No trip to Paris would ever be complete without a visit to the beloved Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. Built between 1163 and 1345 the Notre Dame has withstood centuries of history and is one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world. Not only is the Notre Dame a pure masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, it has also remained the city’s heart and soul for centuries of dynamic struggle and change.
The cathedral’s popularity as a top tourist site is well known. There is always bound to be a huge mass of people gathering around the inside and outside of the Notre Dame admiring her beauty. However, the real line for the cathedral is around the lefthand side where you can pay to visit the towers of the Notre Dame.
In the bone-chillling wind of an unseasonably cool late April day, my sister and me waited well over an hour to gain access to the harrowing stairs leading up to the top of the towers. At times the line was barely moving and we had no idea how long it would take. Yet, we remained in line resolved to get to the top. What I’ve learned in all my years of travel is that patience pays off and often rewards.
The long lines were well worth the wait. Climbing 387 narrow stone steps brings you to the west facade where you will find perhaps the most spectacular views of Paris in the entire city. It is also the best way to get up close and personal with the infamous, grotesque gargoylyes of the Notre Dame.
Perched high above the Parisian sky with the best view in the city are the world famous gargoyles. Up close the gargoyles are rather disturbing looking with frightening, grotesque faces that are believed by some to be the protectors of the city and ward off evil. However, an interesting tidbit is that the gargoyles have an architectural purpose. They are each designed with a spout that acts like a gutter protecting the masonry walls of the church from rainwater and heavy downpours.
A walk around the top of the Notre Dame is enough to make anyone with a fear of heights get a little dizzy however it is worth the price of admission and uneasiness to get some of the most sought after shots of the City of Light. Here are a few of my favorites.
If you go:
The Notre Dame Cathedral is located in the 4th arrondissement on Île de la Cité. There is free admission to the cathedral and it costs 8,5 E for the towers. Cathedral is open daily yet the towers are only open April -September. Check webiste for details. www.cathedraledeparis.com. Metro: Station Cité or Saint-Michel