Notre Dame Cathedral
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Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris is an iconic Gothic church on the Seine river, in the center of Paris. This is the cathedral in the Madeline in Paris books! The church and the huge plaza in front of it (to the west) are a happening spot, always packed with tourists. Take a moment to walk around the outside of the cathedral, admiring the spooky gargoyles and chimeras gawking out at you from the walls and the flying buttresses, a new invention at the time the cathedral was built in 1345! The cathedral took almost two hundred years to build! Behind the church (east side) is a garden called Square Jean XXIII, with some nice play equipment for kids, including trampolines. Hang out in the huge plaza, soaking up the sun and the buzzing atmosphere. Or visit the amazing Roman ruins, called Crypte Archeologique du Parvis de Notre Dame, that were found underneath the parking lot, on the far west end of the plaza! This is a treat! You can rent an audioguide of the crypt for 5 euros (see hours below).
To go inside the cathedral is free. Don't be deceived by long lines of people on the side of the church, on Rue de Cloitre Notre Dame, paying to go in. They are waiting to enter the tower. You don't need to pay to enter the church! You can just walk in and walk around yourself, or you can take a free tour, or attend a mass. For 5 euros you can get an audioguide that lasts for 35 minutes (see info below). Take in the gorgeous rose window, and other stained glass windows. Also, check out the organ, which has 7,374 pipes.
You can also tour the Treasury, which contains some of Catholicism's most important relics, including the possible Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the Cross, and a Holy Nail (see info below). These most precious of relics are only presented the first Friday of each month, but there are other relics in the Treasury.
To go up the tower you must stand in line on Rue de Cloitre Notre Dame (north side of the church). From the top, you enjoy wonderful views of the rooftops of Paris, the gargoyles close up, and the Seine river, though the claustrophobic walk up the 387 narrow tower stairs can make you feel very ill. There is no air in the tower and you are walking round and round in circles with crowds of people.
During the French Revolution in 1793, many treasures of the cathedral were torn down or plundered, including the spire. Some statues were beheaded. And for a while Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. A restoration project began in 1845.
The cathedral is particularly beautiful at night when it is illuminated.
Afterward, stroll along the romantic Seine river, enjoying the honeycomb-colored bridges, including Pont Neuf.
If you walk north for 12 minutes you will get to Centre Pompidou.
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Notre Dame Cathedral is located at 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris. It is on a huge island in the Seine river called Ile de la Cite, in the 4th arrondisement. The nearest metro station is Cite.
Entrance and tours are free. At the information booth inside the church doors, daily from 9:30-6, you can get more info. Audioguides for rent for 5 euros Mon-Sat 9:30-6 or Sundays 1-6. Mass times are here.
Crypt is open Tues-Sun 10-6. Closed Mondays and May 1 and August 15.
The Treasury is open Mon-Sat 9:30-6, and Sunday 1:30-6:30. Entry is 3 euros.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.