The site of royal weddings, coronations, and state funerals, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most-visited structures in Paris. But with her bells silenced and her doors shuttered as workers rebuild after a devastating fire, millions of tourists are seeking alternative churches to visit, both in the City of Lights and across the most-visited country in the world.
Here are some incredibly beautiful churches in France besides Notre Dame de Paris.
1. Church Of Saint Sulpice -- Paris
While many visitors are familiar with the white travertine towers of Sacre Coeur, Paris’s second-largest church is less frequented. The Church of Saint Sulpice is about a mile west of Notre Dame and typically has a much higher parishioner-to-tourist ratio than other popular French churches.
With its blended architectural styles and mismatched asymmetrical towers, the Church of Saint Sulpice is unique among more traditional Gothic and Romanesque churches. Inside Saint Sulpice, 6,600 brushed steel pipes and elaborate wood carvings make its organ one of the largest and most exceptional in the world.
2. Cathedral Basilica Of Our Lady Of Amiens -- Amiens
About 2 hours north of Paris, the Amiens Cathedral is considered to be the grandest Gothic cathedral in France. Not only does its oak steeple, rising nearly 370 feet, make it the tallest cathedral in France, but its cavernous interior also makes this medieval UNESCO World Heritage site the largest.
One of the most beautiful features of the Amiens Cathedral is its facade. Elaborately carved statues of religious figures and detailed Biblical scenes fill the doorways and exterior walls of the church. And if you visit the cathedral in December or during the summer, don’t miss the fantastic light show.
3. Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Reims -- Reims
Walk in the footsteps of royalty by visiting Reims Cathedral, just 90 minutes northeast of Paris, where all but seven of France’s kings were crowned. This UNESCO World Heritage site embraces its regal background with the Gallery of Kings, elaborately carved statues that stretch horizontally across the front of the cathedral.
The church also recognizes Saint Joan of Arc. Inside, you’ll find a statue of the beloved French saint dressed in a fleur-de-lis robe and holding a sword. Outdoors, you’ll see an equestrian statue of the saint dressed in men’s clothing with close-cropped hair and her sword drawn.
4. Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Strasbourg -- Strasbourg
On the French-German border, about 5 hours due east of Paris, the Strasbourg Cathedral is considered to be one of the best examples of high Gothic architecture. Gothic churches are generally tall, light-filled structures, and the Strasbourg Cathedral doesn’t disappoint. Strolling through the church’s nave as sunlight pours through the multistory stained glass windows, visitors are bathed in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Pro Tip: Climb the 332 steps to the church’s viewing platform for a spectacular view of the city!
5. Cathedral Of Saint Gatianus Of Tours -- Tours
About 3 hours southwest of Paris, surrounded by hundreds of beautiful castles, the Tours Cathedral sits on the south bank of the Loire River. It features soaring towers and rich decor. The French King Philip Augustus wrote in a letter to Pope Lucius III that he considered the Cathedral of Saint Gatianus to be one of the most beautiful jewels of his crown.
6. Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Chartres -- Chartres
This UNESCO World Heritage site, located about 90 minutes southwest of Paris, is well known for its expansive collection of French Gothic art, numerous statues, and 13th-century stained glass windows. Because of the stories the cathedral’s stained glass windows and statues tell, the structure is often called “the book of Chartres.”
Pro Tip: If you visit the Chartres Cathedral between April and mid-October, don’t miss Chartres in Lights, a free sound and light show that runs nightly from sundown until 1 a.m.
7. Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Bayeux -- Bayeux
The Bayeux Cathedral, about 3 hours west of Paris, was the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry. Now housed in a dedicated museum, the tapestry is a massive work of art that was stitched by Queen Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror. It tells the tale of the Norman invasion of England.
Unlike the many Gothic cathedrals mentioned above, the Bayeux Cathedral is in the Norman Romanesque architectural style. Less grand, with softer edges, this simpler architecture reminds me of the pastoral beauty of the surrounding French countryside.
Whether you stay in Paris or venture beyond the City of Lights, adding one of these incredibly beautiful churches to your itinerary will allow you to discover more of France and her rich history.