Seeing Paris from the Top of Notre-Dame Cathedral

While doing research for our Paris trip, we came across many places advertising themselves as “the best place in Paris for city views”. Now, after having been to the city myself, I’m still no expert but my guess is they probably all offer visitors a pretty special view, because Paris is breathtaking from up high. Which one is the best, however, is up for debate, but the subject of today’s post is definitely in the running for that title!

I had so many pictures to share from our tour inside Notre-Dame Cathedral that I wasn’t able to fit the second part of our experience there – seeing Paris from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral – in that post. The cathedral was one of four city-view locations we checked out while in Paris, and were I to rank them in terms of “best view”, I’d put the cathedral in a tie for first place with the Eiffel Tower. (For the record, I think the Eiffel Tower would win first were it not for the fact that if you’re in the Eiffel Tower, then the tower will no longer be in your photographs. Bummer.)

While there wasn’t much of a line to get in to see Notre-Dame Cathedral itself on the day we visited, we had quite a long wait to go up in the towers to check out the view. Only a few people were allowed inside the towers at a time, so it was very slow-moving. (If you’re looking for where to queue up, it’s along the left side of the cathedral if you’re facing the west facade.)

When it was finally our turn to go up, the weather had turned cloudy and chilly. I was just praying the rain would hold off long enough for us to take it all in. The tickets we purchased (€8.50 per adult, children were free) allowed us to stop at two different spots for photo-taking opportunities. The first was about midway up the towers, and the second was from the very top of the cathedral. As an added bonus, we got an unexpected workout in by climbing the 422 steps to the top! (There are no lifts in the towers.)

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Out of the two levels we stopped at, my favorite was the first one, midway up the towers, and it was because of the gargoyles. Even from the ground these creatures were fascinating, but being level with them, and therefore able to include them in my city shots, was pretty unique. I love how they appear to be watching over the city from up high, like if someone were to dangle precariously from the Eiffel Tower, they’d take flight and save the day.

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

From the first level, we had a clear, unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, the church on the hill in the second photo. These two photos were both taken with a 50mm lens. If I’d had more time, I’d have switched to my 55-250mm lens so I could have gotten some shots with a little more zoom, but I was ushered on to the next level before I had a chance.

That is actually my one complaint about seeing the city from Notre-Dame’s towers – there is a time limit that you’re allowed to spend on each level, and in my opinion, it’s not long enough for someone who wants to take photos AND just step back for a bit and enjoy the scenery. Just something to keep in mind if you’re like me and prefer to linger.

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

After our time on the first level was up, we climbed the rest of the way to the top where we were enclosed on a small viewing platform by thick cable wires. As someone who does not particularly care for heights, those cables were like my security blanket. (The cables were also a protective feature on the first level, but do not typically get in the way of pictures on either level.)

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

My favorite part about seeing Paris from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral was our vantage point of the River Seine. It is such a beautiful river. We had the pleasure of walking along it multiple times on our trip and I rank its beauty right up there with the Thames in London.

You can also see the Eiffel Tower from the top level, but space at the top is limited and everyone tends to gravitate towards the one spot where the views are best. My recommendation is to get your shots of the Eiffel Tower while on the first level since it wraps around the cathedral and offers multiple spots with panoramic views.

Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral is, unfortunately, one of those areas where officials remind you to be aware of pickpockets, so that’s why Cory was wearing our camera bag on his chest like an over-sized fanny pack. (Ha!) Taking simple precautions reduces your risk tremendously, although it might come at the expense of looking a little awkward in family travel photos.

Comparing the time we waited in line to the time we actually got to spend in the towers would have caused Notre-Dame Cathedral to rank a little lower on my short list of “best Paris views” if not for the truly great, expansive views the cathedral has to offer. And then there’s the gargoyles – instant extra points added in for them. If you’re visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral anyway, I say do the towers, but maybe try going during the week for a shorter wait time. And make sure to already have the lens on your camera that you think you’ll use the most before you go up!

Notre-Dame Cathedral: Website
Address: Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris

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Seeing Paris From The Top Of Notre-Dame Cathedral

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  • Emmymom
    November 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Yes, sometimes the downside with amazing popular things is just that, they are so popular they become hard to enjoy. You got great shots though. The gargoyles are cool and almost kind of scary :)

  • Keith
    November 23, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    Hi Sarah, great photos! Reminds me of my time living in Paris. I’ll never get tired of wandering round that beautiful city!

