Yellow Van Travels

Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame is the most famous cathedral in Paris. It majestically sits at the very center of the city, its nobel façade standing as one of the great symbols of Paris. It is a must see an almost everyone’s list when coming to Paris, and for good reason.


How to Get There:

Before you try to get to Notre Dame make sure you are prepared to go; if you’ve been to a European church before you probably know what this means. Come modestly clothed, that means don’t wear shorts, sleeveless shirts, or other revealing attire. You don’t want to stand in the often very long line to get inside and then not be allowed in. Don’t wear a hat inside and don’t use your selfie stick inside either. These restrictions are because Notre Dame is still an active church and people come here to worship, so please be respectful.
Once you are appropriately attired to go the best way to get there via the Paris Metro (see our guide to the metro) is to ride to the Cité stop (Cité is the is island on which the Notre Dame stands). When you exit this stop it can be a little confusing because you don’t see the cathedral, this is due to how closely the buildings are packed here. Notre Dame is actually just about a block away. We were going the wrong direction until we saw a sign in a flower shop that said Notre Dame and an arrow pointing the opposite direction.
The thing to know is when you exit the Cité metro station go left to walk across the plaza you exit on to. When you reach the street go right. You will soon see Notre Dame on your left. If you see Sainte Chapelle, you are going the wrong way.
If you want to go into the Cathedral get in the line that snakes its way across the plaza in front of the façade. The line for the tower tour is on the left side of the building when facing the façade. Just make sure that you get in the correct line for what you want to do.

What You Will See:

Going into Notre Dame is free. So it’s a good thing for everyone to do when visiting Paris. The line was pretty long when we were there but it actually moved very fast. There is a security check at the door so make sure to have your bag open when you approach the entrance.
Once inside you will be in a small gift shop area where you can also rent an audio guide if you desire. We recommend just listening to Rick Steves on the Audio Europe app. The tracks for Notre Dame exterior and interior are in the Paris walking tour guide. You can listen to the exterior at any time, you might be tempted to do it while you stand in line, but that wouldn’t allow you to get as close to the façade as you really need to in order to see some of the details.
You can also choose to just wander the church on your own. It is quite large with the central area being taken up by seating for the main Masses held each day. Please remember to be respectful when in this area and follow the instructions on the posted signs.

All the way up the central area of cathedral you will see the beautiful stain glass windows. Around the sides you will find many smaller chapels and confession booths. There is a lot to see, so you can take your time walking around in here.

Outside the Cathedral there is also a lot to see. The facade is covered in statues and if you go to the right you come to a very nice park/garden that will take you around the back of the Cathedral. There is also an optional tour of the churches treasury that you can go on for a cost. The towers can also be seen for an addition cost. (Stay tuned for our spot on the towers!)

Sum Up:

The Notre Dame Cathedral is an awesome place to see. Even if you are not religious it holds significant historical value for Paris both as a church and the island of Cité on which it stands. We definitely recommend you visit it, especially since it doesn’t cost anything. There are also free public restrooms just off to the side of the plaza in front of the the Cathedral, we didn’t use them so we can’t vouch for how nice they are, but they are there if you need them. We also found some amazing mango gelato at a street cart by the bridge to the right of the facade.