Sainte Chapelle, Paris

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While the Notre Dame Cathedral is the most visited site in Paris, it is not the most beautiful, at least not according to my family. Nearby Sainte Chapelle, which sits hidden behind government buildings, is far more exquisite. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. If you’re wondering is Sainte Chapelle worth visiting, read about our experience to decide.

Waiting in line, the kids wondered, one more loudly than others, if it would be worth the wait. We ignored their complaints, though, since Sainte Chapelle was the one place my husband added to the itinerary. He doesn’t speak up often when it comes to vacation plans, so his requests carry heavy weight. We stood in line.

Since our visit, ticketing has changed, and advanced ticket purchases include a “guaranteed” entry within 30 minutes of your admission time. We include ticketing links at the end of this post if you decide that Sainte Chapelle is worth visiting.

What to expect at Sainte Chapelle

Built 800 years ago, the city grew around this monument (as it is now classified). Its exterior is largely hidden by dreary, government buildings without much architectural interest. As you approach the entrance, you might wonder if Sainte Chapelle is worth visiting… because the approach is not inspiring!

It’s not large, compared to other sites. Its windows are tall and narrow. The rose window sits in a place that is generally hard to see from the outside.

But then you pass through the doors. And again are underwhelmed.  Entering on the lower level, Sainte Chapelle appears old, dark and run-down. There’s a small store set up off to the left, offering Sainte Chapelle related trinkets. This was NOT what we were expecting!

And then… In the corner, there’s a staircase. Climb the stairs… Walk through the entryway into the sanctuary. And gape.

Those long windows, so unremarkable on the outside, come to life. The sunlight dances through the colored panes to fill the room.

Stained glass window panels at Sainte Chapelle
You can’t imagine the beauty of these windows…
Speechless wonder.
Ceiling detail at Sainte Chapelle, with support beams to stabilize the cathedral showing.
Even though the light doesn’t appear as bright,
this image allows you to see the deep, rich hues of the windows
Rose window at Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
The Rose Window

The intricate patterns on the floor, for those who think to look down, fight with the light for your attention. They deserve it. This is the very floor King (now Saint) Louis IX walked 800 years ago. He built this cathedral to house the crown of thorns and a piece of Jesus’ cross. The relics were not stolen like other religious symbols, but purchased at fair price (Back then more than three times the cost to build the Cathedral).

Tile inlay floors at Sainte Chapelle.
800 years of history have walked this floor.
Baseboards in Sainte Chapelle, with hand painted window details.
Hand-painted detail on the baseboards

We stood in line for more than an hour outside a non-descript government building. Today, wait times are supposed to be improved. We crossed a government business filled courtyard. We entered an unpretentious basement and climbed unremarkable stairs. And we found the most beautiful place in Paris. Even the skeptical kids agreed that Sainte Chapelle is worth visiting when in Paris.

You might disagree, and if you do, it must be because you visited on a cloudy day.

Sainte Chapelle isn’t the only place in Paris with amazing surprises. There are so many cool and unusual places to see in Paris!

Sainte Chapelle: Know before you go

  • Sainte Chapelle Address: Palais de la Cité, 4 boulevard du palais, 1st arrondissement
  • Closest Metro Line: Cité (Line 4)
  • Operating Hours:
    • April 1 to September 30, 9 am to 7 pm, last admission at 6:30 p.m.
    • October 1 to March 31: 9 am to 5 pm, last admission at 4:30 p.m.
    • Closed January 1, May 1, and December 25
  • Special information: The entrance is controlled by the gendarmerie and no metal objects, including knives, scissors and other pointed instruments are allowed. You will pass through a metal detector to gain entrance.
  • Admission fees: 
    • Admission is 15 euro, though if you have a Paris Museum Pass (which we strongly recommend for Paris), admission is included.**
    • Minors under 18, FREE
    • Adults 18-25 who are citizens of the EU, FREE
    • Disabled guests and escorts, FREE
    • Unemployed persons, FREE
    • Admission is FREE for all the first Sunday of January, February, March, November and December.
  • Visit Sainte Chapelle on a sunny day!

** Even with a Paris Museum Pass, you must reserve your admission to Sainte Chapelle through their website. Use the FREE TOUR admission ticketing option and follow the instructions.