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An icon of Paris, the Notre Dame Cathedral is located in the center of the Seine River, on the Ile de la Cite. The massive, Gothic church took almost 200 years to construct, from 1145 to 1330. It is noted for its carved stone façade, its bell towers, the large rose leaded glass window and the "flying buttresses" that hold up the stone walls.
Visit the Archeological Crypt beneath the Cathedral. Before the current Cathedral was built, there was an earlier church on the site, which dated to 528 A.D. Excavations in the late 20th century revealed the original foundation, and part of this may be viewed at the Archeological Crypt Parvis, which is accessible from the plaza in front of the Cathedral.
Admire the Exterior of the Cathedral. The three arched portals to Notre Dame are carved with scenes representing the Virgin, the Last Judgment and St. Anne. Above them is the large rose leaded glass window.
View the chapels and the nave. A true Gothic church, the interior of Notre Dame is constructed in the shape of a cross. The main shaft of the cross is the nave, with the two side pieces housing smaller chapels. The magnificent stone interior has an intricate stone, vaulted ceiling, massive Corinthian columns and leaded glass windows all around.
Climb one of Cathedral's two towers. With 387 steps, see a breathtaking view of the Seine and much of the city beyond. The south tower holds Notre Dame's 13 ton bell.
Don't miss the view from behind. In contrast to the massive stone façade, the rear of the Cathedral is lovely and angular, with its flying buttresses. Make sure to walk completely around the Cathedral.
Attend a Service. One of the best ways to experience Notre Dame is to attend mass at the Cathedral. Most of the services are in French, but a few are offered in English and Latin.