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Visiting cathedrals in France

We want to make stops at several major cathedrals in France. I have researched but am confused if there admission fees. We might consider tours but not for all of them. Does anyone know what I should expect? And if I need to buy entry tickets in advance?

Chartres
Bourges
Orleans
Reims
Rouen
Mont St Michel I know the Abbey has a fee. May buy a GetYourGuide tour here

We can read up on art and architectural and historical details. I have found their Open hours. Thanks for any tips or recommendations. We are doing a self-driving tour and these are all on our route and look to be amazing. Diane

Posted by
27362 posts

I don't remember about entry fees in Reims and Rouen, the only ones I've been to, but major churches are likely to have an optional audio guide available, and there will be a fee for that. It's possible you could save some money if you have an earphone splitter so the two of you can share one device.

Posted by
8173 posts

When we visited Rouen, Chartres and Reims, they, being churches, did not have admission fees, nor did Notre Dame. But things change. Why don't you check their web sites. In Italy it is typical to charge admission as a way to partially finance the hideously expensive upkeep on centuries old buildings. It is common for there to be a fee to visit the crypt or climb the tower. Eg you can enter Sacre Couer without cost but pay a fee to climb the Tower.

Posted by
37 posts

Thank you. I have searched the websites for all of these beautiful churches. I did see fee for tower or crypts. Am guessing most are "free." Just don't want to get to Chartres and find I needed an advance ticket! Thanks!

Posted by
543 posts

We visited the cathedral in Orleans last September. It was free to enter the church.
As with other cathedrals, during the summer they have a light show on the facade of the church at night.

Posted by
921 posts

This is from notes to myself for our December 2022 France trip:

"Chartres Cathedral (Free). (Take Rick Steves self-guided tour p. 606-617--RS Paris book). Climb the tower (7 Euros) at 3 p.m. “WITHOUT RESERVATION – 3:00 p.m. every day” (website) The cathedral looks like it is open everyday but there are no tours on Mondays.

Posted by
7007 posts

No admission fee at any active church in France as far as I know, abbeys, crypts and bell towers aside.

Posted by
2006 posts

In case you drive from Reims to Rouen (A26 and A29) or in opposite direction you can visit the cathedrals of Amiens and Laon too. Amiens has the largest cathedral and the latter is a charming hill top town, still having it's medieval walls and the cathedral there is famous for it's oxen overlooking the place from it's towers. Following this route avoids a drive through the outskirts of Paris.

If the plan is driving from Orléans / Chartres to Le Mont-Saint-Michel certainly worth a stop is the historic centre of Le Mans with it's cathedral too.

Edited: On the way from Reims to Bourges or opposite direction Troyes is certainly worth puting on your list. Has a nice cathedral and a whole lot of half-timbered houses. If you have the time for it ofcourse.

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks! So many amazing places! I think we need another month! I already have a bad case of FOMO! Hate to miss anything!

Posted by
112 posts

There are no fees to enter the overwhelming majority of churches or cathedrals in France (places like Sainte-Chapelle and a few others are exceptions). None of the cathedrals you mentioned has an entrance fee, though there are fees for audioguides (if offered) or access to special areas. At Mont Saint-Michel you pay an admission to visit the abbey and you can get the audioguide, which is totally sufficient to explain what it is you are looking at. Unless you are intensely interested in the history of the abbey there is no need for a guide. The abbey itself offers guided tours and there is info on the website about that. See the MSM website for info about visiting the abbey or any other info you need to plan your visit there:

https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/

https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/discover/visit-the-mont-saint-michel/visit-the-mont-saint-michel/the-abbey-of-mont-saint-michel/

Posted by
1996 posts

I would look to see when the Labyrinth of Chartres is open. Sometimes it is covered by chairs. My family had the best time as it is an old labyrinth and does make you feel calm after walking around the lines. It was so fun watching all the visitors walking silently around on the lines.

Posted by
4154 posts

All great choices listed above , but notably absent for me is St Denis in Paris , especially if you visit Reims .

Posted by
2006 posts

All the cathedrals in the mentioned places here are Gothic and even fantastic they look more or less the same, so there is a risk getting bored after a while. Maybe you can’t imagine this now at home, but likely will happen once driving around. So worth looking for enough variation and limit for instance the number you want to visit. Realize now adding my list doesn’t make it easier, but nevertheless you can make a nice selection.

Saint-Denis is worth a visit for it’s Royal Necropolis, an amazing collection of almost all the royal tombs from the 7th century to the early 19th century. It's too long ago I visited it, so not sure if this place is the exception where you need tickets. If I am not wrong that is Gothic architecure started in Saint-Denis and together with the necropolis to my opinion one of France's finest and most unique monuments.

Posted by
37 posts

St Denis was not on my radar. Thanks. Each has special and unique features. We’ll see how many we get to or how much time we spend.

Same problem with visiting prehistoric caves and their art—-Niaux vs Chauvet is my latest conundrum. Chauvet is easy to fit on our itinerary. Niaux is not but it is real, not a replica.

I will check out St Denis! Thanks.

Posted by
112 posts

Wil said - "If I am not wrong that is Gothic architecure started in Saint-Denis" and Wil is correct. Wil also raised another issue about driving around just to see gothic cathedrals (because like anything else you'll get bored of too much of one thing in large doses pretty quickly because they'll all start to look the same) when there are loads of other things to see in the vicinity of the cathedrals you want to visit, or on the way between the gothic cathedrals you want to visit. You haven't provided any dates or other info about your visit and I don't want to open that can of worms but I hope your vacation doesn't just involve driving between these cathedrals as fast as possible in as short an amount of time as possible.

Posted by
37 posts

Hi. No, thanks for your concern. We are doing a long driving trip, seeing major sights and off the beaten path villages, UNESCO sites, national parks, scenic drives and hikes. We are packing a lot in, but will enjoy leisurely walking tours and mountain vistas, art museums, architecture, people-watching, too. Most of the cathedrals I mentioned are simply on our routes to other places. Some we saw many years ago. Some we may skip, some explore more slowly. We are retired so we can ‘recover’ from the trip when we get back!

Posted by
4154 posts

Just to explain the Reims reference - This was the traditional location for the coronations of the French Kings . So, from beginning to end .

Posted by
7401 posts

At Chartres, I highly recommend signing up for the excellent tour! I think the one in English was around 2pm. When I was there in 2019, it was about €10 Euro, and they did the tour if enough people showed up to make it worthwhile for the guide. I let the gift shop ladies know I was interested as soon as I arrived. Research it ahead to see if that’s how they still offer it.

Also, don’t miss the night wonderful light shows projected on the front of the cathedrals! I saw them in Rouen, Chartres, Le Mans and Nancy. (Nancy’s was at the Place Stanilas Square)

Posted by
3392 posts

Have you considered St. Denis?? It is incredibly unique as it's the place where many kings and queens of France has been interred in this spot for hundreds of years. There is no other church like it in France and it's well worth a 1/2 day. This can be easily done via the metro from central Paris.

Posted by
1163 posts

Thanks to all! I will consider my question answered!

Not to be snarky, but funny how this was posted three days ago by the OP, yet people still pile on with answers. Do they not even read the thread before chiming in?

Posted by
2006 posts

I agree and good to notice this but…...see OP’s next post as an appreciation of my post and “Hate to miss anything!” as an approval to continue this thread.