Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
General Info: Notre Dame is French for “Our Lady”; the cathedral is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. In my exposure to Catholicism, I’ve found Mary to be almost more venerated than the Savior; many Catholics pray to Mary as she seems more approachable than the Savior, and she can plead to the Lord on your behalf; after all, how can he deny a request from His own mother? The simple faith of the generations of simple French peasants that built this cathedral is evident throughout the building; it speaks to me and it will for you and your family while visiting here.
Groundbreaking for the cathedral was in 1163; The Dedication Mass was 1345. Do the math, that’s 182 years.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a key location / almost character in Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Location: Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame
Cost – Cathedral: Free!!!
Cost – Tower: 10€, covered by Paris Museum Pass
Cost – Treasury: Admission – 4€, Audioguide – 5€. I’ve never been in the Treasury, and so I can’t recommend it.
Child Cost: Cathedral – Free; Tower – Free under 18 (under 25 if you’re a citizen of the EU)
Days / Hours – Cathedral: Mon – Sat 7:45 AM – 6:45 PM, Sun 7:45 AM – 7:15 PM
Days / Hours – Tower: Sun-Thu (Apr – Sep) 10:00 AM – 6:30 PM, Fri-Sat (Jul & Aug) 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM, (Oct-Mar) 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Days / Hours – Treasury: Mon – Fri 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM, Sat 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM, Sun 1:30 PM – 6:40 PM
Tips – Admission/Free Days: The Tower is covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
Tips – Line: The line for the Tower gets longer during the day; arrive before 10:15 AM or after 5:00 PM. Remember, your Paris Museum Pass does not allow you to cut the line.
Bathrooms: Not inside; there’s a public restroom across the street on the right side (facing the cathedral) in front.
Strollers: In the cathedral, absolutely, no restrictions on strollers, although luggage is not allowed.
Up to the tower? 422 steps, up the same steps that Quasimodo traveled up and down. No strollers here.
Events: There are Masses celebrated throughout the day, which add a wonderful ambience to your visit. In summer, there’s a sound and light display
Food Options: Not on-site, but plenty of restaurants/bistros/creperies nearby. The closest grocery store (named Les délices de Saint Louis) is on Ile St. Louis, which is the island behind (to the east) of the cathedral. My recommendation would be to go there and enjoy a picnic either at Place Louis Aragon, or at the across from Notre Dame.
Is it Worth It?
Yes, no question. Notre Dame is one of the primary reasons you visit Paris, France, and even Europe.
Is it Worth Going up to the Tower? Yes, especially if you’ve never been before, and you have the Paris Museum Pass. Yes, absolutely. The kids are free too, you just have to wait in the line – time your visit towards the beginning or end of the day when the line is smaller.
How to Get There:
Metro: Stations Hôtel de Ville (Line 1) Châtelet (Lines 1, 7,11, and 14) Cité ou Saint-Michel (Line 4)
Foot: 1.5 KM walk from the Louvre. That’s about a 20 minute walk, most of it along the Seine. A fabulous walk, I’d highly recommend it.
How to Get Kids Ready:
This is one of the best places in Paris. The Hunchback of Notre Dame movie by Disney is not one of my favorites, although the music is pretty good. (bells…bells…bells….of Notre Daaaaame!) There’s gargoyles everywhere, big loud bells, stained glass, statues….remember, medieval peasants were mostly illiterate, and so they learned religion through pictures. There are statues and reliefs all over both the interior and exterior of the cathedral, which are really fun for kids (and adults) to find and interpret. In general, Notre Dame is a great landmark to get kids excited for a trip; you can see it in Madeline, Ratatouille, and other French-inspired films they may be familiar with. (See our “How to Get Kids Excited for Paris” page for more!)
Things to Know so your spouse / children think you know a lot of things:
The cathedral is an architectural wonder of its age. Notre Dame was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress, which are the structures on the exterior of the east side of the cathedral. Most of them weren’t in the original design, but as the cathedral was being built, more and more cracks started appearing, and these helped support the weight of the heavy heavy stone.
Napoleon was coronated King of France here in 1804, with Pope Pius VII officiating.
The gargoyles are designed to help rain runoff. Too bad your gutters at home don’t have cool-looking demons as part of the design, eh?
Since 2013, a beehive has been maintained on the roof of the sacristy.