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Churches of Paris

Hello! I don't have a lot of time to Paris but I can't seem to stop adding churches to my itinerary. Currently I have Notre Dame (an obvious choice but I can't skip it), Sainte Chapelle (Holy Chapel), Sacre-Coeur, and Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Are all of these worth visiting? Should any be skipped or any others added? Can anyone give me a rough estimate of how much time I need to do justice to each.


Posted by
914 posts

Sainte Chapelle is definitely worth visiting. The sheer size of Notre Dame makes it a stand out in my book yet because of the crowds (I visited over Christmas holidays), I didn't feel I was really able to enjoy it. I felt like I was being shuffled along with the crowd. I have only seen the outside of Sacre Coeur so cannot speak to the interior. The view of the city from Montmartre is worth the trek even if you don't make it inside.

Please keep Sainte Chapelle on your list. The windows are incredible, and I think it provides a stronger spiritual sense and quiet experience than the bigger cathedrals.

Posted by
172 posts

The churches of Paris are fascinating. the Miraculous Medal Church has the remains of St. Catherine Labor. Very close to this is the Lazarist Church which is dedicated to, and has the remains of St. Vincent De Paul, probably one of the most important Saints of France and the church, at 93 Rue Severes. It takes most of a day, but a train trip from Monparnasse to Chartres is worth it all. The cathedral is other-worldly. In Rick's book, Mr. Miller is referenced. He leads tours of Chartes, usually around noon. Take the tour while he is still active and with us. The extraordinary cathedral is brought to life by his expertise. I can safely say, that there will be no one left after he passes that is so dedicated to Chartres. Outside of Paris, the cathedral of Amiens is a must. We are people who do cathedrals and museums, the churches of Paris and surrounds are second to none. Hank, Novato, Ca

Posted by
3387 posts

Sainte Chapelle (20 mins) and Notre Dame (45 mins minimum) should be the top of your list. In my book Sainte Chapelle is absolutely not to be missed - it's truly stunning especially if you go on a very sunny day.
IMHO Sacre-Coeur is not that interesting on the inside...the outside is unique but doesn't take long to see and photograph. 15 mins to climb the hill, 15 minutes to admire the church and the views, 15 mins to walk back down.
You may want to add Saint Sulpice (15 - 20 mins) to your is quite interesting and if you're lucky enough to hear the organ it's quite a treat. Saint Eustache (15 - 20 mins) is also beautiful and not as visited as some of the others.

Posted by
6858 posts

There are so many wonderful and unique churches in Paris that visiting them can be a challenge. Two of my favorites were Saint Jean de Montmartre (dedicated to John the Baptist) and La Madeleine - the former because there just aren't many churches designed in the Art Nouveau style and the latter because of it's Greek temple style that was designed to honor Napolean's army, definitely not normal for a Catholic church.

Preference of which churches to visit with limited time is very personal but I agree that there are some that, if not must-sees, are definitely should-sees. Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Sainte Chapelle, and St Sulpice are the ones that are on most people's lists.

Posted by
1280 posts

I'm not terribly into churches per se but I really loved Sainte Etienne (I think that's right) across from the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter.
It has some stunning medieval stone grill work between the sanctuary and the seating area.
It's not high on the tourist list, so it's also peaceful.
I wouldn't choose it over the Eiffel Tower (!) but it's lovely if you're in the area.

Posted by
11503 posts

I would take out Sacre Coeur and sub in St Eustashe.. I just wondered in one day and it just exuded something special to me.. its about 500 years old.. so you can hear many shadow footsteps in there ( so to speak)

Posted by
15448 posts

Notre Dame is definitely worth visiting. You can see Sainte Chapelle by going to an evening concert. You won't have the hassles of long lines for security or tickets. If you get there early, you'll have time to walk around the chapel and take some photos before the concert. It's well lit during the performance so you'll be able to continue to enjoy the stained glass panels - choose seats that offer a better view - in other words don't sit right up front.

I'm not a fan of Sacre Coeur. It's a schlep to get there. While the view is nice, there are others that are at least as good and more central.

I haven't been to the last you mention. There are plenty of others that I like very much, some have been mentioned already. But you said you don't have a lot of time and there are so many wonderful things to see and do in Paris, the only good plan is to return . . . again and again.

Posted by
637 posts

Another vote for Sainte Chapelle! Loved everything about it; more serene, gorgeous windows; not to be missed. We attended Mass at Notre Dame and it was a wonderful experience (in spite of the rude people taking photographs while the service was taking place) If you are pressed for time, I would take Sacre-Coeur off the list. As previously mentioned, the best part was the view from outside of the church.

Posted by
2561 posts

Another vote for Saint Chapelle - stunning! Notre Dame is iconic, so don't miss that either. I also love Saint Germain des Pres. While I enjoyed Sacre Couer, if you're low ontime, you can skip it.

Posted by
7175 posts

Saint Sulpice gets a vote from me, as well as the Basilica at St Denis, with its stained glass and royal tombs.

Posted by
15091 posts

Leigh, I found the older churches of Paris to be very different than those of, say, Italy, Germany, Belgium, etc. Almost all of them were stripped of their interior decorative accoutrements and abused during the Revolution so they felt a little bare but have value nonetheless for their architecture and histories.

Where interiors go, Sainte-Chapelle should definitely be top of list: the windows alone in that one will blow your mind.

The exterior of Notre Dame was more captivating, IMHO, than the interior. Same for the Sacre-Coeur, which I agree can be skipped if there isn't time. Nearby Montmartre cemetery was more interesting than the church.

