Visiting the Notre Dame cathedral with a tour

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

The Notre Dame of Paris is one of the most famous buildings in the French capital. Not only is the cathedral stunning, but the area where she is located, is breathtakingly beautiful as well.
After you have seen the outside, you must of course also take a look inside. And if you are here, why not climb the 69 meter (226 ft) high tower for a phenomenal view over Paris as well?

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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Update: Fire in the Notre Dame

On the 15th of April 2019, a big fire broke out in the Notre Dame of Paris. This will probably have consequences for everyone who plans a visit in the future. Once there is more information available, I will update this article.
Click here to follow the live feed of this dramatic happening.

notre dame cathedral tour

Visit Notre Dame

The facade is a real work of art. Beautiful and detailed images showcase biblical scenes and the imposing, heavy doors have impressive wood carvings that you can marvel at for hours.
If you stretch your neck, you’ll see the creepy (or cute) gargoyles standing on every corner of the cathedral. They come in all kinds of forms (pelicans, mythical creatures, …) and are really beautiful to see.

You get in pretty smoothly, unless many people have the same idea to visit the Notre Dame at the same time. Try to leave backpacks and bags in your hotel, because they will be searched before you enter, and that may make the waiting lines longer.

Inside, the church is really gigantic and you are never alone. Hordes of tourists shuffle from one side to the other, and the church obviously also benefits from all those visitors. Inside the church are dozens of machines which press out coins from the Notre-Dame, souvenir shops, (suspiciously expensive) candles, …

Be sure to pay attention to the beautiful ceilings of this dark building. For me it was especially the front that was impressive, because here you get a nice overview of the whole church and you also have two impressive stained glass windows.

notre dame tour

Visiting the Notre Dame is a good idea! Both the inside and outside are beautiful.

notre dame paris visit

There is really a lot to see and discover in the Notre Dame of Paris.

Guided Notre Dame cathedral tour

There is a lot to see in the Notre Dame, and often the details are the most interesting. The dozens of works of art, fine carvings, impressive stained-glass windows, … are quite interesting! With a guided tour of the Notre Dame, your visit will be much more interesting.
Your guide (or audioguide) tells you fun facts and more about the impressive history, but also quite some interesting stories that have taken place here. Of course your guide will also tell you a bit more about the hunchback of the Notre Dame.

For an audioguide tour, you pay €19 per person (and you may also skip the queues). For a guided tour of the Notre Dame cathedral and the rest of the Île de la Cité you pay about €35 per person. If you just want to book a tour in the Notre Dame, you only pay €15 (and I really recommend that tour!).


A little bit of history

In 1160, the local Bishop (Maurice de Sully) thought that the cathedral which they had back then wasn’t beautiful and grand enough for a city like Paris. It was a good enough reason to invest in a new, more impressive cathedral. No expense or effort was spared! Because houses were destroyed without mercy and new roads were eagerly constructed to get all building materials on site. Although Maurice de Sully did his best to make everything happen as quickly as possible, the cathedral was only delivered long after his death (in 1345).
Because it took so long before the Notre Dame was finished, the original building plans changed significantly. Certain parts were added and others were broken down. And all according to the style and fashion that was most popular at that time! As a result, you can still find many different architectural styles in this beautiful church today. Throughout its long history, the Notre Dame also had to endured a lot of damage. The French revolution and the second world war were the main culprits.

Fortunately, everything was restored time after time so that we can now fully enjoy the views and the gorgeous interior of this magnificent cathedral.

notre dame inside

On the inside of the Notre Dame you can see beautiful paintings and other works of art.

15 April 2019: Fire in the Notre Dame

Unfortunately, a big fire set this phenomenal church ablaze on the 15th of April 2019. There’s not so much known yet about what started the fire and what the consequences will be.
The spire could not witstand the heat and fire and broke off around 8 pm local time. It was unsure for a long time if the cathedral could be saved, but luckily we all received good news. However, it will probably take years to rebuild this monument and make it accessible again for visitors.
On the video below you can see a live feed of this dramatic event:

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on fire

What do we know about the fire?

  • The fire started around 6:50 pm. Around 6:15 pm a church service started. Luckily, all believers could be evacuated on time and a human drama was prevented. 
  • Around 8 pm local time, the inevitable happened: the spire of 93 meters high (305 ft) collapsed in only a matter of minutes. Around 8:30 pm the complete roof was destroyed.
  • This was not a terrorist attack.
  • The Notre Dame will be rebuilt. Because the building is so old, the fire was spreading at a rapid pace and it was unsure if it would survive. However, the day after the fire, the fire-fighters could bring the good news: the cathedral will be saved! But… It will take years to rebuild.
  • There were a total of 800 fire-fighters who helped to keep the fire under control.

Climb the Notre Dame

Maybe you’ll also notice that a lot of people are waiting at the side entrance of the cathedral.
From here you can climb the Notre Dame and I really recommend doing that.

Update: On the 15th of April 2019, a fire broke out in the Notre Dame. Because of this, the famous spire also crumbled. Because of this, it’s very probably that it will be impossible to climb the Notre Dame in the (near) future. Once there is more information available, I will update this page.

