6 Parvis Notre-Dame, Place Jean-Paul II, 75004. Métro: Cité (line 4) or Saint Michel (lines 4, RER B or RER C). Entrance: free for main hall, €8 for adults to climb the tower, €3 for the treasury. Concessions available.
The overwhelming grandeur of the Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral is an awe-inspiring sight upon first visit, with its towering spires, elaborate stonework and ghoulish gargoyles all combining to create a breathtaking example of Medieval construction. The erection of the cathedral began in 1163 and lasted almost 200 years, with completion only taking place in 1345, and in the centuries since the building became a central point for religious and political interest. Rioters, revolutionaries and rebels have all damaged and transformed Notre Dame over the years, yet it retains its impressive exterior and interior beauty. A period of neglect was swept away in the 19th century when Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame reignited public interest, although the heavily luxurious atmosphere inside is more Gothic than Disney! Gold statues, multicoloured stained glass, rows of flickering candles and preserved archaeological crypts all lie inside, waiting to be discovered by each new generation of visitor.
The cathedral is made up of several parts; the main hall, towers and archaeological crypt, all of which can be visited by the public either for free or for a small fee. Whether you visit for religious reasons or simply to have a look around, the pomp and detail of this Catholic landmark make for a spectacular sight and are worth seeing for their sheer scale and beauty, from the huge stained glass windows to the historical main organ. Visitors are welcome to join in with religious services, or it is possible to climb the north tower for awesome views across Paris from within the religious heart of the city. In addition, there are regular tours around the main points of interest for those wanting to engage more with the cathedral’s history. The surrounding area of Île de la Cité lies in between the Left and Right banks of the city and is a charming place to stop for lunch whilst admiring the exterior of Notre Dame, such as at the typically French Saint Regis café nearby.