  • Ashlee - I'll Love You Forever
    November 21, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Love these pictures, it does look awesome! The gargoyles pictures are excellent. Love cute buddled up Lex. What has been her favorite place to visit since moving there?!

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 22, 2013 at 8:18 AM

      I love that picture of her, too. :o) Her favorite place has actually been the school trip she took up near Wales in a town called Shrewsbury. And I think she liked it the most because her friends were there. ;o) She’s at that age where she doesn’t mind doing all of this stuff with us, but she’d rather just be at home with her friends. I know she’ll appreciate the experiences later though!

  • Katrin
    November 21, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    Definitely sounds like a good workout! But the beautiful pictures are definitely worth it! Thanks so much for sharing! Just stupid that there is a time limit!

  • Gossip Girl World
    November 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Cool! I didn’t know it was possible to climb up in the church. Must do that next time. Beautiful pics!

  • Jo
    November 21, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    You got some great photos!

  • Sky Envy
    November 21, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    Love the gargoyles photos! We missed going up the Notre Dame, they have just cut the line and said that it was already too late! We were 2 people behind! I will definitely have to go up the next time I’m in the city!

  • topchelseagirl
    November 20, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    I loved the gargoyles too. There was no time limit when we went, although that was over 20 years ago, we stayed up there for ages.

  • Stacie Stamper
    November 20, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    You are building an amazing collection of photos and memories!

  • Keith Wynn
    November 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Those gargoyles actually look awesome! What a view. Lots of steps but worth it I’m sure :)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    November 20, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Gargoyles are so cool. I always imagine they have the same personalities as the ones in the Hunchback – hilarious. 422 would have killed me. I did the ones at Covent Garden tube station the other day and nearly died. Beautiful pictures x

  • Gina
    November 20, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    Wow gorgeous shots. I never went up when we visited Notre Dame {just one more reason why I have to return} I love the gargoyles ~ handsome little devils. Thanks for all the wonderful information~I will be prepared when I go {which I love!}

  • Miwa
    November 20, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    What a breathtaking view!! Now I really wish I’d gone up there when I visited… :/ And you’re right, those gargoyles really look like they’re watching over the city!

  • Charlotte MacDonald-Gaunt
    November 20, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    I never went up to the roof when I was there, and now I wish I had. Oh well, there’s always next time, but what a great experience and nice photos :o). Xx

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    November 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    So, so beautiful.

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    November 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    They are pretty nice views, but I hate being ushered places. Might be worth a go next time I’m there seriously just for the gargoyles.

  • Sara Louise
    November 20, 2013 at 6:45 AM

    Gorgeous! The gargoyle shots are magnificent!

  • Jenn
    November 20, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    It’s sad that they rush you like that but the views are absolutely amazing!! I love that photos with the gargoyles!

  • Tammy Chrzan
    November 20, 2013 at 2:54 AM

    I have seen the gargoyles in pictures before and I wasn’t aware this is where they were, they are gorgeous. I’m like you in the fact that I have to have time to linger, I like to just look, to take a deep breath and take it all in… So I would be unhappy to have to be snappy and move on.
    I was wondering what camera you use? I am actually hoping to get a great deal on Black Friday, I have saved up for a Nikon D5200, they are normally about $800 and I’m hoping they are a steal on Black Friday… I have decided to come to London for New Years instead of Thanksgiving, as I only have 5 days off at New Years but I can squeeze in 10 days over the holidays as I get over 2 weeks off then. So I’ll do Christmas with my precious ones and then fly over. Fancy going to the Freud Museum with me? You guys are probably going to jet set off to another country though aren’t you?
    Let me know… much love to you, Tammy

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 20, 2013 at 5:34 PM

      I use a Canon 600D, normally with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. It’s an EXCELLENT entry-level DSLR. I’ve been using it for 2.5 years and have never regretted making the switch from point and shoot to DSLR. I’m just about ready to upgrade though and I’m looking at full frame DSLRs. Part of me wishes I’d started out using a full frame, just so I wouldn’t have had to buy a DSLR twice, so you may want to consider paying a little extra for a full frame if you think photography is something you’ll seriously get into.

      We will be back in the US with family for the holidays this year, so I think we may miss each other! No worries though – you’ll be here permanently very soon! :o)