Discover gargoyles, headless kings and great views at Paris's Gothic cathedral.
Paris's great Gothic cathedral built 1163-1334 is still a focus for French religious life – used for grand memorial services and political funerals – and of Paris, pretty much where the ancient Gauls had their city of Lutétia around 2260 years ago. The west front is considered a model of Gothic architecture with its twin towers, three sculpted doorways and the row of the giant Kings of Judah (their heads are replacements – the originals were knocked down during in the French Revolution and rediscovered in the 1970s, and can now be seen in the Musée National du Moyen-Age - Thermes de Cluny). However to truly appreciate the architecture, you must walk all round the cathedral – my favourite views are actually of the east end with its spiky flying buttresses. The interior is suprisingly gloomy, with endless side chapels, but redeemed by the two giant rose windows on either side of the transept. Fewer people know about the climb up the towers (entrance at the foot of the north tower, left of the doorways) and if you've got the energy, this is really the way to appreciate Gothic architecture. It's a steep, narrow 387 step climb up the north tower to the gallery where you come eye to eye with the gargoyles and chimaeras – mythical beasts – that adorn the parapet, most of them put there in the fanciful 19th-century restoration by Viollet-le-Duc, before up past the bells to the top of the south tower for incredible views over the city centre.