History, art and culture

Notre Dame vs Sainte-Chapelle: a look at two religious landmarks

Paris has plenty of museums, monuments and landmarks to discover - more than once, if you can't get enough. But two of our favourite places are Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle. Situated right opposite each other on the Île de la Cité, almost like they were meant to be rivals, only a stone’s throw from each other. We decided to look at both and pull out their most redeeming features, to see which one we prefer: Notre Dame

  • The cathedral dates back to the 14th century but its Great Organ dates back to the 13th century
  • Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the whole of Paris. Its size is another one of its impressive features as it measures over 11.5 double decker buses in length.
  • It also has two towers which can be climbed (up 387 steps!) to get sweeping views over the city.
  • The Great Organ has five keyboards, 190 tiles and 8,000 pipes and is one of the most famous organs in the world.
  • Notre Dame has 10 ringing bells – all with names, like Emmanuel, Marie, Gabriel and Étienne. It was Emmanuel which was rung to announce the city was on its way to liberation in 1944.
  • The gargoyles and chimera are some of the most iconic decorations on Notre Dame and were originally used as irrigation


  • The great church dates back to the 13th century, during the reign of Louis IX
  • This royal medieval gothic chapel is considered one of the best achievements of the Rayonnant period
  • Sainte-Chapelle is home to one of the most extensive collections of 13th century stained glass windows in the world
  • Nearly two-thirds of the 15 windows are the authentic stained glass windows from first construction
  • It was commissioned by Louis IX to house his collections of Passion Relics – which included Christ’s Crown of Thorns
  • The lower chapel has low vaulted ceilings painted to resemble a starry sky

We're torn! We love them both. Both have impressive qualities and are stand-out landmarks in Paris. You can't beat Notre Dame's gargoyles, nor it's bells; but likewise we love Sainte-Chapelle's kaleidoscopic colouring and stained glass windows - some of the oldest in the world... You can't compare, they're both worth a visit - and you can enter for free with The Paris Pass. What do you think?

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