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Reader Question: When will Paris’ Notre-Dame reopen to visitors?

Restoration work on one of Paris' most visited tourist sites has been going on for over three years now, leaving many visitors wondering when Notre-Dame will finally reopen. Here is when you can expect to be able to visit the cathedral again:

Reader Question: When will Paris' Notre-Dame reopen to visitors?
Rowers scull past the Notre-Dame Cathedral situated on the Ile de la Cite (Photo by Jean-Christophe Verhaegen / AFP)

Question: We long to see inside Notre-Dame again and were wondering how long it will take for it to reopen after the fire? Isn’t the restoration nearly finished by now?

Notre-Dame, which has been closed to visitors for the last three years, is still set to be reopened in 2024, according to France’s Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, speaking on a visit to the site in July.

After the fire in April 2019 almost destroyed the centuries-old monument, causing at least 15 percent of the building’s vaults to be damaged or to collapse, President Emmanuel Macron set the ambitious goal of rebuilding and restoring the cathedral within five years to allow access to the public – prior to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Nevertheless – this timeline has been questioned, including by the head of the construction project – General Jean-Louis Georgelin – who told Le Figaro in July that the 2024 goal was “tense, demanding and complicated.” However, he reiterated during the visit with Minister Malak that the “for the moment, nothing, allows to say that the objective of 2024 will not be held.”

The project itself – which suffered from delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic – has been quite intensive and costly.

Additionally, the work was slowed down after toxic lead was released with the collapse of the roof, which required its own removal process.

The first phases involved securing the cathedral before any restoration could begin – there were already works ongoing when the fire started and the spire was covered in scaffolding. This melted and twisted in the heat of the blaze and had to painstakingly picked apart and removed piece by piece before any restoration could begin.

The site also had to be made safe and covered to keep out the weather.

This phase was completed in the summer of 2021, and the next phases focus on restoring the 24 chapels, the great organ, as well as the roof’s frame and the famous spire.

Current estimates are that the spire – which will be a reproduction of the original using 1,000 historic oak trees – will be visible again by spring 2023, according to French news outlet Aleteia.

While the goal is for the cathedral to be open to the public by 2024, more work will continue on the project afterwards. 

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced in June that the landscape around the monument would be made more green, with at least 131 new trees planted, along with other projects to better prepare the space for hot temperatures in the summers. 

READ MORE: Trees, parks, and a stream: How Paris City Hall plans to redevelop Notre-Dame area

What you can do in the meantime

For those missing visits to the cathedral, you can enjoy a virtual reality visit during the restoration.

The virtual experience, called “Eternal Notre-Dame,” takes visitors through more than 850 years worth of Notre-Dame’s history.

It is set to run until the end of 2022 at the Grande Arche at la Défense, and afterwards it is set to be moved to the parking lot below the cathedral’s courtyard until Notre-Dame reopens to the public.

Full-price tickets cost €30, and reduced price tickets are €20. A portion of that price will be donated to the monument’s restoration. 

You can find out more HERE.

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TRANSPORT

Macron’s plans for suburban train networks in French cities

Sometimes counting over 1.3 million passengers per day, Paris' suburban transport system - the RER - helps people get in and out of the city without having to rely on a car. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be duplicated in other French cities too.

Macron's plans for suburban train networks in French cities

Those commuting in and out of Paris, as well as tourists looking to enjoy a day at Disneyland, are familiar with the region’s extensive suburban train network (RER). According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be replicated in other French cities in the coming years.

In the latest in a series of short-videos answering constituents’ “ecological” questions, the President responded to the question “What are you doing to develop rail transport in France, and offer a real alternative to [travelling by] car?” by offering plans to duplicate Paris’ RER system elsewhere.

You can watch the full video here;

Macron said that building suburban train networks in other cities would be “a great goal for ecology, the economy, and quality of life.”

While he did not name any locations in particular, the president did say that the plans would concern “the ten main French cities.”

While reminiscing about his grandfather, a former railway worker, Macron added that the project would help to decarbonise transport and ease congestion in city centres.

The RER (Réseau Express Régional) system in Paris is a network of trains running across the region, connecting the suburbs to the city. The network has been expanding since the 1960s. While it now covers a large area, the network is notably less reliable than the city-centre Metro services, with users often complaining of delays and poor infrastructure.

According to Le Figaro, cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence have already expressed plans to develop similar suburban train networks.

Lyon, France’s third-largest city and second-largest metropolitan area, has already discussed plans for the Lyon RER, with hopes that it will be fully operational by 2035, at an estimated cost of between €1.4 and €7 billion.

As for when, the President did not give a timeline, but the Elysée told Le Figaro that the first step would be for “the orientation council for transport infrastructure” to identify which projects could be “launched first.”

The project will also be steered by France’s Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, the former Minister of Transport. When she was in this role, Borne had submitted plans to develop RER systems in different French cities.

The project to add suburban train networks across the country was met with support from the current Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, who welcomed the plans as a “major ecological and social transformation for the coming decade.”

However, not everyone is convinced. Some, like the Mayor of Cébazat in Puy-de-Dôme, have already questioned whether the Paris region concept, which would require heavy investment, could effectively be replicated smaller cities.

“It must be fully efficient,” the Mayor, who is also an expert in transportation, told Le Parisien.

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