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How to Visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

One of the most impressive and characteristic postcards of Paris is the Notre Dame cathedral. Find out everything you need to know before scheduling your visit to this iconic landmark.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

How to Visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame, Paris | ©Vlada Karpovich

Notre Dame has been for centuries one of the high points not only of religion, but of architecture in Europe. Since it was built in 1163 it has undergone major modifications until the recent fire that occurred only a few years ago.

However, this cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary has managed to survive all kinds of catastrophes and, if you are thinking of visiting it as one of the essential activities to do in Paris, here is a detailed guide of everything you need to know to visit Notre Dame and know its curiosities.

How to get your ticket to Notre Dame Cathedral

External view of Notre Dame| ©Fred PO
External view of Notre Dame| ©Fred PO

Notre Dame is one of the most visited places by all tourists who come to visit the capital of France. However, you should know that since 2019, the cathedral is closed and under restoration due to the damage suffered by a good part of the structure in the fire.

Prior to that, the ticket could be purchased both at the box office and in advance online and had a free cost. Additionally, you could get two types of tickets to access the top of the towers and its spectacular crypt for a price between 4 € to 9 €. But, unfortunately, during its reconstruction all these activities have been temporarily closed.

The reopening is announced for mid-2024, when it is estimated that all reconstruction and restoration work will be completed and it will be possible to visit again. In addition, you should know that the Paris Pass covers all the accesses so, if at the time of coming you get one of these tourist vouchers on your trip to Paris, the full entrance to Notre Dame will be free.

Book your Paris Pass

Notre Dame opening hours

At the entrance of Notre Dame| ©Ștefan Jurcă
At the entrance of Notre Dame| ©Ștefan Jurcă

Notre Dame is currently closed since 2019 and in the coming years it will be impossible to visit it inside or even get close to it, as it has a security perimeter that surrounds the entire cathedral and makes it impossible to access.

Before the disgrace, Notre Dame had a schedule that allowed tourists to have many opportunities to see it and, in case it serves as a guide for the future, you should know that their schedules changed depending on the season.

In addition, during the warmer months, that is July and August, night visits were also carried out where you could see the spectacular lighting of all the stained glass windows and rose windows and also enjoy the views of Paris at night and love at night. However, to recover all these panoramas again, we will still have to wait a bit.

How to get to Notre Dame

Inside the Paris Metro| ©Davyn Ben
Inside the Paris Metro| ©Davyn Ben

Notre Dame is located in one of the most central areas of the city so getting there will not be a major complication. However, it is true that Paris is a huge city and you may find it difficult to find your way around at first. The cathedral is located exactly at number 6 Parvis Notre-Dame, next to the Place Jean-Paul II.

To get there there are three main means of transport; the metro, the bus and the Parisian railroad, also called RER.

By Metro

Getting around Paris by metro is quite simple and fast and, besides, Notre Dame station is literally next to the cathedral, so it is one of the most useful and efficient ways to get around. Just take the purple line 4 and get off at the Cité station.

By bus

The bus is another alternative if you want to move around Paris and also enjoy the views from the outside. There are several buses that go to Notre Dame and nearby. You will have to check which one is closest to where you are to take it at the appropriate stop but the main ones are the 21, 38, 47, 85 and 96.

By RER train

The RER or train is a third and quite efficient way to move around the city and it also has the advantage of having a stop dedicated to Notre Dame. Just take line B or C and get off at the Saint-Michel - Notre-Dame stop.

Book a tour of Ile de la Cité, Notre Dame and others

Are there guided tours at Notre Dame, is it worth it?

Details of Notre Dame| ©Gary Campbell-Hall
Details of Notre Dame| ©Gary Campbell-Hall

Due to its temporary closure, there is no way to get inside to see the cathedral, or even get close to see its facade in detail, as the cathedral is surrounded by a security perimeter during its reconstruction.

Fortunately, during this time virtual tours have been created thanks to virtual reality technologies with which you can get a very close idea of what the cathedral was like before the tragedy and get to know all its corners.

These tours are usually quite inexpensive and have daily passes so you can easily include it in one of the days of sightseeing you have in Paris.

Book a guided tour of Paris

The parts of Notre Dame you can see

Gargoyle of Notre Dame| ©Jean Pierre
Gargoyle of Notre Dame| ©Jean Pierre

Notre Dame has had access to its interior banned since the fire of 2019 but, nevertheless, one of its greatest attractions still stands, which you can enjoy without even getting close; its exterior facade.

You may have never been inside, or even been to Paris, but the facade of Notre Dame is something we've all seen at some point in our lives whether in books, movies or documentaries, and no wonder. The exterior of Notre Dame is a testament to the enormous architectural prodigy that began construction in 1163 but reached its peak in the 19th century.

With a west façade that serves as the base of the Latin cross silver, impressive flying buttresses that have managed to keep it standing all these years and its peculiar gargoyles, Notre Dame and its impeccable baroque are already a pleasure to behold just by taking a look at its exterior.

