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It all started almost where the Notre Dame Cathedral stands today. This spot is the Mecca of Paris for visitors who don’t always notice that they are standing where a 3rd century BC city we now call Paris once existed. Protected by the river and serviced by a road, the Parisi built a life, erected buildings and went about Celtic living over 2000 years ago, and while they were conquered by the Romans who called it Lutece, it was the Parisi who gave their name to the city. This is now the Ile de la Cité. The early remains of that settlement can be seen under the square facing Notre Dame in the Archeological Crypt of Parvis, underground in very comfortable and small spaces. It’s certainly worth a visit.
Minimum Time to Allow:
At least an hour unless you have a special interest in archeology. You can move around slowly and read all the descriptions comfortably.
What is Offered:
The archeological foundation of the original city of Paris on Ile de la Cite. One good thing about visiting the crypt is that there are other things of interest above ground. I especially recommend the statue of Charlemagne high astride a horse.
Look for the plaque in the stones just in front of the Cathedral. It marks kilometer zero from which all measurements in France begin.
The prefecture of police was of historical significance at the end of WWII. It was raked with gunfire and many of the holes in the stones can still be seen. For more about the Paris uprising and those last days of German presence in Paris, read Is Paris Burning by
Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins.
On the North side of the square is Hotel Dieu, the large city hospital preserved in a medieval house, as well as the remains of 19th century sewers. There are cellars from houses on the old Nueve Notre Dame and a room with paved stones and a bench.
Below ground are foundations of the late Roman Empire ramparts.
Early building foundations and primitive stone carving.
There are a few cards and small souvenirs available where you get your tickets near the entrance.
The entrance is gained by stairs which may be difficult for seriously disabled.
This is a site often overlooked but certainly worth the small entrance fee. Ask for a visitor’s brochure. It gives you the history and description of the site as well as a map and some pictures. Ask for one in your native language.
None as it is all underground. There is a simple stone marker and a stairway under the square at the far side of the Notre Dame entrance. You won’t miss it.
Best Time to Visit:
I suggest early in the day but the Crypt is not usually crowded and you won’t have to wait in line.
Place du Parvis Notre Dame
Just in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
(to 5PM Nov.-Mar.)
Adults 3.30 Euros
Reduced: 2.20 Euros
Children under 13: 1.60 Euros
Bus: 21, 38, 85,96 to Ile de la Cité
On foot only a few hundred feet from the Notre Dame entrance. We recommend walking in the area as there is so much to see.
From the Left Bank cross Le Petit Pont. It is on the side of the Prefecture de Police.
Batobus: This boat stops nearby on the left bank so if you are touring by boat, you can get off and get on again and tour on your own.
There is underground parking nearby but this is a very popular and congested area.
Call ahead to reserve.
Available near entrance