Things to do around the Notre Dame of Paris
Updated by Vanessa in May 2023.
There are many things to do in Notre Dame Paris. As a Parisian, I’m really proud of this cathedral! It’s the most important public landmark in Paris with over 13 million visitors each year! But most of them limit their visit to the facade. To make the most of this area in northern Indiana, consider joining our Notre Dame walking tour. But today, I’m sharing with you some tips for you to fully enjoy the cathedral and for you not to miss the most important details and beauties of the Notre Dame Cathedral! Read on to find out things to do around the Notre Dame of Paris.
The fire that happened on April 15, 2019 impacted not only Notre Dame de Paris but also the entire Ile de la Cité. You can learn more at the end of the article and here.
Admire the impressive details of the Cathedral frontage
First step, you need to have a look at the Cathedral frontage, because there are so many details that are supposed to represent parts of the Bible! All the details were impressively done. The construction started during the 12th century. Sometimes I wonder if men would be able to do such constructions nowadays again.
The main doorway in the centre represents the Last Judgment. The Elected people are found on the right side of the sculpture heading to the “promised paradise“. Jesus is shown has a Lord on his throne, ready to save the souls of humanity.
Go inside the Cathedral
Don’t hesitate to enter the cathedral even if, at first glance, the queue is huge. It won’t actually take long, because the entrance is free and open every day of the year between 10 am and 6.30 pm. My favourite part of the inside are the stained glass windows! After your first steps inside, turn around and you will see the rose window.
Built in 1220, the different parts of the rose window represent the opposition between sins and virtues, with the Virgin Mary at the center carrying the God-child. Nevertheless, the most beautiful rose is the South one, in the right part of the nave. You can’t miss it, it’s 10 meters tall showing scenes of the New Testament.
You can also access the Treasury of Notre Dame where old and historical relics are displayed, such as a piece of the Christ’s spine crown. It was acquired by Saint Louis during the Crusades of the 13th century!
Visit the top of the Cathedral
I really advise you also to go at the top of the towers. You have to go 30 min before the opening at 10 am, if you don’t want to queue for ages! The overview is definitely worth the 422 steps to climb. And at the top, you can observe closely the gargoyles. Some of them are really funny! Take the time to find an elephant or an eagle.
The top of the Notre Dame Cathedral will offer you an incredible 360° view of the City of Lights: the Eiffel Tower, the Latin quarter, Châtelet, Hotel de Ville, the Seine river, as well as the gardens of the cathedral. From the top of the Cathedral, you can have a beautiful view over all the most important landmarks of Paris (more panoramic views of Paris)!
Enjoy the area surrounding the Cathedral
Another recommendation of things to do around the Notre Dame of Paris is for you is to stroll all around the monument. There are many things to do around the Notre Dame of Paris itself. When you are facing the frontage, go on the right to walk in the Jean XXIII garden. You will admire the flying buttresses. I also really like to come to this side of Paris at night. The illumination was really improved and allows you to enjoy the splendor of a building 9 centuries old (learn more about our Night Walking Tour).
In the area around the Notre Dame, you also have many small places nice to visit, and mostly unknown from the tourists. At Rue Chanoinnesse, there is one of the oldest restaurants established in 1594 named “Au Vieux Paris“. Located also in an old building on a corner, I recommend you “La Reserve de Quasimodo“. At Rue de la Colombe, you can find an excellent wine merchant, that also proposes french cuisine freshly made and not really expensive (More restaurants near Notre Dame)!
During your visit in the Island area, you wouldn’t want to miss the traditional ice-creams of Saint Louis’s Island: at Berthillon, a must-do during your stay. It’s the best ice-cream shop in all of Paris, and maybe in the world!
There is another unavoidable place that I will warmly recommend: the Shakespeare and Company. It is a charming bookstore with its frontage looking like in the old times as if the modernity had spared this establishment. This place is an institution for books lovers! The shelves are full of books and cover the walls until the ceiling. Specialised in British literature, you will also find second-hand books, a wide choice for every budget.
