The Sacre Coeur Basilica, the gleaming white church perched atop the hill of Montmartre, was opened just after World War I, making it a baby compared to its gothic big sister, Notre Dame. Still, the patchwork of architecture and location with a view make it one of the main attractions in Paris and shouldn’t be missed.
Aside from the basilica's impressive interior, upon exiting Sacre Coeur, visitors are greeted with one of the most spectacular views of Paris from above.
The Sacre Coeur Basilica offers a jaw-dropping view over Paris.
The church and when to go
The area around the Sacre Coeur comes alive during most afternoons, especially on the weekends, when the lines to enter the church are the longest. Sneak up to the area early in the morning for some pastry and coffee, and get into the church before everyone else.
Visit the entire interior of the church, paying special attention to the beautiful mosaics over the altar – it’s one of the largest in Europe. If early isn’t an option, go later in the evening to take advantage of watching the sun set over the city from one of its highest points.
The towers and when to go
On the side of the church there are entrances to visit the dome and the crypt of Sacre Coeur for a small fee. There are rarely lines to climb up into the dome for a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood and the city below.
They are open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (6 p.m. in winter), so it’s a great compliment to visiting the interior of the church if your legs are feeling up to it.
For more information on visiting the basilica, visit Sacre Coeur's Web site.
Pickpockets in and around church
Like most tourist attractions, beware of pickpockets! On your way to Montmartre, you’re likely to be solicited by men who want to tie a bracelet to your wrist. They will ask for your wrist and, for whatever reason, you’ll be tempted to stretch it out. Next thing you know, you’re opening your wallet for them. You’ve been warned!
(For more on this rather unfortunate subject, read our blog post on tourist scams in Paris.)
Sacre Coeur has a strict no-photo policy inside, and a man or woman at the entrance will scold you for taking any pictures. Also be sure to have shoulders covered (ladies!) and take off your hat.
The Metro line 12 stops at Abbesses, the closest and easiest station. Nearby is the funicular that will whisk you right up the hill, or else walk up rue Lépic for a more leisurely, albeit ascending route to the church.
In the area
Montmartre is known for its cute streets and rich history, despite only becoming part of Paris in the late 19th Century. The stairs in front of the church are usually filled with street performers or musicians and it’s commonplace to see visitors seated as if in an amphitheater with the whole of Paris at their feet, singing along with and acoustic guitar player or watching the acrobatic soccer player juggling on the street lamps.
Wander the streets around the basilica, visit the artist-laden Place du Tertre nearby for a crepe or some ice cream, or head down to rue des Abbesses for cute cafés and more bakeries.
The Sacre Coeur is also mentioned in the following articles:
• One day in Paris - a one day itinerary
• Two days in Paris - a two-day itinerary
• Cheap hotels near Montmartre - our recommended budget hotels nearby