One of the best views in all of Paris is from the church of the Sacred Heart, better known as Sacre-Coeur, located in the Montmartre section of Paris. This land mark sits on a hill above the Paris skyline and is recognizable from central Paris from sites the Arc de Triomphe and Musee D’Orsay. Even if you do not wish to enter the church, it is worth coming to this site just for the spectacular view.
This church is a Roman Catholic church and first opened to the public in 1914 though construction began in 1870. French politicians sought to relieve themselves of blame for their part in the Franco-Prussian war (1870) and used the building of the church as a sort of religious penance. They had lost to the Germans. By 1875, funding was collected and construction finally began. The church is built in the Roman-Byzantine style and began with the crypt. Next, the interior of the church and basilica followed. The church was finally consecrated after World War I in 1919.
If you are a fan of the Paris Metro, its an easy ride on lines 2 and 12. Your stops will either be Blanche, Anvers or Pigalle. You can stop at Abbesses as well (via Line 12). All of these stops are within a close distance of the church, but are not very stroller or wheelchair friendly. Anvers is the closest Metro stop of the lot. From these stops, if you like to walk you should know that the basilica is almost all uphill.
I myself found it pleasurable to peek into some of the sops and enjoy the surrounding neighborhood, but at the same time, if you are not in good physical condition, you will not like it. Consider taking the bus or the funicular.
From the Anvers stop or Abbesses stop, the funicular that will allow you to reach the top of the hill in 2 minutes or less. You will need to use a separate Metro ticket if you plan to take this option. You should be aware that lines can be long and it may be much faster to walk.
If you plan to take the Paris bus system, you can utilize lines 30, 31, 80 or 85. All buses stop at the Sacre-Coeur bus stop at the foot of Montmartre right at the top of the hill. If you take the Metro to Montmartre, walking to the Place du Tertre stop will save you a lot of time (the bus doesn’t have a lot of stop in between there and Sacre-Coeur). The Metro/bus combination is the M12 to the Jules Joffrin then the bus from the Place du Tetre stop.
Going Into Sacre-Coeur
When you are going into Sacre Coeur, admission is free. You will, however, need to go through a security checkpoint where a guard will look into your bag. The church itself is open to the public 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The walk into the church will catch you by surprise, the basilica is a lot large than it seems and inside the stained glass and mosaics are stunning. You can move around the basilica at your own pace and sit in prayer and quiet reflection as needed.
There is a no photo or filming policy in place as with most churches in Europe, however, it didn’t seem to be enforced well when I was there in September. A rather large amount of tourists ignoring this policy claiming they didn’t speak English or French from clicking away. The staff didn’t have the manpower to enforce it. There was a dress code or covered shoulders, knees and no flip flops as well. If you have a scarf, you can use it to cover your shoulders.
If you are able to walk up 300 steps, go to the dome! This was hands down one of my favorite things in Paris to see and do. It does have a small fee attached to it (I think it was 5 Euros). The church will accept both cash and card payments. The steps are narrow and fairly windy, but the view from the top will help you forget all of your troubles. You can spend as much time as you would like to there. It’s hard not to click away a million and one photos. The area is fairly narrow and it can be crowded at times; I would always recommend going early in the morning if you can. The dome opens to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. October through April and 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through September.
Being Aware Of Your Surroundings
If you are in the Sacre-Coeur neighborhood, please remember that wherever tourists are, there are thieves and pick pockets. This is a lovely area, but from the moment you leave reach the base of the hill, there are scammers and people selling cheap tourists trinkets trying to make money. Do not let anyone put a bracelet on your wrist. Just walk away and say “Non” in French. The police have a fenced off area where the people selling items are not supposed to go, but just be vigilant and always keep an eye and hand on your bag in large crowds.
Sacre-Coeur is one of the most rewarding places you can visit in Paris alone for the view. To top it off, admission is free! I would highly recommend you add this to your list of must sees. Earlier in the day is better than the evening and always have on comfy shoes for the walk. The Montmartre is one of the iconic neighborhoods of Paris. Explore exploring the side streets after your trip to the basilica and maybe consider even have a meal at a quaint cafe. Hope this brief guide helps you! Until next time, happy travels.