Discover Notre Dame and Gothic Paris with Private Guide
- Notre Dame Cathedral: The supreme achievement of early French Gothic architecture took 182 years to complete, and has never lost its power to awe. Learn about its characteristic arches, rose windows, flying buttresses, the symbolism of its exterior gargoyles, and more.
- Sainte-Chapelle: Just a quarter-mile northwest of Notre Dame stands the lesser-known Holy Chapel, a gem that represents the third generation in the evolution of the French Gothic cathedral style. In some ways, it surpasses its larger, more famous cousin – even though it took just seven years to build.
- The Conciergerie: The Chapel is part of a larger complex of medieval masterpieces that included the royal residence, the Palace of Justice, and the prison that held Marie Antoinette. You'll visit the vast feasting hall that could hold the king's entire staff of 2,000 – the largest surviving Gothic hall in Europe.
- More than a guide: Even by GoBe standards, your tour leader is special. Known officially as "docents" (from the Latin for teacher) and unofficially – and proudly – as nerds (for their encyclopedic depth of knowledge), they're the difference between seeing Paris and understanding Paris.
- Your group, your tour: This private experience lets you set the departure time and adapt the itinerary to your party's preference. The tour usually runs about three hours, but even that's flexible. And you can build a real rapport with your docent, who's actually not nerdy at all.
About This Paris Tour
Raise your hand if you can explain the difference between French Late Gothic Flamboyant architecture and Rayonnant, the style that preceded it.
Okay, one. Not surprising, and not important. Because understanding Gothic Paris isn't about the intricacies of barrel-vault design and flying buttresses. It's about how Gothic Paris changed the world through soaring heights of imagination that still shape our culture in the 21st century.
In other words, this isn't a graduate course in engineering or architecture. It's a refresher course for anyone who, in the rut of everyday routine, loses sight of the glorious peaks of our shared human journey. Raise your hand if you wouldn't find that refreshing.
As it happens, this particular journey is led by someone who probably could teach a graduate course. GoBe's partner in these select tours goes beyond the usual guides with what they call "docents" – Master's- and Ph.D.-level experts who don't break your brain with jargon, but open your mind with the human stories that put astonishing technical achievements in context. It's a look at the big picture, revealed through seemingly unrelated tiny details.
It should be noted that our travel partner also refers to its scholar guides as "nerds," because they live, breathe, and eat (hey, this is Paris) their subjects, 24/7. So they know, for example, that "Rayonnant" comes from the French word for "radiating" – as you'll see in the complex stained-glass patterns at Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle.
Those windows and interior layout patterns are a wonder to behold whether you know the proper terminology or not. But knowing the stories behind them – the context that unites everything you'll see on this tour – is what distinguishes the experience from ordinary sightseeing.
Raise your hand if you prefer ordinary.
Just like they drew it up
Part of the genius behind the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral derives from simple bad planning. As walls grew higher, they had to be made thinner to avoid collapse, causing stress fractures that threatened nearly two centuries of work. So architects improvised a solution: masonry blocks with supporting arches (or "flyers") that buttressed weak points. These innovative flying buttresses were adorned with magnificent detailing and sculptures to avoid looking like the makeshift measures they were.
Please make your way to Fontaine Saint-Michel, Place Saint-Andre des Arts, 75006 Paris to meet your guide. Look for your guide holding a sign with the tour name at the fountain. The walk typically ends on the Ile de la Cite.
Due to venue restrictions, we do not purchase tickets ahead of time. Your docent will help you purchase entry tickets for Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie on-site.
Your tour does not include the towers or the crypt, but your docent can direct you to the ticket office following the tour. As in many cities, keep your wallet or purse secured and leave the bling behind.
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors.
Expect a moderate amount of walking, steps and cobbled surfaces. Notre Dame Cathedral/Sainte-Chapelle are wheelchair accessible; the Conciergerie is not. If anyone in your party has mobility concerns, contact Hello@GoBe.com to discuss itinerary changes.
Walking Tour, Cultural, Private Tour, Luxury
Ph.D. or MA-level scholar guide
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages. Traveling with children 12 years of age and younger? Tell us their ages and interests during the booking process so we can match you with the best guide. Strollers permitted.
Special Medical Restriction
If you use a wheelchair we can accommodate you with at least 7 days' advanced notice, providing you have someone along to assist you. It's a big city, with a lot of distance to cover and not all areas are wheelchair accessible. Contact Hello@GoBe.com
Choose your date and time very carefully. Only a portion of this tour is refundable from the time of booking; within 72 hours of operation, it is fully non-refundable.
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