Tickets to climb the Notre Dame

A ticket to climb the Notre Dame costs €13.
Only a certain number of people are allowed up every hour, so make sure you’ve already booked tickets in advance or that you have enough time to join the queue. With these tickets you will be assigned a certain hour. Try to be there about five to ten minutes in advance and then you can just pass the long queues.

If you still have to buy your ticket on the spot, you shouldn’t forget to first take a ticket from the computers that are standing outside. These machines print a little ticket with a certain time span when you can pick up your entrance ticket. On busy days you’ll sometimes have to wait for one to two hours, but luckily you can visit other sights in Paris in the meantime. As long as you don’t forget printing your time span ticket.
Make sure that you’re back on time, because if you’re late, you won’t get in anymore!

Once you have stepped through the security check, you have to climb up a few steps to buy your actual entrance ticket.

Don’t forget that anyone who has an EU identity card and is -26 years old, can climb the tower for free. However, you must join the queue to make use of these free tickets.


The view from the Notre Dame

After you have climbed the hundreds of stairs (387 to be exact), there’s a good chance that you’re quite tired. Fortunately, you can rest out a bit once you’ve arrived on top of the Notre Dame.
There are in fact two floors that you can visit.

The first level
From the first level you get a beautiful view of Paris! You can see the Eiffel Tower, the Tour Montparnasse, the Sacre Coeur, the Dôme des invalides, … The hiking trails are rather narrow and they’re always full of tourists, so don’t go too fast because returning is difficult (not to say impossible)! On the beautiful balcony you’re also always accompanied by a mixed bunch of stone monsters and animals. The beautiful gargoyles make your view of Paris even more magical!

Don’t forget that the first level is closed off with chicken wire. Because of this, cameras with large lenses can’t make very pretty pictures here, because they just don’t get through the holes. With a smartphone camera this is fortunately no problem.
In addition to the view, you should also visit the clock tower. It’s a little tight to squeeze through the small opening, but the wooden construction where some gigantic carillons can be seen is quite impressive!

notre dame gargoyle

One of the many gargoyles on the roof of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

notre dame tower

The wooden construction of the bell tower of the Notre Dame. Pretty impressive to see!

Second level
I didn’t think that there was a second floor, but along the other side of the Notre Dame of Paris you can climb up just a bit higher.
From here the view is actually even more impressive. First of all, your view isn’t obstructed by chicken wire (the holes in the fence are much larger and you can also use larger lenses if you want to take pictures), but you can also walk around the tower completely.
Everyone can spend a maximum of five minutes here, but the regulator doesn’t seem to care too much about the time that you’re spending here.

Do know that the path is also very narrow here and that returning is very difficult with the many tourists who walk behind and in front of you.
From this level you will no longer see gargoyles, but the view over Paris is at least as beautiful as a floor below. At the back of this viewing platform you can also see the lower parts (and the gardens) of the Notre Dame.

Once you have seen everything, you have to climb the revolving stairs all the way back down. Don’t do iy too quickly, because otherwise you’ll get incredibly dizzy and maybe even nauseous!

climb notre dame view

The view from the second floor of the Notre Dame. Here you can actually see much more of Paris, because you can walk around 360°.

notre dame visit climb

If you visit the second floor of the Notre Dame, you’ll see that the holes in the fencing are much larger and that you can take photos with a photo camera more easily.

Important to know if you are going to visit the NotreDame

  • Wear appropriate clothing. The Notre Dame is still a church. Shoulders must therefore be covered.
  • No ticket is needed for the Notre Dame but a guided tour or a climb up the tower does need tickets. Take into account the long waiting times! If you want a guided tour (or audio guide) in the Notre Dame cathedral, you have to book tickets in advance. A guided tour costs about €15.
  • Be on time if you want to climb the tower. The limited spots are sold out quickly on busy days. Don’t wait too long to reserve your spot!

6 facts about the Notre Dame in Paris

  1. Every year, no fewer than 13 million visitors visit this church!
  2. With its 13 million visitors a year, the Notre Dame is the most popular monument in France. It’s therefore visited even more than the Eiffel Tower!
  3. Napoleon was crowned emperor in this magnificent cathedral. He actually invited Pope Pius VII to do this for him, but in the end the vain Napoleon crowned himself.
  4. In the Notre Dame cathedral you’ll not only find beautiful paintings and phenomenal stained-glass windows! Here lies also the crown of thorns of Jesus, a nail that was used to crucify him and a piece of the real cross on which he was hanged (the so-called Byzantine cross).
  5. The most famous cathedral in France is 130 meters (426,5 ft) long, 45 meters (147,5 ft) wide, 35 meters (115 ft) high (but the towers are 69 meters (226 ft) high) and the stained glass windows each have a diameter of more than 10 meters (33 ft).
  6. On the 15th of April 2019, a fire broke out in this iconic cathedral. Because the spire was so high, fire-fighters couldn’t reach it and eventually it collapsed. The tower was a whopping 93 meters high (305 ft) and consisted out of 500 tons of timber and 250 tons of lead.
notre dame paris stained glass windows

One of the two impressive stained glass windows.

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