I'll agree with Anita on Église Saint-Sulpice: that one has some Delacroix frescoes, an interesting gnomon, and one of the largest organs in the world. Also with Nancy on La Madeleine: not originally designed to be a church at all but has a lovely altar.

Will echo SharYn on Saint-Étienne-du-Mont (St. Stephen), Add that to the list for a look at its lacy, 16th-century double-spiral rood loft - said to be the only surviving screen in Paris - and shrine of the city's patroness, Geneviève: her bones largely destroyed during the Revolution but the base of her sarcophagus and scant remaining relic encased in gilded reliquaries.

Posted by
784 posts

If you are in Paris on a Sunday, you can go to the Free organ concert at St. Eustache - it is at 5:30 pm and lasts 30 minutes. Arrive a little early to tour the church as there is a mass immediately following the concert. The organ is said to be one of the largest in Europe and the church is second only to Notre Dame in size. It is Rich in history as it was the heart of the Les Halles district for the 800 years when the giant food market was active.

Posted by
2466 posts

La Trinité in the 9th arrondissement was designed by Eiffel and is worth a
look. About 45 mins.
So is the little Arménien church where there are often concerts. 30 mins.
Saint-Louis-en-l'sle has the relics of Saint Louis, King of France - but sometime during the year there's a procession bringing it to Notre Dame. 45 mins.
Saint-Étienne du Mont has the finger bone of St Genevieve encased in a crystal tube, as well as her former tomb. You have to look down towards the floor to read all about it. 45 mins.

Posted by
129 posts

My vote goes to Basilica St Denis for it's historic origins - first of it's kind architecturallyand, the burial place of most kings and queens - an easy metro ride then 5 minute walk to the basilica. Suggest an hour minimum for interior including the crypt. I could spend hours though. If you can research the building of it in advance, will add to the experience.

I echo others' comments that you may want to skip Sacre Couer - if you see from a distance which you will, should be enough. I'm not catholic but mass at Notre Dame is pretty impressive. The jewel box of St Chapelle nearby is worth a quick visit. and if in a hurry, 1/2 hour inside suffices. I found Cathedral Nevsky to be breathtaking and unique but realize you may not have time to venture out of the centre. If you do go, 1/2 hour inside is fine and you could picnic at nearby (2 blocks) Parc Monceau while there

St Sulpice has recitals Sunday morning approx. 10:30 and attracts world renowned guest organists. St Germain des Pres also historically important and across the street from Deux place to people watch. St Eustache is wonderful many choices! I would suggest you plot out your priorities and see what route makes sense if want to see multiple sites. Sometimes I spend less than an hour inside a church but know I will return as I hope you do. Enjoy!

Posted by
782 posts

I went to Basilica St Denis this May and it has a lot Royalty buried there,have been to all of the other mentioned churches.We went to Sunday mass at Sacre-Couer with the nuns singing,it was impressive and the place was packed.Chartres is a can't miss,just about an hour by train.


Posted by
7617 posts

Oh yes, definitely St. Denis -- in MHO the most overlooked magnificent sight in Paris -- on the 13 metro Basilica St. Denis stop. A must see.

Posted by
225 posts

St. Denis, definitely. Notre Dame, definitely. St. Chapelle, definitely--and, I would try to attend a concert there in the evening. Also, if you have time, go out to Chartres to see the cathedral.

Posted by
20 posts

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I always visit churches on my trips. I would look at the Notre Dame website as they have free guided tours by a docent several times per week in English. We took this on our first trip to Paris and it was enjoyable, about 75 minutes in length and covered much information. Unlike paid tours, our guide was able to take us into a few areas behind locked gates that the general public and other tours cannot access. I would skip Sacre Couer. It is further away and there are so many other churches closer to Notre Dame to explore. The lines at Sainte Chapelle are long but I would get there early and make it my first stop or do the concert at night which someone else suggested. The chapel of the Miraculous Medal is worthwhile visiting. We prayed a bit and walked around total time was maybe 30 minutes. Someone else mentioned St. Etienne duMont near the Pantheon. When we visit Paris, that is where we go to mass. It is a beautiful church and one of a few that still has the old rood screen that separated the mass goers from the clergy. Other favorites are St. Eustache, St. Julien Le Pauvre (night concerts are offered here from time to time but no advance tickets needed, you buy as you enter), and St. Suplice. Have fun.

Posted by
12154 posts

I like history so St. Denis is at the top of my list. Centuries of French royalty are buried there.

Posted by
12663 posts

Kathy says upthread "Will echo SharYn on Saint-Étienne-du-Mont (St. Stephen), Add that to the list for a look at its lacy, 16th-century double-spiral rood loft - said to be the only surviving screen in Paris - and shrine of the city's patroness, Geneviève: her bones largely destroyed during the Revolution but the base of her sarcophagus and scant remaining relic encased in gilded reliquaries."

I was so put out with myself on my last trip to Paris. I got to Saint-Etienne-du-Mont and FORGOT I actually wanted to go inside! I was so excited about seeing the steps in the front where Owen Wilson catches the cab to the past in Midnight in Paris and sort of lost my That is pretty pathetic. The interior is scheduled for the next trip, though!

If you do decide to go in to Notre Dame, don't be put off by a long line out the front door. It moves quickly and even from the back of the plaza you should be in in 15 minutes or so. It's the security check that takes time. Do be watchful of the petition girls that work the line.

Posted by
15091 posts

I was so excited about seeing the steps in the front where Owen Wilson
catches the cab to the past in Midnight in Paris and sort of lost my

Owen does have that effect on a gal, eh Pam? :O)

Posted by
12663 posts

Hahaha, Kathy!! Really, I was hoping the cab would come along and pick me up and take me back!