Visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral was near the top of my list of things to do while in Paris. The cathedral is a captivating building, with construction taking close to 300 years, starting in the 12th century. Being that it took so long to build, there are a variety of architectural styles throughout, predominantly featuring French Gothic architecture.

Notre Dame is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral became the stuff of legend thanks to Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, published in 1831.

Getting to Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame is very central to many of the other areas of Paris you’re likely to be seeing.

We walked from our apartment near The Louvre to Notre Dame, which only took around 20 minutes. If you’re catching the Paris Metro then the closest stations are St-Michel Notre Dame and Cité.

If you’re planning on visiting Sainte Chappelle, then this is probably the day to do it, as it and Notre Dame are only a stone’s throw (500m) from each other.

Queues to get into Notre Dame Cathedral

As with any tourist attractions, queues happen.

When we got to the cathedral, the lines to get in were quite small which was a welcome surprise. We arrived at around 10am and were inside within a few minutes. While inside, we had plenty of room to move around which apparently is not the case if you get there later in the day.

By the time we left the precinct after climbing the towers, the queues were much longer, but still moving relatively quickly. I’ve spoken to people who have visited Notre Dame later in the day and all have said that even though the lines are fast, it’s not so fabulous inside when it’s more crowded.

Inside Notre Dame

Once inside, there’s only one small step, so it’s quite accessible for prams and wheelchairs.

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It goes without saying that this place is pretty marvelous to behold.

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Luckily Clarrie decided this was an excellent time for a nap, so we got to wander through the building at our leisure.

Some more words on the cathedral after these pics of the inside.

Make sure you walk all around the outside

Notre Dame's southern facade

Notre Dame’s southern facade

Each side of the cathedral brings a new view and some incredibly ornate architecture. It’s no wonder it took so long to build.

Statue of Pope John Paul II on the southern side of Notre Dame Cathedral

Statue of Pope John Paul II on the southern side of Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame’s famous flying buttresses are visible when walking behind the cathedral to Square Jean XXIII.

Notre Dame's flying buttresses are best viewed from Square Jean XXIII on the cathedral's eastern side

Notre Dame’s flying buttresses are best viewed from Square Jean XXIII on the cathedral’s eastern side

Should I take my kids to Notre Dame cathedral?

That really depends on your kids. As with most of our museum and gallery visits on this trip, we try and plan as much of this sort of thing around nap time. Clarrie is generally more than happy to sleep on one of us in a carrier, and we’ve had pretty good luck on most days of making this happen. It’s a win/win.

Notre Dame is still a functioning Catholic church. Whether or not a service is happening doesn’t really matter, as worshippers are in and out all day.

If your child is likely to be noisy or want to run around, then I would suggest giving Notre Dame a miss, or returning at a time when they’re more likely to be napping or happily walk around.

You do need to be prepared to leave if your bundle of joy gets too raucous. You don’t want to be those people.

There are swings and other playground equipment on the south side of the cathedral near the statue of John Paul II. The beautiful Square Jean XXIII on the eastern side of the cathedral is also a great open space for kids to run around and play, should you need them to burn off energy before heading inside. If only one parent wants to go in and the other is happy to be wrangler of children outside, then Square Jean XXIII is a great option.

How long can I spend in Notre Dame Cathedral

You can spend as long as you like in the cathedral, and your time inside will obviously be bound by your interest. We took about an hour to get through which was a good amount of time. It gave us enough time to do a full circuit and ponder the parts that piqued our interest.

Notre Dame Cathedral opening hours

The cathedral is open every day of the year from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm (7:15 pm on Saturdays and Sundays).

Entry to the cathedral is free.

Entry to the climb the tower is 10 euro (There will be a separate article on the Tower Climb in the coming days).

If you’re interested in a guided tour from the cathedral staff, the Notre Dame website lists times, including what language they are in (there’s French, German, English, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Chinese).

The website also lists mass times if you’re interested in attending a service at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame cathedral also host concerts. We noticed posters for a Bach and Haendel performance, which would have been pretty terrific to see (and hear) in such a place. More information on such performances can be found at Musique Sacree website.

You can also book guided tours through Tripadvisor and Viator.

I’ll be back in a few days with articles on Square Jean XXIII as well as climbing the towers of Notre Dame.

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