This Gothic cathedral is built on Ile de la Cite, on the site of an earlier cathedral. It was started in 1160 and was completed in 1345. It was badly damaged in the Revolution with the Kings Gallery above the doors being mistaken for kings of France rather than kings of the Old Testament. It had major restoration work started in the 1820s after a campaign involving Victor Hugo.
The Gothic design is evident in the flying buttress at the far end of the cathedral, as these allowed larger stained glass windows and the high vaulted ceilings. There are two beautiful rose windows - with the Mary at the centre and Jesus in the other. There is also an intricately carved and painted Chancel screen depicting scenes from Jesus' life.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, but you can buy candles to light and there is also a book to include prayer requests. It is open everyday until 7pm.
It is also possible to climb the towers - there is a separate entrance outside at the side of the cathedral. It is a long climb up narrow stone spiral staircases, and is quite tough going. However, there are great views of the city and the opportunity to see gargoyles up close and personal. I've been up several buildings in Paris, but this is probably my favourite, the views are great as well as the chance to see the architecture up close. It cost 6 euros and there is often a long wait to go up, but I think its worth it.
The cathedral just has an amazing wow factor with the large square in front of it and the incredible carved stonework especially the fine work around the doors. Yet inside is equally amazing with its soaring ceilings and elaborate and rich decoration. The grand Gothic architecture gives this the sense of being a great cathedral, unfortunately the hordes of tourists snapping photos detract from the atmosphere of prayer in this place. Its definitely worth coming here early before the tour buses descend to miss the crowds.
Just directly behind the cathedral is Square Jean XXIII which is a delightful formal garden with a fountain and rows of trees with good views of the flying buttress of the cathedral. There are lots of benches and it's a pleasant place to take a rest or have a picnic lunch. There is a bandstand and I was lucky to have a jazz band playing the last time I was there.