Yellow Van Travels

The Towers of Notre Dame

While I did write a couple weeks ago about the Notre Dame Cathedral, I did not go into detail about the tower tour that is available there. This is because there is an extra cost and considerable extra effort involved in this tour so they really are separate activities. In fact we did them on different days. The tower tour is amazing though, so if your wallets and your legs are up to it I highly encourage you to go.

Title Card for the Towers of Notre Dame with Gargoyle looking over Paris


How to Get There:

Of course the directions for getting to the Notre Dame Towers tour start out exactly the same as getting to Notre Dame for any other visit. You can read my directions here.
Once you are at the fa├žade of the cathedral go to the left side of the church. Running along the wall you should see a line leading away from a door on the corner of the leftmost tower. If you are either very early or very lucky this line will not be long, but most likely it will be pretty lengthy, but go ahead and get in the end of the line, it will be worth it in the end.
Meagan in line for the Notre Dame Tower tour
The line moves in jumps because they only let in a certain number of people at a time. You won’t need to buy tickets until you get up the first set of stairs in the tower, so don’t worry about that until you get there. If you have a Museum Pass you can use that to get in, but it won’t let you skip waiting in line. While you are in the line there will be plenty of crepe stands across the street, so if you feel hungry have someone hold your place in line and get some of my favorite French cuisine.

What You Will See:

Once you get inside the tower you will ascend the first set of stairs to a chamber where you can buy tickets and there is a small gift shop. You wait in this room until another group comes down from the top then you will be taken up. The walk up is very long and strenuous depending on how good of shape you are in. There were a couple of elderly ladies with us who had a hard time and kept stopping so people could go around them. This is a somewhat scary experience as the stairs are in a tight spiral so there really isn’t much room to put you feet on the inner side. My advice is that even if you are slow just keep going up until you reach a landing where you can actually stand aside.
When you finally come out of the stairs you will exit onto a parapet where you will immediately be able to see some of Notre Dame’s iconic gargoyles. You will have seen many of the smaller gargoyles on the side of the build ing while you waited in line, but the ones at the top of the stairs are the real deal, the ones you’ve seen in pictures. The first set you may have seen from the plaza below, but here you will be right next to them.
Gargoyles at Notre Dame
More Gargoyles at Notre Dame
As you walk down you will see that you can continue straight or go to the left. Make sure you go to the left as this is the only way to get into the bell tower and see some of the inner area gargoyles that cannot be seen from anywhere else. Once you take the left turn there will be a small door on the right that you can enter to get to the bells. This will require walking up some extra stairs, but you wouldn’t want to go to Notre Dame and not see the bells, right?
Ben and Meagan in front of one of the bells in the Notre Dame Bell Tower
Once you have seen the bells and the inner gargoyles you’ll continue on from where you turned. This will lead you to another stairway. At this point you will have a choice whether to continue up to the panorama view from the top of the tower, or to go back down and exit. I highly suggest you continue on to the top.
From the top you will be able to see splendid views of Paris on all sides. Each group only gets 5 minutes up here though so make sure you have your camera ready and try not to block other guest’s way. I could have used maybe a two minutes longer up there, but I remember waiting in that line at the bottom, so down we went when our time was up.
Paris cityscape from the top of Notre Dame
Then it is down, down, down, all the way to the bottom where you will exit back onto the plaza. Be careful going down, as this will be harder on your legs then going up and you do the whole distance in one go.

Sum Up:

The Towers of Notre Dame were one of favorite things in Paris. Meagan was hesitant about waiting in the long line, but afterward she said it was more than worth it. It costs 10 euro per person if you don’t have the Museum Pass, but I think even that would be worth it to be able to be in the towers. For me it was a more enjoyable experience than the cathedral itself.

The yellow van on the Notre Dame Towers tour.