June 12, 2014

My Bucket List: Tower of Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the major sights in Paris. It's listed as part of the 'Paris, Banks of the Seine' UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to Victor Hugo’s fictional hunchback, Quasimodo. It’s also a great example of gothic architecture with its flying buttresses, ribbed vaulting and pointed arches. When I discovered I could climb to the top of the cathedral’s tower, I added the experience to my bucket list. And this experience put both my stamina and my knees to the test.


Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris


The tower entrance is located around the left corner as you face the front of the cathedral. Only twenty people are allowed in at one time, spaced at roughly 10-minute intervals, so there was a queue winding across Place du Parvis. (There was a separate line for entry to the cathedral.) The circular staircase is narrow so once you enter the tower, you must keep moving upward. The only way back down to the square is by another staircase but if you need a rest, there’s a gift shop located midway up the tower.


The View of Paris from the Tower of Notre-Dame


The tower has 387 stairs and I soon felt the burn in my thigh muscles. But once I stepped through the doorway and onto the narrow walkway of the south tower, the views from the Chimera Gallery were worth the effort. The Eiffel Tower, the rooftops of Paris, and the quays along the Seine were spread out below me and I came face-to-face with the cathedral's grotesque menagerie of gargoyles and chimera. (Only the cathedral’s waterspouts are actually gargoyles; the other decorative sculptures are called chimera.)


Chimera of Notre-Dame

The Stryga Chimera

By the time we returned to Place du Parvis, my legs were pretty wobbly so we sat down for a while to watch the man I call ‘The Bird Whisperer of Notre-Dame’ before continuing our exploration of Paris.


The Bird Whisperer of Notre-Dame



If you go:
Notre-Dame Cathedral is located on Ile de la Cité. There’s no charge to enter the cathedral but tickets for the Tower are €8,50 (also covered by the Paris Museum Pass). Check the National Monuments Centre website for up-to-date pricing and hours for the tower and the  Notre-Dame de Paris web site for information, including service times, for the cathedral.


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