Attend Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Call me crazy, but seeing Notre Dame Cathedral was not on my Paris bucket list prior to arriving in France. What was I thinking? Peter and I actually passed by it the first time without even stopping and accidentally stumbled upon it the second time, only drawn in by the crowds and bleachers out front. Though many times while traveling, large crowds equate to a Disneyland-like attraction, this was different.

Notre Dame may not be the largest Catholic cathedral in the world, but it might be one of the most beautiful and famous with an estimated 14 million visitors a year.

14 million and one if you now include me.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

We got into the growing line, which surprisingly moved rather swiftly, to enter this masterpiece of French gothic architecture. At the entrance doorway, I reached for the Euros in my handbag prepared to fork over a handful in order to witness what was inside. But, there was no cashier, no ticket booth and no charge.

It’s free to get inside of Notre Dame Cathedral. Go.

Stepping into this spiritual place took my breath away. It would be hard not to be impressed by its high arched stonework, ornate hanging chandeliers and spectacular stained glass.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

As at most churches we have visited while traveling around the world, we lit candles for our special grandmothers who had passed on. It truly is a time where I feel closest to my nonna, knowing how religious she was.

Doing this always reminds me of something she said to me while she was knitting blankets for the needy, a few weeks before she passed away, “I’m ready whenever God is ready to take me”. There is something comforting about knowing she was ready to leave us, even though I was not ready for her to go.
Annette White at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

After the lighting of the candles, I was taking a picture of the public mass times displayed on the wall vowing to return the next day during the specified services, when bells started to chime. We were at the Notre Dame cathedral at exactly the right time to attend mass.

Seriously? That never randomly happens to me. 

We took seats in a faraway pew where photography was still allowed. Though, we quickly ended up moving to the second row from the front for a better view. The service was completely in French, which I do not speak an ounce of, unless you count bonjour and oui, oui.  Those two words did not get me too far in this mass, so I simply tried to follow the appropriate Catholic church procedure: stand when others stand, sit when they sit and hum when they start to sing.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Even though I didn’t understand a word, the echoing of the sermon, the chandeliers dangling overhead and the many other worshippers being present made this a spiritual experience not to be forgotten and that’s why it even made my list of 45 Amazing Things to do Before You Die.

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DETAILS: There are hundreds of tourists Notre Dame Cathedral, but work your way through them. You won’t be disappointed. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon when the crowds were at the peak and though things moved swiftly, I would recommend going to the first mass at 8:00 am when the crowds may be a bit thinner.
Bring a zoom lens if you would like to take photos of the mass up close because they only allow them while you are sitting quite a few pews back.
Address: 6 place du Parvis Notre-Dame, Ile de la Cité, Paris, France | Map
Website: Notre Dame Cathedral  Hours: Cathedral Visiting Times

2018-12-22T14:10:46+00:00July 19th, 2014|Categories: Europe, France, TRAVEL|Tags: |


  1. Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog July 20, 2014 at 9:44 am - Reply

    That’s what I love about Paris cathedrals: that they’re free. It annoys me how expensive the ones in London are. I’ve never been to mass in Notre Dame, but Evensong in Westminster Abbey is definitely worth attending. (Also, because it’s a way of getting inside without having to pay!)

    • Annette White July 20, 2014 at 10:00 am - Reply

      I have never been to one in London, but I’ll put Evensong on my list!

  2. Allison July 20, 2014 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Hi Annette!

    This is one of the many things I STILL regret not doing in Paris….I saw the Cathedral, went inside but always wished I had stayed for a service. Alas, it’s on my list now! The other thing I didn’t do in Paris was go to the Moulin Rouge why not?!?!?! (because i thought it was too touristy) WHO CARES!

    • Annette White July 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      The Moulin Rouge was a bit touristy, but I couldn’t resist going! It was worth saying that I had been, but I have seen better shows in Las Vegas 🙂

  3. Michael d July 20, 2014 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    If you ever go to Montreal the ND basilica Montreal is unbelievable. I think Celine dion got married there. Google image it, and that’s only a glimpse of how great it is!! Cheers Annette!

    • Annette White July 20, 2014 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      That one is gorgeous! I have never been to Montreal, but when I do visit I will definitely be stopping by the basilica.

  4. Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon July 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Notre Dame is stunning. I have not been to mass there, but I did go to midnight mass in Pisa’s cathedral. 🙂

    • Annette White July 21, 2014 at 8:21 am - Reply

      I bet midnight mass in Pisa was a memorable experience too!

  5. rebecca July 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    This article made me want to cry. I did the same thing, lite a candle for my granmother who was very religious. I even brought her a postcard and sent it back to Australia of the Notre Dame, which I know she treasured.

    She passed away sadly not so long ago but I know shes in a better place. She used to say the same thing as your nona “I’m ready whenever god wants to take me”

    Nice artilce

    • Annette White July 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      I love the idea of sending her a postcard from all the places I visited and wish she was still around to do so! I miss her terribly, but know her life was filled with love. I hope you feel the same about your grandmother 🙂

  6. Nguyen @HolidayBays July 31, 2014 at 5:28 am - Reply

    I love the architecture of this place. Especially the big columns, Look very fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing the experience.

    • Annette White August 1, 2014 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      The photos don’t even do it justice. It is incredibly beautiful.

  7. armida September 2, 2014 at 5:18 am - Reply

    I agree with you Annette, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Paris. I like the naturalism of its figures and stained glass are conversely with prior Romanesque structural engineering. The house of prayer treasury is striking for its relics and reverences which depict some of Catholicism’s generally critical and most featured relics incorporating the indicated Crown of Thorns, a piece of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.

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