When exploring Europe, visiting the many old churches and other religious sites across the continent is a popular activity among travelers looking to learn some history, admire architecture, or attend religious ceremonies. Sainte-Chapelle is quite an iconic site, and you’ll see why when you stroll through the chapel gazing up at the intricate stained glass windows as the light casts various colors through the hall.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, Sainte-Chapelle is really a beautiful sight to see. But this attraction draws people in from around the world, so a little preparation for a smooth visit is necessary. Here are our tips for visiting this popular Paris attraction.
First, A Little History
Louis IX built Sainte-Chapelle at the royal palace to house various important Christian relics, including the Crown of Thorns he obtained from the emperor of Constantinople. Construction began in the 1240’s, but the original architect who worked with Louis IX to create this gothic masterpiece remains unknown to this day. The upper chapel was dedicated to housing the various important relics the king obtained, and the lower chapel was for the court and palace staff.
Various parts of Sainte-Chapelle were damaged during multiple fires and the revolution in the late 1700s. Starting in the 1840s restoration efforts began with the goal of restoring its original appearance.
While some of the original stained glass, shrine, and original relics housed here have been moved or destroyed, visitors can walk through the two chapels to see the 1,113 scenes depicted in the stained glass and admire this amazing piece of history and gothic architecture.
Getting to Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle sits on Île de la Cité not too far from the Notre-Dame. We just walked here after exploring some areas around the Latin Quarter, but there are also plenty of buses, RER, and metros that stop nearby as well.
Some of the nearby stops include St-Michel accessed by RER lines B and C and Châtelet accessed by metro lines 1, 7, 11, and 14. Buses 21, 24, 27, 38, 58, 81, 85, and 96 also stop at one or both of these stations. These are the options recommended by the Sainte-Chapelle website, but there are many other lines that run to stops in this area. For example, we took bus 63 to Saint-Germain-des-Prés earlier and walked the area before heading to Île de la Cité.
Click here for maps showing the various lines and stops. Google Maps also has bus, metro, and RER stops pretty well marked.
During the peak months of April through September, Sainte-Chapelle is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. October through March, it is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. No more visitors can enter 30 minutes before closing.
The monument is closed on January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. But hours may vary based on other events, so check the webpage for updates before booking tickets.
Getting Sainte-Chapelle Tickets
Like many attractions in Paris, we strongly recommend booking tickets in advance. When we visited Sainte-Chapelle, there was a line for those with tickets and reservations and a line for those who hoped to purchase a ticket upon arrival. A girl in the line for those without tickets said they hadn’t moved in two hours. Priority is given to those who have purchased tickets and reserved a time slot. You aren’t guaranteed entry if you don’t reserve beforehand.
Book your tickets online here. We recommend booking at least several days in advance. You can see the number of tickets left for each time slot when you select your ticket and date and go to view the times available.
Tickets start at €11.50 per adult. But there are certain individuals that may qualify for free admission and there are different ticket packages, the option to purchase an audio guide for €3, etc. Note that if you qualify for free admission, you still need to reserve a time slot and may need to present proof that you qualify for free admission. When you select your desired ticket, you’ll then pick a date and visiting time slot. Before your visit, make sure you print your ticket or have it available on your mobile device.
If you take a tour that includes Sainte-Chapelle on the itinerary, your timeslot will likely be organized for you. However, confirm this with your tour operator beforehand.
Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month from November through March.
If you have the 4 or 6-day Paris Pass, admission to Sainte-Chapelle is included once you pick up the included Paris Museum Pass. However, you still need to reserve your timeslot online. Just select the free option that states you already have a ticket and then confirm your time slot.
We walked down Boulevard du Palais towards Sainte-Chapelle. Upon arriving, we saw a couple lines out front and there were signs indicating which line to get into. We had a reserved time slot, so we got in the corresponding line. It moved pretty quickly overall.
When the line reached the entrance, there was a staff member checking tickets to make sure we had the ticket or pass and were around 30 minutes within our reserved time slot. We then headed to security where they scanned our bags. Sainte-Chapelle does not offer luggage storage and does not permit bringing large bags, aerosols, helmets, sharp objects, etc. into the grounds.
First, we explored the lower chapel. This small room contained pretty architecture, one of the oldest murals in Paris, and other painted walls and details. There are also some booths set up where visitors can buy souvenirs and other Saint-Chapelle-themed items.
The lower chapel was pretty, but when you walk up the stairs into the upper chapel, it’s breathtaking. It was quite crowded in there as everybody quietly shuffled around to look at the intricate window designs. We admired the architecture and images depicted in the glass before heading out.
Some tickets also include visits and tours to the neighboring Palais de la Cité and Conciergerie. These monuments were the residence of multiple kings and served as a prison. Today, the palais is an important center for the justice system in France.
Each day at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Sainte-Chapelle offers an hour-long tour covering some history and other facts of the chapel. These don’t add cost to your selected ticket and reservations aren’t necessary. Just register when you arrive. This still means you need an entry ticket and entry reservation.
If your time slot is not at those times, you can also buy a guided tour ticket for an extra cost or organize a tour with a separate tour entity. You can also purchase the audio guide, download the informational pamphlet from the bottom of the Visits & Activities page, and download the Vitraux Sainte-Chapelle app for more information on the building and story depicted in the windows.
Sainte-Chapelle doesn’t operate as a typical chapel anymore, so there is no designated time or space for those who wish to come worship and no other general church activities occurring in the here. However, musical concerts are occasionally held in the chapel. Click here for schedules and more information if you’re interested in attending an event.