also wrote a little book called Notre-Dame de Paris. There’s even a Disney movie about it. 

The Notre Dame Cathedral is absolutely a must-see monument in Paris. A medieval masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the church is one of the most visited historical sites in all of Europe, and for good reason. 

View of Notre Dame from the Seine river.

The Architecture & History of Notre-Dame de Paris

Built over the span of two centuries, from 1163 to the mid-14th century, Notre-Dame de Paris is a magnificent study in French Gothic architecture. Since construction took so long, the style of the cathedral isn’t completely uniform, letting you discover architectural elements from different Gothic periods. Highly ornamented flying buttresses and gargoyles adorn the exterior as exquisite examples of Rayonnant Gothic architecture.

Rosewindow of Notre Dame de Paris
The rose window of Notre Dame de Paris

Can’t get enough of that impressive Gothic architecture? Make sure to visit La Sainte-Chapelle too!

Inside, the nave features six-part rib vaults typical of the Early Gothic style. But perhaps the most impressive aspects of the church’s interior are the stunning rose windows which date back to the mid-13th century and are among the largest in Europe at a diameter of thirteen meters (a bit over 40 feet!).

Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral

Don’t let long lines scare you off! The queue moves quite quickly and I think the longest I’ve ever waited was 45 minutes. Before getting in line though, do make sure that you’re dressed appropriately, otherwise, you won’t be allowed to enter. Your shoulders must be covered (a scarf or shawl will do) and large bags or luggage are not allowed.

Go Up to the Top of Notre-Dame de Paris

After spending most of your time inside the cathedral looking up, why not climb the 422 stairs to the top of the church towers and spend some time looking down on Paris? You’ll get great views of the city and you’ll get up close and personal with those famous gargoyles. You do need a ticket to visit the towers (10€ for adults), but you can make same-day reservations using the “JeFile” app on your smartphone or by using the ticket machines on site.

View of Paris from on top of Notre Dame Cathedral by Amy Yvonne Yu.
View of Paris from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo by Amy Yvonne Yu.

Wondering what to do next? Here’s our guide to the best things to do near Notre Dame.

Editor’s note: article originally published June 8, 2018. Last updated June 4, 2020 to reflect reopening of the parvis after the fire.

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Métro Ⓜ
  • 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II
  • 75004 Paris
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