Whether you’re a fan of hunchbacks, an architecture nerd, or just someone who can really appreciate a mammoth old gothic church with freaky stories, Notre Dame is worth a visit.
Unfortunately, the 2019 fire and still undergoing restorations mean the inside is no longer accessible, but the outside of the cathedral with its intricate stone carvings, gargoyles, flying buttresses, enormous north and south towers, and lovely surrounding garden is a breathtaking view regardless. Then you add the headless saint, the gargoyle in the shape of the architect’s mother-in-law, an Emperor who crowned himself (that’s SO Napoleon), and Nazi snipers to the mix and you’ve got a properly Parisian cathedral: one with a history so rich (and so bonkers) that it would take an expert several hours to recount it all to you.
If that wasn’t reason enough for a visit, Notre Dame is also quite literally as close to the heart of Paris as one can get. Embedded in the ground of the public square outside the church is a little brass plaque marking Notre Dame as “kilomteter zero” of Paris, or the center of the city from which all roads are measured outwards.
Be sure to seek out the “Mother in law” gargoyle on the North side near the front. She stands out as the only human (esque) figure performing as a gargoyle, which is a freakish way of using a rain spout to scare you into being a better Catholic.
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame — Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004
Metro: Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame (line 4)
Neighborhood: Berges de Seine, 4th arrondissement
Nearby: Ile de la Cité, Catacombs, Saint Chapelle, Shakespeare and Company
Opening times: Closed until further notice
How to book tickets to visit the Notre Dame
None available until further notice but check their website for updates