One of the world’s most famous Catholic churches is on almost everyone’s list of Paris sights – and even if it’s not, it’s unavoidable if you’re crossing the Seine with any regularity. Here are some of our top tips for making the most out of your visit to Notre Dame.
From the Top to the Bottom
If you’re in good physical shape, take the time to climb the tower. Although admission into the church is free, there is a fee for the climb. But the view is unbeatable, and you get to see the church’s creepy gargoyles up close and personal as well as the church’s famous bells. It’s best if you get there first thing in the morning, so you can avoid being in the tight spaces with so many other people.
After reaching its upper heights, make sure to go all the way down below the church structure, to the Crypt. It houses a museum that discusses the centuries of history unearthed during the excavation phase of Notre Dame’s construction, and gives you an interesting view of the history of Paris from this perspective.
Planning a trip? Check out this Skip the Line: Notre Dame Cathedral, Tower and Ile de la Cite Half-Day Walking Tour
Check Out the Back End
Once you’ve thoroughly experienced the inside, it’s time to step outside and around back because those flying buttresses are mighty fine. For the whole viewing experience, you can take a load off in the park out back and relax while you look at its stunning architecture; then cross over the Seine and get a wider view (and a heck of a photo op!), then walk along the Left Bank’s quai to see it from afar before coming back onto the Île de la Cité again.
Look for the Heart of the City
Either before you enter the church or as you come back around to the front, look on the ground outside the entrance for a kind of raised disk that reads, Point Zéro. This spot is from where all distances are measured; it’s the geographical center of Paris, its heart. It’s a pretty cool thing that a lot of people overlook because, well, it’s in front of Notre Dame!
Listen for the Bells
Now that you’ve seen the bells up close, stick around for the top of the hour to hear them ring. You’ll have a new appreciation for their sound and meaning.
- Contributed by Christine Cantera