Notre-Dame, Paris

If the Tour Eiffel is the symbol of Paris, the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris is its heart. Sitting on the banks of the Seine, this marvelous architectural masterpiece is a definite “must-see.” Its magnitude is capable of rendering many tourists speechless. Whether you decide to spend time admiring the exterior or the interior, it is easily time worth spending.

Notre-Dame is famous outside of Paris. Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the adaptations to stage and screen saw to this. You can go to visit simply to see the gargoyles. You will need to climb up the steps to the cathedral’s twin towers to get a good view, however.

Yet, the Cathedral is much more than its Gothic gargoyles. Victor Hugo described the building as a “vast symphony in stone.” It is truly a delightful structure. It was the centre of Paris dominating its skyline for centuries. It is also a central point for France.

In front of its massive main front door is a bronze plaque. It sits firmly in the ground, acting as “Ground Zero.” From here, all distances from the city are measured.

The Cathedral is also an entity unto itself. It is a display of 13th century portals. There is the sculpted Portal of The Virgin, The Portal of the Last Judgment, the Portal of St. Anne. These are the best known. There are also the Portal of the Cloister and the Portal of St. Stephen.

Lesser known, but as beautifully decorated. Inside, although the floors are at street level, the eye rises ever upwards drawn by the ribbed and vaulted ceiling as well as the light reflecting into the rose windows. The interior combines 13th to 18th century elements of architecture, painting and sculpture. The high altar dates from the 19th century, while the woodcarvings in the Chapel of St. Peter are 14th century.

While you are in the neighborhood, you may consider fitting in any of the following nearby attractions:

  • The Latin Quarter
  • Paris University
  • Musée Picasso
  • Musée de l’Histoire de France
  • Conciergerie
  • Hôtel Dieu