What to do around Notre Dame

Shakespeare and Company| ©flo21
Shakespeare and Company| ©flo21

Maybe if you're going to Paris soon you'll be left wanting to see Notre Dame from the inside. However, let me tell you that there are still several things you can do from the outside that go beyond looking at the monument from afar. Remember that you are in one of the most central and beautiful neighborhoods in Paris, so these are just some of the things you can spend the day doing:

Best places to take pictures

Although you can't get too close to the cathedral due to the security perimeter to take detailed photos of the impressive facade, you can go to strategic points to get the best perspective of Notre Dame.

My recommendation is to go to the other side of the Seine, from where you will have two strategic spots. One on the right in the Jardin Jean XXIII, a few steps from the main facade, where you can photograph the impressive buttresses that are still standing. The other, on Île St Louis, which offers a quite alternative rear view, mixing greenery with the purest baroque style.

Visit the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore

One of the obligatory stops in the vicinity of Notre Dame is a bookstore that has become very famous over the years due to its aesthetics, which seems to have it set in time. It is the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, a place specializing in British literature with an old facade that attracts thousands of tourists every day.

See the Saint Michel fountain

Walking near Notre Dame, you will be able to know closely and just a few steps from the cathedral, the fountain of Saint Michel, an impressive stone sculpture designed by Haussmann and representing the struggle of good against evil through the archangel Michael and the devil. In addition, this fountain is the gateway to the Latin Quarter.

Where to eat near Notre Dame

Entrance of Le Quasimodo de Notre Dame Restaurant| ©Yuliya Z
Entrance of Le Quasimodo de Notre Dame Restaurant| ©Yuliya Z

If you are passing by to visit Notre Dame and do not know where to stay to eat in Paris, you should know that in this area of Paris there are two quite famous places, one of them for being one of the oldest restaurants and another for having a close relationship with the cathedral of Notre Dame and its history.

Au Vieux Paris

Just passing by the outside is quite impressive, as it has a facade full of greenery and antique shops that will catch your attention. Inside is not short either, as it is one of the oldest restaurants in the city.

Located in one of the corners that makes a chamfer near the cathedral, specifically in Rue Chanoinnesse, the Au Vieux Paris is an establishment that has been open since 1594 and offers a menu full of typical dishes of French cuisine. Undoubtedly a charming place to eat something delicious on your visit to Notre Dame.

Le Quasimodo de Notre Dame

If you want your visit to Notre Dame to be full of winks to the monument, I recommend you to go to lunch or dinner at the restaurant called Le Quasimodo de Notre Dame, in honor of the famous character of Victor Hugo.

This place has a great reputation throughout Paris not only for having an incredible themed decoration inside, but also for offering typical French dishes at a very affordable price.

Is it advisable to go to Notre Dame with children?

Nilos playing at the Notre Dame entrance| ©Martina Barbieri
Nilos playing at the Notre Dame entrance| ©Martina Barbieri

You may think that sometimes traveling with children to Paris can be a bit complicated due to the large repertoire of museums and monuments to see. Children tend to be impatient and are not very interested in large, dark and silent halls.

However, in the case of Notre Dame, you have won part of the ground since years ago Disney dedicated itself to place this incredible cathedral in the children's imagination of the little ones. During your visit, you can see firsthand what was the home of the endearing Quasimodo and you can see up close the famous gargoyles that appeared in the cartoon film.

Undoubtedly a different vision from the one you can have as an adult but that does nothing more than encourage adults and children to enjoy the visit of this beautiful place.

Tips for visiting Notre Dame cathedral

Notre Dame in Spring| ©Paul Deetman
Notre Dame in Spring| ©Paul Deetman

Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the essential panoramas to visit Paris at any time of the year. It may be some time with its doors closed, but it is never too much to have a series of basic tips to make your visit more comfortable when it reopens its doors to the public and end up having an indelible memory of this World Heritage Monument.

Best in low season

You should not forget that you are in one of the most touristic cities in the world and visiting one of its major attractions, so if you want to avoid the long lines and crowds, the best thing to do is to choose the dates of your trip to Paris in a low season so that your visit to Notre Dame and the rest of the city is more quiet and "intimate". These dates are usually around the months of October to March.

Get your bearings with a guided tour

If you want to be well informed during your visit to Notre Dame about everything you are seeing and the importance of the ground you are walking on, I recommend that you choose either to ask for an audio guide to learn the history of the most important points of the cathedral, or hire a guided tour by a professional.

Dress moderately

Do not forget that you are entering a church and, although in Western countries is becoming more flexible, you may not be allowed to enter if you wear pants or very short skirts, necklines and bare shoulders. If you are traveling to Paris in the summer, you can simply choose to drape a scarf over your head during your visit.

Try to arrive early

Notre Dame has during the summer months two days a week extended hours until 23h to enjoy a beautiful sunset. However, the rest of the year I recommend that you get there as early as possible. This way you will be among the first to enter, avoiding the lines to get the entrance and, above all, without giving time to generate large crowds inside.

Do not miss the opportunity to see firsthand the splendor of Notre Dame, a place that has survived wars, revolutions, monarchies and even recent fires. An architectural marvel that has witnessed the passage of centuries and is in Paris waiting for you with open arms.