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Île de la Cité Tour: Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle with Skip-the-Line Tickets

Immerse yourself in the city's iconic medieval architectural style
From US$504 privately
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Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • Notre Dame Cathedral (exterior only)
  • Sainte Chapelle
  • Conciergerie
  • Church of Saint-Séverin
  • Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre
  • Saint-Jacques Tower
  • Île de la Cité
Photos & Highlights
  • Embark on a journey through the heart of medieval Paris, exploring the iconic Gothic architectural wonders of Île de la Cité with an expert guide.
  • Looking to book this tour during the Olympic Games? Check back in with us in early 2024 when Paris venues announce their summer availability.
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Tour Description
Our three-hour Notre Dame tour will unveil the tenets of the medieval Gothic architectural style, known for its soaring vaults, flying buttresses, intricate stonework, and shimmering expanses of stained-glass. Accompanied by a medievalist, historian or art historian, we’ll explore Île de la Cité, the city's central island, and its surroundings to encounter the principal masterpieces of Gothic Paris: the majestic Church of Saint-Séverin, the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral (exterior only), the Sainte-Chapelle, the Conciergerie, the Saint-Jacques Tower—the only remaining vestige of the church of Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur (Saint James The Great).

At the outset of the tour, we’ll learn about the background and context for this iconic architectural style with our guide. Born in 1144 at Saint-Denis, Gothic became the architectural style of Europe for the next four centuries. Fittingly, the Gothic wonders of Paris are—of course—the Cathédral Notre-Dame (closed today for restoration after a devastating fire on the night of April 15th, 2019) and the Sainte-Chapelle. Starting with one of the oldest churches in Paris, the Église Saint-Séverin in the Latin Quarter, we will discuss the ribbed vaults and walk down the church’s double aisles which, as inside Notre Dame lead to a famous ambulatory. With a better understanding of the main Gothic features, we’ll walk towards the parvise of Notre Dame de Paris. Here, our expert guide will help us unravel the elaborate symbolism of Notre Dame's sculptural decoration from the exterior, understand the development of the rose windows, and trace the evolution of the Gothic style. We will discuss the meaning of the iconic gargoyles and slender flying buttresses that represent the height of medieval engineering.

With its unified composition of architecture, stained glass, painting, and sculpture, the magnificent Sainte-Chapelle still takes our breath away. We’ll spend considerable time here, however, due to strict rules prohibiting group lecturing in the upper part of the chapel, we’ll do most of our conversation from the exterior before heading inside. Next, we’ll explore King Louis IX's chapel, where we’ll explore the vestiges of this former residence at the neighboring Conciergerie. Here, we will focus on the impressive feast hall designed for the royal guard, which is the largest surviving Gothic hall in Europe. Time permitting, we may also visit the former prison building where Marie Antoinette and countless others were held before being sent to the guillotine (discussed further on our French Revolution Tour Paris). 

We will end the tour with a flamboyant style represented in the Gothic architecture of the emblematic Saint-Jacques Tower. This curious Gothic belfry stands alone in the heart of Paris and has long been the departure point on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Its enduring architecture offers compelling evidence of resistance to change. As our time together comes to a close, we will come away from the tour with a clear understanding of the main characteristics of Gothic Architecture and be able to identify them ( for a deeper dive into French Gothic Architecture we recommend our half-day trip to Chartres) We will also have a basic sense of the major landmarks of the Île de la Cité, once the epicenter of Medieval Paris, and grasp how these sites represent religious and secular authority in France's medieval capital.

Please note, that due to the fire in April 2019, it is still not possible to visit the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral. We will view it from the outside only, and much of it is covered with scaffolding due to ongoing restoration work.

Does this tour include climbing the bell towers of Notre Dame and/or a visit to the interior? Will we be visiting the crypt as well?
Due to the fire in 2019, these spaces remain closed to the general public. 

Does this tour include climbing the Saint-Jacques Tower?
No, however, your expert guide can give you information about how you can climb the tour on your own.

Is this tour wheelchair accessible?
Sainte-Chapelle is wheelchair accessible, but the Conciergerie is not. Please contact us with any questions.

Where do we meet? Where does it end?
Generally speaking, the tour begins near Place Saint-Michel. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map. The tour typically ends on the Ile de la Cité.

What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.

Will you pre-purchase tickets?
Yes. Your guide will have them on hand. Please note that we don't visit the towers or the interior of Notre Dame, nor the Saint-Jacques Tower.

Can I use the Museum Pass? 
Unfortunately, not. Tickets are mandatory and can't be canceled or modified. The Museum Pass is accepted at both the Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie but doesn't guarantee skip-the-line access. 

Is this tour good for kids and teens?
Yes! We have some excellent family-friendly guides who can appeal to the learning styles of children. We have a separate Notre Dame and Gothic Paris for Families tour just for families with children 12 and under. When booking, please provide us with information about your children such as favorite school subjects, and hobbies. This way we can match you with the best possible guide.

What are skip-the-line tickets?
For this tour, your tickets are pre-purchased which allows you to directly enter the security line at the chapel without waiting to purchase tickets, rather than taking a detour to the onsite ticketing office. You will still have to wait in a security line, which can often move slowly due to increased security at the Justice Palace next door. 
Where You'll Start
324 Reviews (4.65)

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Loved our Ile de la Cite Tour! Our tour guide Ange was friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgable, and engaged. He met us promptly, focused his tour on our interests, and was flexible with our timing. The tour itself was fabulous. We saw several interesting local churches, Notre Dame from the outside (still under construction) and the absolutely stunning Sainte Chapelle, which I would now add to a 'must see' list for those interested in Parisian architecture and churches. Really fun tour, so glad we booked it.
Ange was a fantastic guide. In particular, his tour of Saints Chapelle took us beyond mere marvel at its beauty to a deeper understanding of the structure of the stained glass and key elements that brought it to life. We thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hours and will work with Context again.
Terrific your…great day.