Visiting Great Cathedrals of France

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2024
by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
Great Cathedrals of France

Ooh là là!

Planning a trip to France and looking for fun ways to explore this hexagonal-shaped wonderland? Create an itinerary by choosing iconic cathedrals to see as you move from charming city to city!

It’s so fascinating!

France is rich in amazements, including the famed Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Montmartre, Tuileries Garden, Versailles Palace, and more! There’s also a plethora of camera-friendly hotspots such as the iconic bridges that stretch the Seine River. For a memorable way to see the country, consider touring some of France’s great cathedrals.

Can’t top that!

Importantly, the country is known for its historic religious structures to include Notre Dame de Paris and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris (Sacré Coeur) just to name a few icons within the glorious “city of lights,” Paris.

A treasure trove of cathedrals  

In France, cathedrals are the focal point of towns, stretching way beyond the twenty arrondissements (administrative districts) of Paris proper.

Their purpose…

The great cathedrals of France primarily exist for reasons of faith and reflect the spread of Christianity. However, they also traditionally served, and continue to serve, as important hubs of community and power, both past and present.

Buildings magnifying the Glory of God!

Cathedrals are imposing buildings of generous size and splendor. These symbols of faith, spirit, life, and culture are massive in beauty, height, and exquisite detail to reflect the love and adoration of God. While French cathedrals may appear to bear similarities, each possess distinct and intrinsic beauty, making them ideal destinations to explore as you travel through the country. One simply cannot say, “Seen one, seen ‘em all,” because each one is truly a treasure.

Let’s go explore!

The extensive and reliable train system in France, the Métro, makes it easy to travel from one town to another. Using Paris as a springboard, here are four of many cathedrals worth visiting by train:



Primary outstanding features

Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral



Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, Strasbourg is the largest city of the Grand Est administrative region of northeastern France. It is about 397 kilometers from Paris.

The cathedral features mesmerizing Gothic architecture. It also utilizes unique pink sandstone from the Vosges Mountains. This historical place of worship has a must-see exquisitely decorated astronomical clock – the third to exist on that spot and dating from 1843. Not only does the clock have a calendar dial, but it also has a planetary one that shows the positions of the sun and moon. Folks can gather daily to watch a mechanical rooster crow at 12:30 PM while the apostles move around the clock. There is also a six-tune carillon to add to its splendor.




Located in north central France in the Medieval heart of Paris, the “Holy Chapel” sits on île de la Cité in the French capital city’s 1st arrondissement.


This French Gothic cathedral’s claim to fame exists in its architecture and stands among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period. Though damaged during the French Revolution, and later restored, the cathedral features one of the most extensive 13th century stained glass window collections of the world. Visitors will be wowed by the age and beauty of the colorful glass to include deep blues and reds which vary in intensity dependent upon lighting.

Cathedral of Saint Cecilia of Albi (Albi Cathedral)



This cathedral is in Albi, a town on the Tarn River in southern France. The cathedral sits northeast of Toulouse and stands in prominence. Distance-wise, it is about 548 kilometers from Paris.

This southern French Gothic cathedral resembles a fortress from the outside. However, in contrast to its stark exterior, the interior is lavishly adorned with art, sculptures, and rich blue and gold walls bearing southern-French style. The painted ribbed vaults of the choir draw the eyes upward and demonstrate immense attention to detail. Geometric designs are visible, particularly in the choir and chapels, and provide dimension and interest, as do the details of the pulpit rich in sculptures.


Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière


This basilica sits high above Lyon, a city located in east-central France, at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône and northwest of the French Alps. This third largest city in France is located about 393 kilometers from Paris.

This basilica is an iconic structure that sits at the top of “the hill which prays” and overlooks the beautiful region of Lyon. The basilica boasts its  

dedication to the Virgin Mary, credited with the salvation of the city from the European bubonic plague and other disasters. The dramatic-looking church is nicknamed “the upside-down elephant” due to its four leg-like towers. It also features a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. Inside boasts ornate and majestic décor to include features like Carrara marble, large naves, vaulted spans, giant arches, stained glass windows, mosaics, and silver, gold, and ivory details – and more!


Planning to visit some French cathedrals? If so, click here to read our visitor tips!  

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