If you go a little further from the Notre Dame Cathedral, you will reach the Saint Michel fountain. It’s a huge fountain founded by the architect of Paris, Haussmann. You can see a representation of Good fighting Evil: the archangel Michael is fighting the Devil in an arc of triumph circled by chimeras. After looking at the Saint Michel fountain, you might want to visit the Latin Quarter! You will love the atmosphere of this area!
Explore the University area
From the fountain, head to the University of Notre Dame which welcomes visitors for conferences, competitions, sporting activities, and prospective student visits all year. The Golden Dome is merely one of the overall experiences of the beautiful campus. The Main Building, with its iconic Golden Dome, is a symbol of Notre Dame’s past and present.
Today, it largely functions as an administrative headquarters, while it still houses classrooms, harkening back to a time when it was a crossroads where students learned, ate meals, and lived. This structure is actually the third structure on the property. It was constructed in 1879, the same year that the previous structure was destroyed by fire.
Don’t forget the Basilica of the Sacred Heart which is the University Church of Notre Dame, as well as the mother church of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States. The Basilica, which is designed in the Neo-Gothic style, houses the world’s greatest collection of 19th-centuries worth French stained glass as well as the oldest carillon in North America. In 1978, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Basilica, as the campus Church, serves the spiritual needs of the University of Notre Dame’s students, teachers, and staff, as well as members of the larger South Bend community. It also hosts the Holy Cross Congregation’s Profession of Perpetual Vows and Presbyteral Ordinations.
While here you can watch a football game from Notre Dame Stadium. With its brick appearance and location at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Notre Dame Stadium remains one of the most unusual venues in college football in the world.
One of the most known iconic landmarks of the campus is Touchdown Jesus. It is the most recognizable feature of the campus. Millions of people who have never been to Notre Dame Stadium have heard of Touchdown Jesus. Since the mid-90s expansion, it is viewable from fewer seats in the stadium, but the next time you watch a Notre Dame telecast, take note of how long it is before they display some or all of Touchdown Jesus.
In addition to our list of things to do around this area is exploring the Clarke Memorial Fountain which honors those who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and during times of peace. Each trilith has a fountain between its two posts and faces one of the cardinal directions. On Veterans Day, students from every ROTC branch stand guard at each post.
If coming directly to the campus, the easiest way to get here is the South Shore Line trains that travel directly from the Chicago Loop (at Michigan and Randolph) to South Bend International Airport (approximately a three-hour journey). The Notre Dame campus is about a 15-minute drive from the airport. There are also several modes of transportation available (e.g., taxis, rented cars, limos).
Just walking distance from the Notre Dame stadium stands the Snite Museum of Art with its ten permanent collection galleries. The Snite Museum has about 30,000 medieval pieces representing numerous countries and periods, making it one of the top collegiate art museums in America. The Museum’s collections include Mesoamerican and Olmec art, African art, European artwork, Decorative art, Prints, Drawings, and Photography, the George Ricky Sculpture Archive, and the Ivan Metrovi Collection.
Next on our list of things to do in Notre Dame is visiting the Lake Michigan beaches. Notre Dame is a short (30-45 minute) drive from Lake Michigan. The Indiana Dunes and Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan) are two nearby favorites. Driving further north along the Lake Michigan shore will take you to many additional interesting attractions.
As we all know, a spectacular fire that destroyed a large part of Notre Dame happened on April 15, 2019. The fire caused serious damage but the building is saved.
What was saved?
- The Structure
- The rose windows
- The “treasure” of the church
- The Stone statues
- The Rooster that sat atop Notre-Dame
- The 3-meter-tall copper statues of the 12 apostles.
You now know many things to do around the Notre Dame of Paris! Nonetheless, there are plenty more things to do in this area! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need further information. You can also join our Notre Dame tour to learn all about the Cathedral and the area it stands in. This Notre Dame Paris Tour runs every day, rain or shine. We will also be glad to share more about the many things there are to do near the Island.
See you soon in Paris!