Second only to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris) is one of Paris' most iconic attractions, a marvel of medieval architecture that was immortalized in Victor Hugo's classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame
. Today, the Gothic grandeur and stained-glass windows of the UNESCO World Heritage site continue to reign supreme from Ile de la Cite, an island in the middle of the Seine River.
(UPDATE: Notre Dame Cathedral is currently off-limits due to fire damage)
Notre Dame's immense interior exemplifies French Gothic architecture—fluted columns, ribbed vaults, and sculptures demand attention from every angle, while the light that pours through prismatic windows gives the basilica an ethereal ambiance. If you climb the 387 steps of the north tower, braving gargoyles along the way, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Paris.
Guided tours that include skip-the-line entry are the best way to visit the cathedral; not only will you avoid long lines, but your guide's expertise will ensure you notice the details that make Notre Dame such an architectural masterpiece. The cathedral can also be visited as part of a full-day Paris sightseeing tour—itineraries typically cover icons such as the Louvre museum, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Montmartre neighborhood, or include a Seine River cruise, and provide insight into the history and culture of France.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Both private tours and group tours are available.
- The cathedral always draws crowds—book a skip-the-line ticket to save time.
- A Paris museum pass (with either 2-, 4-, or 6-day validity) covers skip-the-line entry to 50 top Paris attractions, including the Notre Dame and Musee d'Orsay.
How to Get to the Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame's central location makes it incredibly easy to reach by public transport: take the RER B or RER C line to St-Michel Notre Dame, or disembark at Cite on Line 4 of the Metro. If you're enjoying the luxury of time, follow the route of the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower for a one-hour walk brimming with highlights and hidden gems.
When to Get There
In the evening, the square before the cathedral comes to life in a riot of music and performance. Watch street performers juggle fire, grab a bite from a vendor, or just simply soak in the Notre Dame illuminated by night. If visiting Paris in winter, head to the Notre Dame toward the end of its 7:45am to 6:45pm (7:15pm on weekends) opening hours to watch the sunset and see the City of Light twinkle.